Namibia: Locals Encouraged to Apply for Film Finance

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In an initiative earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, Focus Features has established the Africa First programme, it has been announced in a press statement from New York.

Africa First is offering participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded US$10,000 in financing for production and/or post-production on their narrative short film made in continental Africa and tapping the resources of the film industry there.

Complete details on Africa First including application information can be accessed through www.filminfocus.com/africafirst Focus CEO, James Schamus, made the announcement this week.

Offering practical support in addition to the fiscal backing, an international advisory board of experts in African cinema has been convened. The Africa First board members are Mahen Bonetti, founder and executive director of the African Film Festival; journalist and documentary filmmaker Jihan El-Tahiri; June Givanni, who for four years programmed the Toronto International Film Festival's Planet Africa series; Gaston Kabor, filmmaker and professor; Pedro Pimenta, manager of training programmes throughout South Africa; and Keith Shiri, founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the UK.

Africa First was conceived by producer Kisha Imani Cameron, whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus. Focus creative executive, Matthew Plouffe, will coordinate Africa First submissions and evaluations with Cameron, who will supervise the programme. In addition to on-site work in Africa, a weekend of workshops in New York City with board members is also planned.

Schamus said it is time the American film industry took a more active interest in the enormous filmmaking talents emerging in Africa. Cameron added, "As an independent producer myself, I am always listening for new voices. Filmmakers selected for the grants will retain the copyrights to their projects as well as artistic, budgetary, and editorial control."

Five African filmmakers will be awarded US$10,000 apiece. The submission period already started in May while the deadline is July 15. The five filmmakers selected will retain distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus will have those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion.

Completion is developing feature, documentary, and television projects. Its president, Cameron, previously worked as director of development at Walden Media, and as an executive at New Line Cinema, where she oversaw the development and production of Spike Lee's Bamboozled.

Focus Features is part of NBC Universal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80 percent owned by General Electric and 20 percent owned by Vivendi.