Independent South African producers Jeremy Nathan of Avatar Digital, Joel Phiri of ICE Media and Kobus Botha of Ballistic Pictures have formed an alliance to make up to eight feature films to be produced on digital over the next two years.

The alliance, called D-V-8 Films, announced last week that 14 projects have been selected for extensive script development - titles include Does God Travel Second Class' by Bronwen Roberts and Virgin Margaritas by Licinio Azevedo.

Adhering to a Dogme style, 'without the dogma' according to Nathan, the project has the full support of The Hubert Bals Fund and the Rotterdam Film Festival. The trio has set a budget limit on the projects at $200,000 (R2,000,000).

Any genre can be produced but period films must be produced within the budget parameters - cast, crew and locations must be kept to a minimum and the emphasis should be on putting the script on the screen and on characters, dialogue and locations.

"Far too often Southern African scripts deal with issues rather than stories. African audiences, and world audiences, want to be entertained, not lectured. We want to focus on commercial, challenging stories that are cinematically told," says Botha.

To that end the projects which were submitted in the form of a two-page synopsis on the Internet will go through an extensive script development process. The first workshop was held last week outside Cape Town and was facilitated by Claire Downs of the NFTS in Beaconsfield.

The producers have earmarked a maximum of $7,700 (R80,000) to be spent on the development of each project. First drafts are expected by the end of January 2002 and production will begin around May/June. "DV8 hopes to facilitate the creation of a sustainable flow of films, not one-off events that become landmarks just for being made, but rather a steady stream of films revealing our many cultures. Feature film production in Southern Africa remains sporadic at best, and non-existent at worst, and we're going to address that," says Nathan.

ICE Media and the Film Resource Unit have been appointed as the distributor of the films for Africa, excluding South Africa and it is envisaged that FRU/ICE will commit a minimum of $7,700 (R80,000) per film as a minimum guarantee against African rights. DV8 itself shall handle any pre-sales or commissions from South African broadcasters and exhibitors. Distribution and Marketing costs shall be capped at $19,200 (R200,000) per film.