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Gogomediagirl interviews writers and script editors at fireworks media thandi brewer and zamo mkhwa
Thandi Brewer is an [Showrunner], screenwriter, film producer, director and script editor.
- Gogomediagirl interviews writers and script editors at fireworks media thandi brewer and zamo mkhwa
She has been called the Shonda Rimes of South Africa.
As a showrunner, creator and head writer, Brewer has produced 300 hours of television and film screentime. Her creative capital has produced over 97 million rands worth of product.
The list is exhaustive, but highlights include the still legendary children’s series “Dynamite Diepkloof Dudes” “37 Honey Street”, which made countrywide headlines with the first-ever lesbian kiss on South African television, the 7 x SAFTA Award-winning and International Emmy-nominated “Usindiso”, which also flighted all over Africa, “Sticks and Stones“ the first series in the history of South African television to have audio visual description for the blind, “Bahati Close” first series produced by Mnet East Africa where she headwrote and trained Kenyan and Ugandan writers, and End Game which has been reflighted three times in South Africa, and was flighted throughout Africa. None of her series has ever played under 4 million viewers. She is currently showrunning Keeping Score, a 156-part telenovela she created which is the first telenovela that SABC 2 has done.
As a script editor she has worked with writers to produce the hugely popular “Society” SABC 1 “Tiger” SABC 2 “Love Mnanzi style” (etv) and SAFTA winning Borderliners S2. As one of the approved NFVF script editors and story analysts, she has been privileged to help writers hone their words on “Jimmy in Pink” for UK/NFVF 25 Words or less, “Mama Africa and “Hear Me Move” for NFVF. Her work as a script doctor includes “Hillside” SABC 2. “One way” SABC 1 "102 Paradise Lane“ SABC 2 “Glory Boys” MNet. She has script doctored 4 International features, including a film by Luc Jacquet, Oscar-winning director of March of the Penguins and Cheap Lives by Anthony Sher.
As head of development for an international film company, she oversaw the development of 8 international features and 24 documentaries.
She was one of the founders and the first chairperson of the Writer’s Guild of South Africa. She is passionate about Africa, African stories and their writers, having trained over 500 South African and African writers through her work as a screenwriting mentor through the NFVF screenwriting programme Spark, Mnet’s East African skills transfer programme in Kenya, the short film slate for the Namibian film commission, screenwriting mentor on the NFVF/Blingola female filmmakers slate and as a previous screenwriting chair of AFDA.
Her feature film screenplays include Story of an African Farm starring Richard E. Grant, De Gerrie for Hugh Masakela and the NFVF, and The Chemo Club, which was her directorial debut
Brewer is an award-winning writer, director, actress and teacher who lived in extremely Lower Houghton. (Hillbrow) before moving to the rural extremes of Hennops River.
She is third generation in the South African film/TV and theatre industry and did her first gig crying for a nappy commercial at six months old. Her grandfather was Jimmy Hunter (stand-up comic and producer of Jimmy Hunter’s Brighton Follies) Her father was Bill Brewer (comic, actor, musician, composer, writer, critic on The Sunday Times) and her mother was Fiona Fraser (actress, director, writer, mentor and activist)
In her own words Thandi described her family in “Of Pigs and Psychopaths” – her unpublished biography of her family
"All people have the right to go to hell in their own way. My family always chose the scenic route.
Yesterday, my ten-year-old daughter, Cody, came home in tears from her upmarket, hideously expensive school. A school that is a glass bubble of protectiveness in the New South Africa, for which privilege I pay through my nose, and every other orifice.
"I'm the outsider Mom," she says. "No one will play with me. They say I'm poor. And weird. And my family's weird". I sigh. "We are weird, Noo. And poor. Deal with it". She went to bed, woebegone. And I could do nothing to make this small rite of passage easier for her. A comment from the headmistress of my equally Upmarket, wildly expensive, Convent school, which tried to imbue small savages with the 4 Rs - reading, riting, rithamtic and respectability, where I too was weird and an outsider. "Everyone remarks what a normal little girl Thandi is." Beat. "Considering her background".
I am third generation theatre, a child of theatre foyers and rehearsal rooms. My grandmother was a singer and comedienne. My step-grandfather, a stand up comic and producer. My father, a comic, pianist, writer, composer, personality, producer, actor and finally critic - a good resting place for all his other skills. My mother, an actress and writer herself. I am doublebred for this life, from a family who melded myth, mayhem and magic into something that sometimes resembled a soap opera, more often a sitcom, with all the self-dramatization and chaos that entails. I come from three generations of non-marrying women which is in itself another story.
So now I do for my daughter what three generations have trained me to. I use words to make sense of it all, to try and tease out the reality from the publicity releases, to fit the jigsaws together with my own glue - words. Words are dangerous. They turn on you, they go for the throat and draw blood, they twist under your hand into something strange and unknown to you, filled with meanings that you never anticipated. Trust me on this. I make my living from them, and I've never yet learned to tame them. Put a word around an idea, and it changes it. Put a word around a person, and they have gone, but the word remains.
My job as scriptwriter is to find a pattern. To find an ending, and a beginning.
And this is one beginning.
The story starts, as all good stories should, with a picture. Just one. My 72-year-old mother is talking to her lecturer in Feminist Literature. "Your life," says the professor, "Is a Feminist Manifesto." And once again, I'm struck by the incongruity of Intellectual Analysis versus Experience. To this well-meaning feminist, my mother's life is Manifesto. To me, it's Narrative. A tale of two resilient and robust spirits who forged lives and made choices that were not acceptable then, and are seldom acceptable now. My mother. My grandmother. And because I make my living, such as it, forging words for other people to make images of, I start with an image and a phrase. Traditional, trite and true.
Once upon a time …
There lived." (Of Pigs and psychopaths)
She was born in South Africa, with whom she has a passionate and ongoing love affaire. An addicted traveler, she has voyaged through China, Russia, Europe, America and Africa. She has a broad knowledge of all aspects of the Arts fields, having worked in nearly all of them since she was six months old as an actress, singer, dancer, musician, writer, producer and director.
She was a well-known South African child actor, having her own radio series at 5 (Tandi Time) and acting in films like Majuba and Escape Route Cape Town.
Her stage work as writer and director includes “My Mother, Myself”, “Two Singers - Khuluma”, “The History of Sex”, “Letters of Love, Lust and Living”, “Alice in Africa” “Azanyan Fairytales”, “The Will to Die”. “Alternatives Anonymous”,
She won the Soundscapes competition in 1995 for Best South African play for her first play "Samuel's Fugue". This was broadcast in 1995 and nominated for an Artes award for Best script in 1996. She then went on to write "Dynamite Diepkloof Dudes - SABC 3 for Bobby Heaney Productions, "Nodedancing" - a finalist in the Xencat/Channel 4 script writing competition and "Balls Up" - a film script awarded a development grant by the Department of Arts and Culture. She was one of the young Directors chosen for "Entsha/Nuwe Talente" on SABC 2 and produced the thirteen-part action/adventure series "Venture Out There" for SABC 3. She wrote "37 Honey Street" a 26-part drama series for SABC 2 – where she also directed.
She wrote the International film scripts, "Story of An African Farm" “De Gerrie” and “The Chemo Club”. Her second play "Please Hold I'm Coming” ran to great critical and audience acclaim at the Civic Theatre. A long-standing friendship with Ian von Memerty (they were theatre brats together!) blossomed into a highly productive working relationship. Together they produced “Rockatutu” for the South African Ballet Theatre in 2004, which sequed into “Music and Mayhem” in 2005, “Jump 4 Joy” in 2006, “the Heart is Round” in 2007 and Gunslingers.
She was one of the twelve South African writers selected for the Sediba writer’s workshop of 2005 – run by Alby James, which lead to being a senior script editor for the SABC/Sediba workshop.
She is one of the screenwriting mentors of the NFVF Spark writers programme with Julie Hall, Mmabatho Kau, and Loyiso Maquoba. She wrote “Usindiso/Redemption!!” which she produced in conjunction with Bridget Pickering (Co-producer of “Hotel Rwanda”). It was a regional semi regional finalist for best drama series for the International Emmy’s in 2008, won 4 SAFTAs and played to 4.3 million viewers a night on SABC 1. She created and was Showrunner on “Sticks and “Stones” and “End Game” which flighted on SABC 1 and received enormous critical and audience acclaim. She has just completed her directorial debut with her script “The Chemo Club” which was nominated in the 2015 WGSA Muse Awards Feature film category.
She was one of the founders and the first Chair of the Writer’s Guild of South Africa as well as screenwriting Chair for AFDA. She was also involve in the SASFED (The South African Screen Federation) Executive Committee as Co-Secretaries (2009) with Khalid Shamis, and later she has the Executive Positions of Communications (2010).
Her brush with cancer and double mastectomy has only made her more determined to keep on writing, producing and directing great South African content.