Lights, camera, action …

18 September 2018 | Story Kim Cloete. Photo UCT Centre for Film & Media Studies. Read time 6 min.
Participants on a previous course hone their film-making skills.
Participants on a previous course hone their film-making skills.

Postgraduate students and their mentors from universities across Africa have the opportunity to apply for a dynamic seven-week course at UCT which could propel them into the world of film-making.

The African Filmmaking Fellowship (AFF) is run by UCT’s Centre for Film & Media Studies (CFMS) and aims to empower the participants to improve their film-making skills, as well as set up similar courses in their home countries.

“We look at pairs of applicants from African universities – a postgraduate student linked with a supervisor, lecturer or mentor in their department,” explained Dr Liani Maasdorp, the academic director of the UCT Television Studio. The goal is to equip the pair with a bouquet of skills that will have a ripple effect once they return home.

“We encourage the teams to pay it forward. The idea is that we bring 10 to 12 people to Cape Town, but when they get home they either create a community-based course that empowers people to do citizen journalism, or they create a new course at their university, or improve something that is already there,” she said.

Past participants, from countries including Nigeria, Zambia, Namibia, Ghana, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, have described the seven-week experience as “life-changing”, “thrilling” and an “eye-opener”, while Zambian participant MacPhersson Mutale says it was “a window into the future”.

This is the third and final year the centre will run the AFF, which is funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung charitable institution.

Teaching and training

The course, which will run from 29 October to 14 December this year, comprises three parts. Five weeks are dedicated to conceptual and practical skills, with one week set aside for teaching methods and the final week for mobile journalism.

For the first five weeks, participants will work in tandem with the centre’s established Stepping Stone course for emerging South African film-makers. They will learn the basics of camera operating, editing, directing, structuring a piece, writing a script and producing.

Maasdorp said participants come up with their own concepts for a short production as one of their projects. It could be a biography, a character story, or a journalistic or feel-good story about something in the community.

Each participant gets the opportunity to pitch a concept for a production, then the five concepts with the greatest number of votes are selected. The pitching is in itself a very valuable part of the course. Final projects are usually linked to research or community projects carried out by UCT researchers.


“We work with participants on teaching methods and expose them to free online resources, which are powerful in terms of creating blended learning spaces.”

Spreading the knowledge

In week six, the African Film Fellows will do a one-week facilitator training course in which they learn teaching methods. This is seen as a catalyst for spreading the knowledge and skills they have learnt further afield.

“We work with participants on teaching methods and expose them to free online resources, which are powerful in terms of creating blended learning spaces,” explained Maasdorp, adding that some learning was fact-to-face and some online.

“We share our full curriculum and lesson plan with the Fellows, so that they are able to take it and implement it at home. They get inputs from various people on various issues, from teaching methods and decolonising education, to developing an identity as a teacher.”

After learning about teaching methods, the participants pitch an idea for how they would like to carry their work forward in their home countries.

Past Fellows have pitched courses they plan to offer at their universities and within their communities, while one worked on an expanded year-long diploma course based on the Stepping Stone curriculum.

Accessible tools

In the seventh and final week, the Fellows complete short courses on mobile journalism and podcasting.

Students may not have their own cameras, equipment or edit suites at the university, which is why mobile journalism has been included in the course.

“Mobile phones these days can shoot very beautiful and high-quality images, so this is an accessible tool. You don’t necessarily need to have an expensive video camera to be a film-maker,” said Maasdorp.

She is encouraged by the diversity of people who have taken part in the course, as well as the links and friendships that are made across universities in Africa.

“I feel very proud to be able to deliver on one of UCTʼs Vision 2020 goals of connecting various African academics and practitioners, and creating something that is pan-African.”

These sentiments are echoed by the alumni, who are inspired and keen to share what they have learnt.

“We are taking individuals from different parts of the African continent from the level they were playing at, to a new level. This will affect not only the participants themselves, but the communities and countries they represent,” said past participant Samuel Igbedion.

For more information about the course, please email UCT Television Studio learning coordinator Thabo Bopape at Applications close on 26 September 2018.

See how the course has inspired talented young African film-makers:


Visit the African Filmmaking Fellowships page on the UCT TV website.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.