The National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa, NFVF, is the only place a script writer can get money to write a script. Two years ago I had a film idea, but it wasn’t refined. I asked if I should develop my idea properly before applying to them and the Head said send whatever you have and we’ll work with you. So I did.
Their response? “This is crap, it’s just a bunch of ill-refined ideas”. But didn’t you say that was enough to start with?
To cut a long story short, they offered me a place on a course. In a pre-course interview, the NFVF Head introduced himself as being from LA. His ego puffed up with self importance. I wondered how successful he’d been in LA. If he was successful, why did he leave? Astutely, I kept my mouth shut. Actually it was cowardice.
I’d worked on my story, but he refused to read it. “why should I read this? You’re lucky I’m seeing you at all, and that we’re letting you do the course. You’re on the bottom of the list. If this was LA you’d have been kicked out the back door.”
I wanted to swat him, but I didn’t, coward that I am. He blathered on about his own importance, then said “White South African women and all South African blacks can’t write film scripts.” WHAT?? Which gem he qualified with “white men know because they’ve read the books.” I said I don’t have money to buy the books, can you give me access to them?
“No.” Why not? Do you think I can’t learn from a book? Probably I’m too stupid.
Ah well, I blew that course, I was too angry. Silly me. Instead I reapplied. They threw it out. I finished another script on my own. It’s with Robert de Niro. If he says this is crap, I’ll pay attention. Thing is, he wouldn’t be rude and self-important, he’d be helpful. Doesn’t need to trash people. Doesn’t need to say he’s from LA.
I started the script I’m doing now. Applied to the NFVF. Rejected. My protagonist is a woman in control of her life except that she loses herself with men. It nearly takes her down. It’s a thriller: good story, excellent inciting incident, twists and turns, great character arcs, surprise ending. I was told a woman in control of her life would lose herself around men. What????? It’s women’s biggest problem! Hmmm. NFVF obviously really know what they’re talking about. Well, they rejected the only South African script that won an Oscar! Good one, guys.
They offered for me to go on their course – which they admit hasn’t produced one sellable script. Why would I want to do it? Plus it’s being taught by a bitter and twisted little bastard (white man who they give money to for his scripts even though he’s not successful either) who loves flaying people, trashing them, crushing them. I’ve been on one of his other courses. I lasted a day. Any longer and I’d have beaten him to a pulp – not for what he did to me, but for what he did to the others. No scripts came out of that course. He couldn’t figure out why.
The NFVF course was supposed to happen a year ago. I got to the 2nd draft of my script without their help.
Then they notified me the course was going to finally happen. I swallowed my pride and said okay, I’ll do it. There’ll be something for me to learn. But I was a week too late. Admin said that’s fine, but Mr. Bitter and Twisted refused to let me in and dumped on me. I wrote a short email to say thanks anyway, I’ve finished the script in any case.
Hey presto, NFVF Admin emails me saying “so terribly sorry about dirty nasty email from Mr. Bitter and Twisted, can we offer you a place on our course in Johannesburg from August onwards, which happens over various weekends? We’ll fly you and pay for transfers and put you up in a B and B”.
Oooh, now that sounds exciting. Sure I said, casually, thanks. Meanwhile I’m whooping it up.
“Thank you for your positive attitude” was their response. Aha! They bribed me. Now they’re on the back foot. I shall bite my tongue and play my cards with infinite skill. I’m going to do the damn course. I’m going to learn what they want, so I can apply in terms that they understand for development funding for my next script. Maybe I’ve earned their respect because I haven’t given up. They sure haven’t earned mine.
Truth? I’m really doing it because I get to go on a plane and FLY AWAY – EIGHT TIMES!!! YESSSSS! And stay in a hotel. Meet some other script writers. See something different. I’m STARVING for it.
Life works in mysterious ways. If Mr. Bitter and Twisted hadn’t been so bitchy, this opportunity wouldn’t have happened for me. Can you hear somebody laughing?