Star animation duo at Talia Productions scoop top prize
They could not contain themselves as they jumped on stage, smiling from ear to ear. Talia Sanhewe and Nandi Zulu of Talia Productions had just been announced the winners of the Turner Kids’ Animation pitching competition at Discop Africa.
The two film and television producers had faced fierce competition for the prize from five other finalists.
Their dream of producing their first animation film was becoming a reality as the Cape Town-based film and media studies graduates from the University of Cape Town pocketed the $2,000 prize.
Discop Africa is the continent’s multiplatform marketplace for film and television.
The Kids’ Animation pitching competition gave African producers and storytellers a chance to present their original productions to a panel of local and international experts, buyers and commissioning editors.
"We are very excited about this because animation is expensive, compared to, say, producing a TV series of documentaries," says Sanhewe.
"Besides the cash prize, which will go a long way in helping us with the production of Cloud Life that is in development stage, we will also get mentorship from Turner."
Cloud Life, which the duo describe as an Afro-futuristic animation movie, is about a technology genius who develops new technology to rival Google, and has placed it in the cloud. But he is carrying out nefarious activities up there that makes life a living hell for the rest of humanity.
"This guy is really evil, and unfortunately, nobody knows how to stop him, as he is ahead of all the other technology developers. He is a man of German origin who has gone crazy," Sanhewe says.
"But as fate would have it, a teenaged girl called Zandi manages to hack into his system and disrupts his operation before disabling it.
"It turns out that Zandi, who is born of a South African Zulu woman, is the daughter of this mysterious German tech genius who disappeared from both their lives.
"Now daughter and father are in an awkward situation as they realise that they are actually flesh and blood."
This is the first time that their company, Talia Productions, is venturing into animation. Until now, the filmmakers have only produced corporate videos and documentaries.
"We had submitted a documentary idea to Discop as well as Cloud Life for consideration, and the documentary was not short-listed," Zulu says.
"Punch Monkey Studios in Cape Town have partnered with us. They have been in the animation business for some time, and will be mentors to us."
The young producers’ bold leap into animation comes at the right time.
Africa’s television industry continues to show strong year-on-year growth. In 2015, the continent generated $1bn in TV wholesale business, a 100% revenue increase in two years.
"Turner Africa is looking forward to working with African producers to purchase content that is locally produced. There is currently a demand worldwide for local content, and Africa is no exception," says Pierre Branco, vice-president of Africa and GM of Southern Europe for Turner Africa.
"Our children’s shows, such as Ben10, are currently doing well on the continent, particularly in SA and Nigeria. We also produce content in English, French and Portuguese for our African audiences.
"We are sponsoring the animation pitch at Discop Africa because we want to encourage local producers to go into this area of television production, and if the content is good enough, we will flight it on our Turner Kids channels."
Sanhewe, who worked as a news reporter for international channels CNN, CNBC Africa and BBC before starting Talia Productions, says she and her partner Zulu were "at the right place at the right time" to land a programming slot on Turner Kids.
"From now onwards, it is hard work as we expect to complete Cloud Life in six months. The production is currently in the development stage, and winning this prize means that we will be able to carry it through to the next stage, the production stage."
The fifth edition of Discop Johannesburg was attended by 742 delegates earlier in November including broadcasting executives, independent producers and content specialists.
There was an increase in the number of delegates in 2016 and a bigger line-up of sessions at the marketplace event. "The growth in the Discop market is a reflection of the healthy state of the film and television industry in Africa," says Patrick Jucaud-Zuchowicki, CEO of Basic Lead and the founder of the Discop market. Discop Johannesburg wrapped up after three days of intense deal-making between hundreds of production companies, distributors and media platforms from across Africa and beyond.