By KELVIN MUSONDA –
One of the most unbelievable answers given by aspiring Zambian screenwriters when asked why they are not writing anything when they claim to be writers is that they don’t know what to write about.
That is true to some extent as film industry is under-developed meaning most genres and themes have not been tried or tested.
This is the fear that holds most writers back and must by all means be put aside for the film industry to move forward.
If you are an aspiring screenwriter sitting on your great idea and telling yourself that you will only write once someone else does your kind of story, then there is a good chance there are ten other aspiring screenwriters telling themselves the same thing.
One advantage that the Zambian film industry has is that it has abundant source material to derive stories from. Zambia has a rich history and culture.
The other big film industries have told so many different stories in so many different ways that right now they are all going through serious story droughts or a lack of original stories.
This is evident in the number of follow-ups, remakes or adaptations that these industries are making and in how similar the plotlines of their films are.
One can ask: why over the past number of years Hollywood has been producing a lot of African stories, for instance, Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs, Invictus and The Last King of Scotland.
This is because like Zambia, most African countries have stories that are unexplored.
So if you are an aspiring Zambian writer, just think of how compelling stories on one of Zambia’s failed coup attempts would be or the struggle for independent, the Bemba/Ngoni war, the slave trade and not forgetting the many heroes this country has, sang and unsung, corruption, street kids, poverty, tribalism.
All these are untapped story ideas which can make for compelling films and create a recipe for academy award for best foreign language film.
Besides, being a screenwriter doesn’t mean only telling stories about your country.
You can also choose the many stories about other lands. If Hollywood can tell stories about other places, what should stop us from doing the same?
Zambia has a culture and history to preserve, and what better way to do that than on film. The only life that most of these stories have had has been on old Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) documentaries, newspapers or social and development studies/history school text books.
There are so many stories to put on film in Zambia leaving a question for all those screenwriters sitting on their stories: How much relevance or weight do you think your story will have once someone else explores a similar plot?
Don’t wait and restrict yourself in terms of language, tone, genre or length as censorship limits creativity.
Let your imagination run wild and tell your story. Good luck!
• The Author is Script writer and film Analyst