A CHANCE to share, reflect, learn and encourage. These are the words used by entertainment lawyer Christoph Fey to describe the Entertainment Master Class’ (EMC) recent module in Cape Town, which took the travelling executive education programme to the African continent for the first time.
It was also a first in terms of the EMC’s curriculum. Cape Town saw the debut of a new module on Entertainment Management, which focuses on the skills needed to run a successful creative enterprise in today’s cash-strapped media industry, battling with the challenges of technology, migration, fragmentation and faltering financial models.
group-pic_capetown_emc2010The EMC’s first South African sojourn far exceeded expectation, according to Fey, former FRAPA managing director and now the EMC’s managing director and director of studies. And it was not just a valuable learning experience for this year’s 35-strong intake of EMC participants, drawn from around the world and across the entertainment ecosystem, or for the impressive roll-call of guest speakers who accompanied the road-show to Cape Town — Zimbabwean-born FremantleMedia chief Gary Carter, pitch doctor Paul Boross, trends scout Keri Lewis Brown and format queen Patty Geneste of Absolutely Independent, among others — but also for the 80 local broadcast professionals who joined the parallel EMC conference programme organised by EMC and the South African education and training authority Services SETA.
“The international television industry tends to neglect Africa, which means that the workings of its media business is a mystery to most outsiders,” Fey said. “But it’s always been our wish to take the EMC out to every culture and continent, because good ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. Our mission is to get as close to the creative grass roots as possible. You can’t just sit in your office in Berlin, Los Angeles or London and expect great format ideas to come to you. You have to get out there and find them.”
Fey said he witnessed this philosophy in motion in South Africa, where “the hunger and talent” of the local participants impressed everybody involved in the module. One of those was FRAPA board member Patty Geneste, whose master-class session examined international distribution and sales strategies, including tips on how to monetise creativity, finesse deals and carve up rights. “I was very positively surprised by the eagerness and energy of all the participants,” she said. “I left feeling satisfied and happy that we’d really helped to make a difference.”
But it wasn’t all touchy-feely networking, Geneste stressed — at least one hard business benefit has resulted from EMC’s presence in Cape Town. Geneste elaborates: “Our local delegates discovered during the week that the situation in South Africa, where the broadcasters keep 100% of all the rights, is way out of line with the rest of the world, where rights-sharing has become the norm. So we are now in talks with SABC to represent some of their formats on a revenue-sharing basis, which is a massive step forward in terms of opening up the South African market. That’s a great achievement for the EMC.”
Geneste was also flying the flag for FRAPA in South Africa, not only integrating the IP-protection message into her EMC lecture, but also arriving in Cape Town armed with free copies of the FRAPA Report 2009: TV Formats To The World. “They nearly bit my hand off,” she reported wryly. “Twenty-five reports flew out of my hand like Smarties. I certainly think we’ve converted several people to the FRAPA cause.”
Paul Boross, whose Perfect Pitch workshop was one of the highlights of the week, also came away inspired. “It was warming to see how excited the South Africans were to be included in an international event,” he said. “I think the EMC taught them that it’s very hard to do anything in isolation, and that communication and relationships are an inherent part of creating successful entertainment. And I think we learned that there’s a whole continent of people with wonderful ideas out there, who just need a little help and encouragement to make a valuable contribution to the world’s creative stock.”