Muse Awards: Recognising South Africa's scriptwriters

Luminaries of local film, television, radio, stage and new media will gather at the Soweto Theatre on Saturday, 2 April 2016 to recognise and celebrate that crucial but often forgotten player in South Africa's creative industries: the scriptwriter.

The WGSA Muse Awards, initiated by the Writers' Guild of South Africa (WGSA) in 2013, will mark its third round of annual awards with two additional award categories and a final-round, 26-member judging panel that includes 7 renowned international writers.

Big hitters among the nominees

And the line-up of final nominees in the running for a coveted Muse Award trophy this year includes some big behind-the-scenes hitters in the South African entertainment industry.

The Feature Film category, to take one example, will be hotly contested by the writers behind two South African films that have made waves both locally and internationally - Ayanda and Dis Ek, Anna - as well as the latest offering (currently in post-production) from talented writer-director Thandi Brewer, The Chemo Club.

The Muse Awards will be the second time in two weeks that Trish Malone (Ayanda) and Tertius Kapp (Dis Ek, Anna) compete for a scriptwriting award, following the 2016 South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) on 18 and 20 March.

But while Dis Ek, Anna goes into this year's Saftas with 7 nominations and Ayanda with 5, it's another Muse Award nominee, ZA News: Puppet Nation, which leads the Saftas race overall with 11 nominations - including of course for Best Achievement in Scriptwriting: TV Comedy.

GFC sponsors special new award

Two new categories, Short Film and Radio Drama, were added for the 2015 Muse Awards, while the Animation category introduced in 2014 was expanded to include scriptwriting for Animation/Web Series.

And a new Muse Award cutting across all 8 categories, for Top Gauteng Writer, will be presented for the first time this year. The award, sponsored by the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC), will be given to the Gauteng-based writer who obtains the highest single score from a first-round judge in any of the categories.

WGSA chairperson Theoline Maphutha said the new award would give Gauteng writers even more reason to be part of the Muse Awards. "We’d like to thank the GFC for the initiative and support," Maphutha said in a statement. "We hope this will encourage more provinces to follow suit."

The finalists for the inaugural Top Gauteng Writer award are Thandi Brewer for her feature film The Chemo Club, Tshepo (Ty) Skosana for his spec script Touched, and Graham Hickson for Nokia Kid, also a spec script.

'An award by writers for writers'

The 3 final scripts in each of this year's categories were chosen in the first round of judging from the largest number of Muse Awards entries yet received, and are currently being evaluated and compared by an entirely separate set of judges.

Among the 26 final-round judges are prolific Indian screenwriter Anjum Rajabali (Drohkaal, Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Raajneeti, to name a few); award-winning British writer/director Andrew S. Walsh, whose credits range across film, TV, theatre, radio, animation and videogames; Frenchman Jean-Andre Yerles, whose The Gilded Cage won the People's Choice Award at the 2013 European Film Awards; and Kathie Fong Yoneda (US), an internationally known seminar leader on screenwriting and development.

The WGSA MUSE Awards were the brainchild of former WGSA Chairperson Harriet Meier, who described them as "an award by writers for writers, which finally shines the spotlight on the often forgotten custodians of South African arts and culture".

WGSA Muse Awards 2015 nominees

Animation/Web Series:

  • Benedikt Sebastian – Sing-A-Gram
  • Julia Smuts Louw – The Case of the Disappearing Daddy
  • Tracy Eccles – Who is Afraid of the Big Bad Dark?

Feature Film:

  • Tertius Kapp – Dis Ek, Anna
  • Trish Malone – Ayanda
  • Thandi Brewer – The Chemo Club

Radio Drama:

  • Ayanda Seoka – Indlalifa': My Heir
  • Jann Acutt – The Mother in Law
  • Matthew Kalil – In the Line of Duty

Short Film:

  • Eduard Frauenstein – Get a Life
  • Kelly Powell – Home
  • Tafadzwa Njovana – Anele

Spec Script:

  • Graham Hickson – Nokia Kid
  • Marina Bekker – Love on the Rocks
  • Peter Goldsmid – Love Songs of Nathan J Swirsky

Stage Play:

  • Callum Tilbury – Doctor Godenstein's Man
  • Callum Tilbury – Fabulous Nothing
  • Richard Harry Nosworthy – Number One

TV Comedy / Sitcom:

  • Both Worlds – ZA News: Puppet Nation
  • Julian Koboekae – Him, Her and the Guys
  • Marina Bekker – Seepsop

TV Drama:

  • Graham Hickson – Power
  • Paul Ian Johnson – Jab
  • Marina Bekker – Land with a Temper

WGSA Muse Awards 2015 final-round judges

  • Animation/Web Series: Andrew S Walsh (UK), Nimrod Geva, Theoline Maphutha
  • Feature Film and Spec Script: Alda Venter, Anjum Ramabali (India), Henrietta Gryffenberg, Kathie Fong Yoneda (USA), Lisa Holdsworth (UK)
  • Radio Drama: Marina Bekker, Thandi Brewer, Yolanda Lindeque-Strauss
  • Short Film: Harriet Meier, Matthew Kalil, Yolanda Mogatusi
  • Stage Play: Margaret Goldsmid, Paulette Reynecke, Peter Goldsmid
  • TV Comedy/Sitcom: Alda Venter, Amor Tredoux, Fidel Namisi, Henrietta Gryffenberg, Liam J Stratton, Tim O'Donnell (USA)
  • TV Drama: Jean-Andre Yerles (France), Karen Jeynes, Thomas McLaughlin (Ireland).

About the Writers' Guild of South Africa

The Writers' Guild of South Africa (WGSA) is the only professional association in South Africa with a mandate to protect, empower and develop scriptwriters (and more broadly, performance writers) in the local film, television, radio, stage, animation and new media industries.

A registered non-profit organisation (NPO) and public benefit organisation (PBO) which is solely dependent on fundraising, the WGSA is governed by a constitution and a council, and run by volunteer council members and a part-time executive officer.

The WGSA offers its members a range of services, including free legal services and the development of standard contracts. It has a Script Registry where writers can register their work for IP and copyright protection, and in 2012 it established a Collection Agency to collect residuals for screenwriters.

In September 2012 the WGSA hosted its first workshop with an international trainer in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. The organisation's international workshops are now an established annual event.

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission