After a rigorous selection process, the Realness Institute, in partnership with Netflix – the world’s leading streaming entertainment, is excited to announce the twelve participants selected for the 2022 Episodic Lab (EPL) and Development Executive Traineeship (DET).

Realness Institute is a non-profit organisation which aims to empower Africans to tell their stories from an unapologetically African point of view.

Each of the twelve participants (six per programme), will receive a monthly stipend of USD 2 000 during the incubation period. This is to cover living expenses as they focus on their concept and professional development.

The successful applicants were drawn from a competitive pool of 200 submissions from an open call, which closed on 21 January 2022.  EPL and DET commenced on 1 May and runs until 31 July 2022, with the last week of the programme consisting of in-person sessions in Gauteng, South Africa.

For the Episodic Lab, we have selected: Hussein Kurji with Bushcamp (Kenya), Khanyo Mjamba with Byline (South Africa), Mlilo Mpondo with Bayeti-Visitors (South Africa), Neo Sibiya with Ukushona Kwelanga (The Setting of The Sun) (South Africa), Sandra Madu with From Lagos with Love (Nigeria) and Voline Ogutu with Dilemma (Kenya).

The selected screenwriters will spend 3 months in a virtual lab where they will work on developing their original story ideas, in any genre, alongside the mentorship of Realness Institute Creative Producers. Elias Ribeiro and Mehret Mandefro, and Story Consultants, Selina Ukwuoma and Thandeka Zwana. After this stage of mentorship, the lab participants will have the opportunity to pitch their incubated stories to Netflix executives.

“Anxious and excited. It’s not every day an opportunity, specifically to showcase African talent, comes around. The Lab will strip our writing bare, and we’ll all be better for it. Bring it!” – Hussein Kurji

“Being selected for the Realness/Netflix Episodic Lab is a giant leap forward in my screenwriting career. I’m absolutely ecstatic to be a part of this gifted group of African professionals and see this programme as an accelerator for us towards the pinnacle of authentic, fearless showrunning. I’m so chuffed!!” – Khanyo Mjamba

For the Development Executive Traineeship (DET) we have selected: Babalwa Baartman (South Africa), Khosie Dali (South Africa), Mona Ombogo (Kenya), Neiloe Whitehead (South Africa), Omotunde Akiode (Nigeria), Pedro Duarte Soulé (Cabo Verde).

These selected participants will gain a deeper understanding of the story development process, working alongside creative producers and story experts. DET Participants will work in teams to support the development and crafting of the Episodic Lab Participants’ respective projects  and help translate their concepts into pitch decks. The approach, of the Episodic Lab and DET programmes, is vertical and horizontal learning, using writing rooms as a co-creating collaborative space. 

“So wow! Realness Institute and Netflix! There are those moments when you know your life is about to change exponentially.  This is one of them. I’m ecstatic to take this journey with fellow writers and become more… More stories, more truth, more boundaries. Just more!” – Mona Ombogo

“DET 2022 is an important tool to support building my professional career and help develop the Industry in my country and region.”- Pedro Soule

While there is no guarantee that any proposal will be developed further by Netflix, it is a unique opportunity that affords the participants the space and time to develop their stories and skills with the guidance of international experts, including Netflix Executives. 

About the Realness Institute

Our mission is to unearth the wealth of African stories – stories from the continent, told with an honest and unapologetic point of view by African filmmakers. Our first programme, the Realness Residency, which started in 2015, has gone on to launch 30 film projects across 16 African countries in only five years. The critical success of brave films such as The Wound, Rafiki, Akasha, I Am Not a Witch, Difret and This is Not a Burial It’s a Resurrection are a testament to the artistic and creative contribution that African filmmakers can make to the industry. 

In 2019, we launched our second programme, Creative Producer Indaba. This ambitious initiative has been designed, in collaboration with international partners, to catalyse Producers across the continent, and in doing so help transform the landscape of African and international independent cinema by training them to become ecosystem builders. 

In June 2020, we launched our third and fourth programmes, Episodic Lab and Development Executive Traineeship (DET). 

Episodic Lab will focus on developing pitch documents with selected writers for series content of all genres. Six writers will spend three months in an online ‘writers’ room’. They will work with a script consultant and a creative producer to fully develop their story concepts into an episodic pitch. Along with creative training, writers will receive feedback from Netflix’s series development team and at the end of the lab, selected writers will have the opportunity to pitch to Netflix to have their series commissioned for production. 

The Development Executive Traineeship is aimed at film professionals with an interest of being trained as story consultants or to gain insight into the story development process. These participants will work with writers and directors in the development of their stories with the aim of increasing the quality of work produced. The program will follow the schedule and structure of Episodic Lab and will be selecting six professionals to take the journey with us. 

Our fifth programme, the inaugural Southern Africa-Locarno Industry Academy, in partnership with Locarno International Film Festival, is set to take place in September 2021. This Industry Academy is dedicated to the development of, 10 to 12, young film professionals working in sales, traditional and online distribution, theatrical exhibition and programming for festivals, film clubs and archives. The aim is to enhance participants’ understanding of the challenges facing the film industry, at the same time allowing them to expand their personal network of contacts and develop their professional skill set.