The Triggerfish Story Lab received a whopping 1 378 entries from storytellers and filmmakers from 30 countries across Africa and its diaspora, all eager to write the continent’s next animated blockbuster or hit TV series.
“When I told people I expected over 1 000 submissions from across Africa, everyone laughed at me. Ha! Now who’s laughing? Oh wait, I have to read all of these…” says Anthony Silverston, head of development at Triggerfish Animation Studios.
After the international success of its first two feature films, Triggerfish established The Triggerfish Story Lab with the support of The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and The Walt Disney Company.
Industry experts will now evaluate the 1174 feature submissions and 204 TV series submissions. These experts include Peter Lord, the British director of international blockbusters like Chicken Run and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists; Hollywood writer Jonathan Roberts (The Lion King); script consultant Karl Iglesias (Writing For Emotional Impact); and a panel of development executives from The Walt Disney Company, as well as South African storyteller Gcina Mhlope, comedian David Kau and Triggerfish’s development team of Anthony, Wayne Thornley and Raffaella Delle Donne.
“I’m honoured and delighted to be a small part of the Triggerfish Story Lab,” says Peter Lord, who co-founded Aardman Animations, the four-time Oscar-winning studio behind the likes of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. “I believe that it’s vitally important for every country and culture to tell its own stories. Much as we may enjoy Hollywood storytelling, it is not the only way; there are so many different stories to be told, and so many voices demanding to be heard. I look forward very much to immersing myself in authentic African storytelling.”
The Triggerfish Story Lab specifically called for uplifting, family-friendly stories. Comedian David Kau, who also acts, writes, directs and produces for film and TV, says, “I’m looking forward to helping unearth new African talent in animation, and telling stories from Africa that will show the world that there’s an Africa beyond the genocide, Aids, corruption and dictatorship that’s the daily gospel of most news outlets about Africa.”
Triggerfish will be investing up to R44m over the next three years in The Story Lab, which aims to give Africa’s most talented storytellers and filmmakers the opportunity to develop their ideas alongside Triggerfish’s international network of mentors. Selected storytellers will potentially have their concepts developed into episodic TV content or an animated feature film for the global market.
The selected Story Lab participants will receive two weeks of mentoring with key studio and television executives at Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California, as well as workshops in Cape Town with leading Hollywood script consultant Pilar Alessandra, author of The Coffee Break Screenwriter.
The development process can take a number of years. For each phase of development, Triggerfish will provide financial support, workspace, and expert guidance by internal and international consultants and mentors, as well as a route to market through top-tier relationships with leading Hollywood agency William Morris Endeavor.
Animation has proven to be a successful medium for South African films to travel internationally, with Triggerfish’s films Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba being distributed in over 150 countries and dubbed into over 27 languages.
“The overwhelming response we’ve received shows the depth of storytelling talent in Africa,” says Anthony. “Thanks to everyone who entered; we’ll be announcing a shortlist of about 20 storytellers in October 2015.”
Shortlisted storytellers will take part in workshops in November before making their final pitches, after which Triggerfish will announce the final Story Lab participants in December 2015.