Zimbabwe: Studio 263 Set for Come Back on DVD after contract row with ZTV


Stalled by Zimbabwe Television (ZTV) due to a long-standing contractual disagreement, Studio 263 management is to put the series on DVD as prospects of getting the production back on television are becoming increasingly dim. Sources close to the first Zimbabwean soap told Standardplus that production of episodes, which has been on hold for more than two months, would resume on September 1.

The soap's management revealed that the DVD would comprise old and new episodes. The plan is to produce 13 episodes at a time and breaking thereafter to reduce the cost of production. "The 13 episodes will be done in seasons. So starting on September 1 we will do the shooting and then break and continue again," a source said. "This is so that we keep the cast and crew in employment and the soap running."

The soap's management was set to meet Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation acting chief executive Happison Muchechetere last week to try and negotiate for the soap to bounce back onto the screen. Godwin Mawuru, the executive director of Studio 263, confirmed the soap would be on DVD but said he had failed to meet Muchechetere. Sivukile Simango, public relations manager of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings said: "We at ZBH would like to have Studio 263 back on air. However this will depend on the outcome of a meeting we are scheduled to have with the soap's executive producer, Godwin Mawuru, very soon."

He refused to disclose if ZBH was offering more money for the soap and how much ZBH was paying which resulted in the stalemate. The soap disappeared from the screen last year after a conflict precipitated by Studio 263 demanding a review of the "meagre" amount ZTV was paying. Studio 263 also wanted a written contract. Standardplus can also reveal that the soap still has the services of its cast, but there is "genuine concern" over the future of the production among the actors.

The source said: "Some members of the cast are now cross-border traders while some do various other money-generating projects, but they all want the soap to continue. Who in Zimbabwe is relying on work only nowadays? So the media should not be alarmists by saying we no longer have a cast."

An actress who spoke on condition of anonymity said the cast was confident that it would resume work but feared that some actors could have deserted the soap. "Everybody says they are still holding on but you can tell some want out and they feel their patience has been stretched too far," she said

The slot for the main character, Vimbai, which was left vacant by Barbara Vhengedza who is now into theatre and short films, has been filled. Anne Nhira was the first to play the protagonist. Although Mawuru confirmed that there is now a new Vimbai he remained tight-lipped on who it was. However, a member of the cast hinted that the actress was a former Bulawayo model.

Studio 263 has had a bumpy life since it started in 2002 and has had an almost new cast since then.

Zimbabwe Standard (Harare) 26 August 2008