Damaris Irungu- Ochieng’ is a Scriptwriter who’s worked on various TV shows like Makutano junction, Mali, Mnet’s upcoming show, Emmy Nominated Radio drama Jongo Love among others. She lets us into the world of scriptwriters.
1. As a script writer, what are the challenges that one has to contend with?
One of the biggest challenges is that most producers and broadcasters don’t understand that scriptwriters are an essential part of their creative work; they want to pay the cheapest possible and don’t care much about the qualifications of the writers. They also assume that writing is just sitting down and typing away for a few minutes….Hardly the case writing is a long, creative process which requires a lot of attention.
2. What would you say makes a good script great?
A good script becomes great when the writer works and reworks his/her work, when structure flows, when the story is seamless when dialogue has rhythm, when the script becomes a page turner and when the characters come alive and jump off the pages and you actually visualize the words on paper. That is a great script.
3. Are Africans writing world class scripts?
Yes we are…I’ve seen a couple of great scripts, Viva Riva among others….And of course many writers have great scripts in files and folders waiting for the right producer to come along and get a film made. Trust me, we’re not just sitting back, we are writing and re-writing, honing our craft and pitching to have a share in the international market too.
4. Are script writers getting their worth in the industry?
I only find myself getting paid my worth if working on edutainment shows like Makutano junction or other shows with some NGO funding…this goes back again to the fact that broadcasters’ budgets are minimal and the first people to get a raw deal are always the writers’ because they believe we simply sit down and type away. But it is picking up and with more people getting a stake in the industry like MNET and ZUKU the money makes sense now
5. What would improve the place of the script writer within the industry?
Time will change perceptions, a shift in broadcasters mind set; also when writers polish their craft and stop being lazy after getting the first gig , thinking they’re it in town. You’re not writing for Kenya only you’re writing universally; do they think you’re hot?
6. What is the role of the script writer as we build a world class media?
As script writers we have to read, write, re-write, work on our craft, and attend workshops as well as writer’s boot camps. We have to know what’s selling, feel the pulse of our audiences and understand that we are very important in making or breaking a TV show or a film. It all starts from concept to execution. A director can direct his best, a DOP can do his best shots but without a great story, without the craft of writing that engages an audience. Then that show or film is doomed.
7. What is the future of script writing in Africa?
It has never been brighter. Hollywood is looking to Africa for great universal stories well told. I love being a writer from Africa and I am going to maximize on it. It’s our time to eat!!
I think a time to eat resonates with every person in the industry , let’s meet at the BFMA.
Compiled by Christine Mwai.