Saturday, 26 March 2011

This is London

Some (over 15000 in barely a week) of you may have seen the video clip called This is London promo on Youtube. After this blog post, it may not be around for much longer. I wrote the script, and it is in fact the last scene of the first episode of what I hope to be drama series. The producer did not think it important to credit me until I posted a comment on the clip, which he promptly deleted. One of our mutual friends protested, and he finally put a write-up which mentions me. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, but you’d think that any one planning to get publicity based on scripts they were hoping to get for free from me would not begrudge me a little of the fame! I digress.

I first came up with the idea for This is London late in 2003. I toyed with many titles, among them, Ipound Zvaro (taken from a line in the dialogue). I even did a few scenes, using a MiniDv camcorder. I went to see a chap named George, I think, at OBE-TV and he did not sound particularly enthusiastic. He did however show me the station’s rate card. The broadcaster was not in a position to take up the project, but they would be happy if I was to fork out about £1000 for 30 minutes of airtime and split any advertising revenue with them. I was not in a position to do so.

A couple years later, a former ZBC radio and television personality announced that he was planning to launch a Zimbabwean community TV station here in the UK and invited ideas submissions. As it turned out, there was only talk, mostly his, and no show. He never replied, not even to ask me for £1000 for 30 minutes and a share of the advertising revenue. I just shrugged and shelved the project again.

I think I tried selling the project to other Zimbabwean producers, I can't even remember their names.

Fast-forward to early 2009 and a cousin of mine calls me up and says he wants to go in to video production. Is there anything we could do? I sent him the script. We met and talked about it, and that was it. He’s a nice cousin to have, will lend me his expensive camera if I ask, but he did not have the time to sit down and make a TV show. We might still work together on something yet.

Then, later in 2009, I was introduced to the last producer I would allow to put their hands on This is London, a chap named Mike Mambo. He already has a Netcasting service running and has been nominated for a Zim Achievers Award. A few rehearsals were conducted in 2010. I am not sure when exactly that clip, which is on youtube, was shot. By then, much of the original cast and crew were starting to feel that they had been promised the proverbial pie in the sky and had withdrawn from the project. What is also open to speculation is why that clip was uploaded under the name of a different production house from the one he first approached me under.
Last week, after the clip was uploaded and drew all that attention, we had a very frank discussion (on my part, at any rate) with this producer on the delicate subject of my fee. He appears to have been under the impression that I was prepared to surrender over 100 pages of script, all rights, draft contracts and press statements and tell him how to run a production all for nothing. He said he was taking a major risk without the rights, as if having them wouldn’t be a risk at all. I pointed out that I was taking a risk too, writing stuff that would never see the light of day. In the end, I asked him to at least put in writing a proposed contract. That hasn’t come in yet. I needed to pay my phone bill last week; I would have written a dozen episodes for the £84 that 3G was demanding, but Mr Producer did not seize the opportunity.

By Thursday, I knew what I was going to do, what I should have done ages ago. I did my research. Then I registered a new company, Oriit Films Ltd and will now be producing This is London. We will start off with Netcasting, either with advertising or on a pay-per-view basis. I am also talking to buyers from some of the major broadcasters on the continent. Those of the actors and actresses I spoke to last week have welcomed this development. If the huge number of hits on Youtube is anything to go by, the Zimbabwean community abroad is ready to support us. Thank you all in advance.

I am hoping Mr Mambo will go gracefully. However, he has kept the youtube clip on. He has also kept the facebook group, but set it up that members have to seek permission before being taken on. At the last count, his had 89 members. The legitimate group got 400 members in its first 15 hours of life. I have also had enquiries from Zimbabweans who would like to work as crew.

I am pleased at the progress, but I can't start celebrating just yet. There is so much work to do.

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