1st : Episode 1: The Maze, by Jenny Young
2nd : Murder at the Lost City, by Nikky Olivier
3rd : Murder at the Lost City, by Kaveshen Govindasamy
All of the entries bought into their chosen genres with lovable sincerity. Though some of the scripts caved to clichés and others struggled to structure the breadth of their ideas (and nearly everyone made a formatting mistake or three), I always found myself fully involved in the stories.
‘Murder at the Lost City’ points simultaneously in two directions: crime and adventure, Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones. And the diversity of the scripts ended up making a near-equal split. Besides our outstanding winner, ‘The Maze’ by Jenny Young, every story leaned on its viewers’ expectations of its genre with only hesitant attempts at humanizing and personalizing the narratives’ surfaces. Granted, a 30-minute mystery is no space in which to try fit a novel, but I was disappointed there weren’t more efforts at skewering the tropes of the private detective or the ancient tomb. And in the final count across the submissions I was surprised to find seemingly more British characters (let alone internationals) than South Africans, probably signalling a lack of confidence in local versions of established TV representations. But at least every pilot’s concept was suggestive enough to make me believe in its series potential and more than half ended with cliffhangers that provided sufficient disappointment to let me crave a follow-up episode.
‘The Maze’ is a case in point here. Though a briefer read than the others it builds up a brilliantly excessive suspense just to the beginning of its central investigation and holds together an extremely promising character gallery with a proficient ease and holistic overview that recalls the narrative sweep of recent Quality Television. As for the others, an inexperience at scene-to-scene construction too often showed through. I would encourage all the present contributors to rewrite their submissions as a drafting exercise, stripping down their stories to single, strong instances of characterization, dialogue and plot development as a means of warding off the vestiges of the generic that plague every aspiring screenwriter, if not the medium itself.
But finally, I’d thank them all for not stinting on the profound enthusiasm required to make such advice and criticism meaningful.