Five budding screenwriters have been chosen for the brand-new Jakes Gerwel Foundation/M-Net channels mentorship programme

The Jakes Gerwel Foundation and M-Net proudly announce the names of the five successful candidates chosen from a record number of 127 applications for their very first television scriptwriting mentorship programme: Niël Coetzee, Gita Fourie, Ross Jantjies, Sindisa Masiza and Palesa Shongwe.

The candidates will be heading off to Paulet House, the writers’ house of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation in Somerset East in the Eastern Cape in September for the intensive, two-week screenwriting mentorship programme under the guidance of acclaimed television writer and actress Tina Kruger. As a bonus, the programme is followed by internships for each candidate at one of M-Net’s channels, depending on their individual skills set.

The successful candidates have expressed their excitement about this new initiative and talked about their plans for the future:

‘I feel incredibly grateful and blessed about being selected to be part of the JGF/M-Net mentorship programme,’ says Sindisa Masiza. ‘I know this programme is going to expose me to industry professionals with a lot of knowledge to share. And my fellow writers on the programme are sure to have fresh perspectives and ideas. I am eager to listen to them and learn from them.’

During the programme, Masiza will work on his series Plastic in which he experiments with combining various narrative tools to tell the story of a young woman trying to exonerate herself from a crime. He is also cowriting a script titled Kruisfontein. ‘The project will be shot as an independent feature film in the Eastern Cape,’ says Masiza.

Niël Coetzee says it felt unreal when he read the email from Theo Kemp, the executive director of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation, announcing his selection: ‘I just sat there for hours combing through the words to make 100% sure I had not misread it.’ The outcome of submitting his script, that was on his computer for almost a year and that no one else has read before, is a ‘true blessing’. Coetzee hopes to get ‘a better understanding of the inner workings of the television ecosystem, how everyone from junior writer to head writer, including all the other roles, contributes to a show.’ He is eager to get on with ‘creating interesting story beats that would keep any audience captive for 30 to 45 minutes each week or make them binge on it when released on Showmax.’

More about the 2023 television screenwriters:

Niël Coetzee

Niël Coetzee lives in Parys in the Free State. He obtained his BA degree in communication studies at the North-West University. A highlight of his studies was making a documentary as part of his course requirements. He works as an independent television programme creator and has a strong will to be a successful scriptwriter for television.

Gita Fourie

Gita Fourie hails from Hopefield. She obtained her BA in drama studies at Stellenbosch University. Her plays have been performed successfully at various theatre festivals. She was awarded a Kanna for best upcoming artist at this year’s KKNK and was also nominated for a Fiësta award in the same category.

Ross Jantjies

Ross Jantjies is from Cape Town and completed creative media studies at the SAE Institute in Woodstock. He is a freelance video editor, focusing mainly on animations for streaming platforms such as Disney+, Netflix and Showmax. His deepest passion lies in writing and he is determined to break into the television and film industry as a writer of his own screen plays.

Sindisa Masiza

Sindisa Masiza was born and bred in East London. He completed his film studies at AFDA in Port Elizabeth earlier this year. and is currently working as a freelance copywriter. He is looking forward to the Jakes Gerwel Foundation/M-Net programme that will help him realise his dream to write stories and collaborate with the most talented people in the television industry.

Palesa Shongwe

Palesa Shongwe is from Soweto. She is interested in narratives with a feminist perspective and a decolonial approach. Her short film Atrophy won the Ecumenical Jury Prize at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival in 2011. uNomalanga and the Witch was named best short film at the 2015 Durban International Film Festival and won the Baobab Short Film Prize in 2016. After lecturing at Wits University for some time she has returned to independent filmmaking.