Source: Realness Institute

(Clockwise from top left) Elias Ribeiro, Mehret Mandefro, Thandeka Zwana, Selina Ukwuoma

African development organisation the Realness Institute has selected 12 participants for its 2022 Episodic Lab and Development Executive Traineeship, in partnership with Netflix.

The six writers selected for the Episodic Lab are: Hussein Kurji with Bushcamp (Kenya), Khanyo Mjamba with Byline (South Africa), Mlilo Mpondo with Bayeti-Visitors (South Africa), Neo Sibiya with Ukushona Kwelanga (The Setting of The Sun) (South Africa), Sandra Madu with From Lagos with Love (Nigeria) and Voline Ogutu with Dilemma (Kenya).

The 12 participants will each receive a monthly stipend of $2,000 (£1,598) from May through July, to cover personal expenses as they work on their concept and professional development.

For the Episodic Lab, the screenwriters will spend three months in a virtual lab developing their original story ideas, with mentorship from Realness Institute’s creative producers Elias Ribeiro and Mehret Mandefro, and story consultants Selina Ukwuoma and Thandeka Zwana.

The lab participants will then have the opportunity to pitch their projects to Netflix executives.

“It’s not every day an opportunity, specifically to showcase African talent, comes around,” said Kurji. “The Lab will strip our writing bare, and we’ll all be better for it.”

Development traineeship

The Institute has also selected six aspiring development executives for its Development Executive Traineeship: Babalwa Baartman (South Africa), Khosie Dali (South Africa), Mona Ombogo (Kenya), Neiloe Whitehead (South Africa), Omotunde Akiode (Nigeria), Pedro Duarte Soulé (Cabo Verde).

The participants will learn about the story development process through working alongside creative producers and story experts; and will work in teams to support the development of the Episodic Lab projects.

The Realness Institute is a non-profit organisation that aims to empower African creatives to tell their stories from an African point of view. The Episodic and Development Executive schemes were launched in June 2020; and received 200 applications across the two for this year.

Projects to have come through the Institute’s primary residency include Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection, which went on to be Lesotho’s first-ever international feature Oscar entry.

Last month the Institute teamed with Series Mania on a separate training programme for episodic writers, titled AuthenticA Series Lab.