Class of 2014!

2014 was a big year for Greenlight District Project. It was the Pilot year for this innovative and extraordinarily inspirational project. At the Certificate bearing ceremony the were festivities, prison bands, singing, and general festivities. The offenders did all the decor themselves, organised the whole thing, even frames for the cerrtificates themselves.

Film and Script15 Pippa and Class 2014     Guests at VIP table smiling

It had taken me about a year to negotiate with the powers that be within the Department of Correctional Services to persuade them that this project was a good idea. Not only would it be knowledge and give offenders a skill and possibly income bearing possibilities in the future, but when creating characters in film, one is required to look at all possible sides of the equation. The good the bad, the inbetween and the extreme (the negation of the negation for those who are familiar with the film writing guru’s). Film can assist with developing critical thinking, emotional maturity, analysis, self-esteem, dignity, and who knows we can watch a whole nation of storytellers emerge.

The dream was that the offenders who choose to study (and by the way they are allowed televisions and computers in their cells – not all of them have it – but there is a system) would be able to keep their minds sharp and alive instead of rotting in a cell somewhere. Wouldn’t that be nice instead of watching a nation deplete into the depths of beyond into depravity, crime, xenophobia, corruption and nepotism?

I was Quality Assured by the Board and I was on target! The program started. There were challenges but by the end of the year the offenders themselves gave me a certificate … it was such an honour it felt like winning an Oscar.

Pippa receving certificate 1    Pippa Speech 1

Of course the students are completely unaware of the challenges I faced as a screenwriting lecturer and mentor. Everyone was looking to me for guidance and I had no idea what kind of stumbling blocks would manifest. The biggest issue for me as a lecturer of Film is that because the offenders do not have the stimulation of seeing the world from the outside, there are two areas that have needed my attention:

1.) To develop the imagination.

2.) To develop their memories!

Think about it – I teach maximum offenders which means that they are convicted for 10 years or more – if someone has been inside for 10 years or more and if they came into the system when they are quite young, then how on earth was I going to resolve the problem of how to access those memories that have not matured with age at a normal pace as their other friends would have done?

Film and Script6 Sabelo Maseko  Film and Script7 Tsepho Skosana

I especially feel for the younger ones in their twenties – when their friends are out and about sharing drinks with their choomies in a pub somewhere, having girlfriends, studying at Universities and Colleges, they have no consciousness of what those conversations or stimuli might be.

I set to work … I am pleased to say that I have developed a system of techniques whereby I get them to close their eyes and imagine being in certain places. I create a scenario for them of being in the bush, in the Kruger National Park, or we ‘go to the beach’, or visit a spa, or go to a hardware shop! Whatever it is that we are doing I try to incorporate as much of this work as I can. I need to develop the techniques even more. But it is the only way I can think of to get them to travel without physically being able to do so.

Film and Script5 Francis Mnube  Film and Script10 Reagan Dayne Coetzee - The Thug Poet

I also believe that if I show them enough films set in various locations, in other countries too that although they are not traveling physically, I’d like to believe that I am giving them a little input somewhere that is significant.

As I started working with these men, I watched their consciousness change, their faces even changed! They became more alert, and started developing a sense of the power of words. To some it even started dawning on them that they could have a voice even while incarcerated. The program was working!

During the course of the year, Greenlight District Project developed a Foundation called GREENLIGHT FOUNDATION. There are four Board Members: Ashley du Plooy (Chariperson), Sydney Hadebe (Secretary), Moeneefa McKenzie (Treasurer) and myself Philippa J Dyer as CEO!

So even when the prison was closed down for three months because of some bad blood inside there (not my guys but other people) – there was no turning back.

Registration finally came through about mid-February 2015. And my first class of 2014 emerged victorious. I have some degreed people, a couple of Honours Students and a pilot!

Film and Script14 Ashwin Barnabas  Film and Script8 Seleke Masike  Film and Script9 Darlington Setseta  Bra John at the mic

Because of the trouble through the year, though, we had been shut down for too long to complete the curriculum for that year, so I had decided that they would have to finish in June 2015. As a result I have devised a series of Modules every six months. So all going to plan, they can gain a first year equivalent when they have completed Module 1 & 2. Second Year will be 3 & 4. And third Year will be 5 & 6.

So this year – for this class of 2014! It was a big deal. It is a symbol. An icon of success. A reminder of achievement that regardless of adversity these souls are on a self actualization journey – they are weighing in and being tested by the course of time. They have achieved and they have become successful.

Kudo’s to these men who have chosen to be something else even though society has rejected them.

The project continues from strength to strength. And next year (2016) it has been approved to take on the women.

Corrections is a societal responsibility   Jumping off the ground!

Muthiwe Ntombi  Muthiwe and dancers 2

Viva. Alluta continua!

Advertisements

Write A Film!

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR QUOTE: It’s hard to tell the story if you’re not involved yourself, emotionally …

chiwetel casual

If you are interested in learning how to write Film
Then Don’t miss this opportunity.
STRIKE UP! STRUCTURE YOUR FIRST FILM
Introductory SCREENWRITING Workshop – over 4 months

FESTIVE SEASON SPECIAL – Pay before 25th December and get 50% off

+ PLUS receive the STRIKE UP eBook in advance for FREE.

Contact: pippa@iqu2film.co.za

INVEST N YOUR FUTURE:
ALL YOU NEED IS: The will – A computer – Access to email.
You receive all course materials and a Hard Copy of Course Manual
You will develop a 10-mintue Short Film script
Start your writing journey TODAY!

BECOME A CREATIVE – JOIN OUR TRIBE OF WRITERS
_____________________________________________________

COURSE EVALUATIONS – PRAISES FOR PIPPA
________________________________________
Pippa you have granted me an opportunity to reach deep into my soul and surface with ideas and thoughts that have been bottled and sealed away. My mind is now a film making machine, always on the search for new ideas, with the skill imparted by you. This is not a course any longer, it is now a journey of knowledge and wisdom, unveiled to show me the true secrets of life. I am eternally indebted to you Pippa for honing in on a talent, which I never thought was possible! Sincere gratitude and eternal thanks that I will carry with me on this long journey, we call life. Ashwin Barnabas, 2014.
________________________________________
My assumption was that this was going to be an easy course, however to my surprise it has been really tough, in depth and demanded a lot from me mentally and physically. The course required me to be more creative, imaginative, emotional and structured. It confirmed the saying that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real! I THANK YOU! John Lerumo, 2014.
________________________________________
This course meant a lot to me. It involves my Mind, it involved my Soul, making emotions in mind, and learning narrative structure and that everything has meaning in Film, and all I need to do – is Play. The power of excellence is within me. Tshepo Maloalwa, 2014.
________________________________________
When I first met Ms Pippa in the beginning of 2014, I had no idea whatsoever about script writing let alone pitching. But through her hard and smart way of teaching, today I am able to critically think, write and narrate my story in film format. Ms Pippa introduced me to a brand new world of possibilities and to this day I cannot go to bed without writing a story! Lucas Mahlangu, 2014.
________________________________________
This course is about English language, culture and art, and life stories, eKasi lifestyle. Thankx you for this course. This production is huge. William Kgapola, 2014.
________________________________________
I’ve learnt the true meaning of the phrase ‘Think out of the box’. This course has taken my writing skills to a new fascinating level. Tshepo Skosana, 2014.
________________________________________
This course is extremely empowering and interesting. Thank you for your time, love, patience and professionalism. May God Bless you. Seleke Masike, 2014.
________________________________________
This course has taught me a lot, how to look at things differently. To always find a solution to a problem, how to express myself in words and in pictures and to try and foresee the outcome of any situation. Today, I can proudly say my visual sight has improved. They say being a good writer can take up to 20 years. I say my journey heading towards that advancement has already begun. Sabelo Maseko, 2014.
________________________________________
We all have the capacity to grow in understanding but if we don’t’ make effort we waste out talents and our lives. Mrs Pippa Dyer you are my leader Mother and Motivator, ‘Thank you very much god bless you’. Oscar Dladla, 2014
________________________________________
I feel like my mind has opened up to a world of possible stories because of the steps Pippa took us through! Bokang, 2013
________________________________________
I Love Miss Dyer She is Awesome!! Mel, 2012
________________________________________
I can seriously say I’ve learnt a lot. In a couple of minutes I was surprised at how easily plots and characters were coming out of me. The way the lesson is structured really made it easy to feel comfortable and confident. Even after just one of Pippa’s lessons you feel like you’re actually on your way. Klea, 2013.
________________________________________
Miss Dyer always gives me critique without compromising the integrity of my work!
Monique Victor, 2012
________________________________________

Testimonials from Offender Students from ‘Sun City’ April – Nov 2014

Great Pic Rachel & Pippa holding the course material book: Strike Up! Structure Your First Film

This praise below came from students in my Class of 2014. These testimonials have been transcribed exactly as written with all the spelling or grammatical errors.Considering that for most of them English is a second language I am blown away by their commitment to the project and their responses. I’m extremely happy with what they have learnt! And moreover how it seems to be helping these Offenders who have chosen to go this route to think in pictures, express their innermost creative desires and needs and inspire them on an emotional and psychological level. Long may this project continue to help many more such as what you see below. Often we are mystified by offenders, there is a mystique surrounding who they are and how they operate as human beings. Well, here it is … take a look:

Oscar Dladla

To Pippa Dyer: Film-Scriptwriter-Actor – Publisher- Radio

This course was put together from information and insights collected over some time and in particular with prison inmates in mind. I feel great about myself because of the programme course, I am choosing to take responsibility my perception of myself to endure living effectively. I allow myself to express my thoughts, feelings and needs. I consider myself a risk-taker and I generally feel competent about the scriptwriter film. Even when I fail I still do not doubt my basic ability. I examine it for ways to improve and I enjoy each sign of improvement or progress. A good way to practice is to use something reasonable simple which keeps annoying us frequently because your motivation for success will be stronger. We all have the capacity to grow in understanding but if we don’t make effort we waste our talents and our lives. I enjoy new challenges and I don’t get upset when things don’t go well right. Please let’s support one another through the difficult times. Mrs Pippa Dyer you are my Leader Mother and Motivator . “THANK YOU VERY MUCH GOD BLESS YOU”.

Ashwin Barnabas

Film and ScriptwritingWhat Has this course meant for me?

I would walk around observing nature in its pure wonder! Looking at the waves lap against the shore, leaves rustle on the trees, lovers holding hands and day to day life pass me by unnoticed!

On commencement of this course, my mind was limited to what I saw, what I heard that either made me happy, or sad. I could easily put this to words, but converting those sights to images was a major stumbling block for me. However, as I progressed through this course, scenes have grown into pictures and sights and sounds have been converted and transformed into inspirational, emotive words that are now able to bring pictures to life.

My thoughts have been transmuted to understand that my daily life can be drawn and come to life in film script. Initially it was very difficult to get the gist of condensing all the elements required to write a two-minute script. I could not fathom how I was going to convey my ideas and then bring them to life in two minutes! I honestly thought that this was going to be impossible. Further, how will I get my audience to understand my message, my dramatic question, my plot!

When the course was advertised I thought, wow, this could be interesting, leave alone allowing me to watch some really nice movies! How mistaken I was to think that this was going to be one of those laid back courses where I listen, watch and then get a certificate. I failed to imagine what was in store for me and what was actually required of me. Lest the need for actually writing a movie script, in a recognized format and then being interrogated by a panel of external professionals who were going to score my prospective movie.

With due to consideration to the above, my emotive turmoil was relieved to find that my facilitator was an absolute angel. Not just her voice, but her persona, her patience and her passion for film and script writing succeeded in grooming me to a point of no return! A point of life where I leave reality behind and slip into my own secret world of imagery and sound that will convey my thoughts, my most innermost feeling and this in turn, will pass on a message to my audience. A message so profound that I become the hero, the man of the moment and the director. Is this really true? Have I come this far? The amazing answer to that question is, yes!!!!!

So what is it that caused this transformation and allowed me to enter this fantastic world of film and script writing? The simple answer to that, is my dear friend Pippa Jazmine Dyer.

Pippa, you have granted me an opportunity to rise above the moment, escape from reality, but at the same time. To make a meaningful difference to my life. You have showed me how to reach deep into my soul and surface with ideas and thoughts that have been bottled and sealed away. My mind is now a film making machine, always on the search for new ideas, new emotions and tasteful love that I will strive to impart to the world, with the skill imparted by you.

I am eternally indebted to you Pippa for honing in on a skill and talent, which I never thought was possible! You have given me a new approach to life and for this, you have my most sincere gratitude, appreciation, indebtedness and eternal thanks that I will carry with me on this long journey, we call life.

This is not a course any longer, it is now a journey of knowledge and wisdom, a new dimension of vision that has been unveiled to show me the true secrets of life, in a manner that will bring my name to the big screen.

You have become my inherited, trusted friend for life!!!!
Ashwin Barnabas (Capt)

John Lerumo – Film and Script Writing Course Evaluation Feedback

When the course started in April 2014 I was really excited and looking forward to becoming a filmmaker. I had never been exposed to any film or script writing before, although I just watched movies.

My assumption was that this was going to be an easy course, however to my surprise it has been really tough, in depth and demanded a lot from me mentally and physically. The course required me to think outside the box by pushing me to be more creative, imaginative, emotional and structured.

I have learnt the following from the course:

  • That it requires a lot of hard work to write scripts and make films.
  • It is financially costly to plan and produce any films, from 2 minutes films to 2 hours films.
  • It made me appreciate films and it made me realize how much piracy is affecting the film industry.
  • To structure my scripts and films.
  • To understand each of the 13 beats of storyteller narrative structure.
  • To be the best filmmaker, I need to show more that I tell in my scripts.

Lessons learnt from Ms Pippa Dyer:

  • Nothing is impossible when I put my mind and effort to it.
  • Life is harder for those outside prison.
  • The positive comments to all my assignments and tests really kept me going during times when I felt like quitting the course.
  • That my current situation must not cloud my mind (i.e. I must free my mind from the environment I am in)
  • To be patient and persistent – during the prison lock down I thought you will be discouraged to come back and eventually abandon the course, but my assumption was definitely wrong!

In conclusion, this course confirmed the saying that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real!

I THANK YOU!

Tshepho Molaolwa – Script Writing

This course mean a lot to me:-

  • Firstly it inspired me and encourage me about (IP) – is Intellectual Property and Brain Capacity. It involves my Mind, it involves my Soul, Making emotions in mind, everything that is on mind. And learning narrative structure and everything has meaning in Film, and all I need is Play. And reel is what it happened, reel is what I create and the major turning point. This course mean a lot to me, and it motivate my brain. And I discover and apply the dynamics of the renewed mind, Guidance inspired. Scientists call the human mind the most complex living mechanism in the world.

And I have learned MTP, Mid-point, crisis, climax, Resolution – Brave New World, Vitality, Vacuum, Prototype, Architype, Mentor, Shapeshifter, Brave New World, Act 1, Act 2, act 3, Special World, Climax, Resolution, working title, Genre, Format, Target, Tagline, Logline, Synopsis, Dramatic Issue. This course teaches me how to be perceverence and persistence, Focused, being positive like think wisely. And a specific skill that is in high demand or require expertise, the practical use of abstract knowledge. And capable of becoming or developing Qualities abilities that lead to Future – success. The skill to do something well, and the power of using my mind to reason and understand, and characteristics way of thinking. The quality of being well Planned and organized. The image of something in mind.

The power of excellence is within me.

Darlington Setseta – THE GREENLIGHT PROJECT EVALUATION

Doing nothing but staying in this hell hole and thinking is enough to make a man stark raving mad. So when I heard about this course, it was like mannah from heaven because I have so much love for films and the arts industry in general, mainly to be behind the scenes, because I believe there are so many social issues that I want to tell people about. I believe that the point of sending a man to prison is to shorten the part of his life that he can be free in, to bring his death nearer. But, the first day of the course, liberated my inner-self, my mind and soul. I began to see things around me through the lense of the video camera. Instead of just telling people whats on my mind, I see myself moving in a direction when I can show it, usually through film. The course has taught me so much, the movies we watched, especially those based on true events made me to be conscious of my emotional side, in-fact, they taught me the importance of writing movies that people can relate to. I can never thank you enough Pippa, for everything, especially not judging us. You’re a great mentor for me. I hope I thank you in my speech at the Oscars 🙂

 

Fancis Mnube

Well, firstly I would love to appreciate for your love, time and kindness. Dear you doing a lot for us, I have been longing for this course years back. Honestly, to be one of your students will never be a worst thing. This course is an eye opener, keeps me busy and compels me to read, write and edit most of the times, which improves my English. True! Sometimes I do struggle there and there, what I love is that you always there to keep me going and understand the concepts. I now have the light that will show me the way. I believe if I might get study material my understanding will improve and make more pictures out of my writing. I did love the challenge on the assignments, exam and pitching session. All in all I love you because you always put your record straight; there is no favouritism in most of your comments. Wish to learn more and work with you when we meet again next year. I believe that God will grant us that opportunity.

Vuyo Ngaba: WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE COURSE!!!

It is a great honour and privilege to write this letter to you office, predominantly giving feedback with regards to the scrip writing course since its inception, in the parade hall at Johannesburg Medium C Centre.

As anticipated the course was ushered properly, it was knowledgeable and exceeded our expectations on the part of Brand Joburg. In particular with regards to interaction with students, it allowed space for flow of information amongst the facilitator and the student. However, the program was highly educational, informative and empowering, most of all it was a new language to some of us to learn and understand.

Although Short comings were experienced via language as some of other participants dropped out because of English and not able to keep up with the work which you gave us every Week on Wednesdays, but for me it was worth it as it improved my grammar and be able to express myself very well.

In the midst of everything, the course was a huge success as all parties’ involved showed interest and commitment. It helped place the name of our organization on the map within the centre and attracted more new members to our shores. Mrs Pippa Dyer we are grateful for the opportunity as Brand Joburg Medium C and hope our contribution to IQU 2 Film will be appreciated by many.

I hope that everything is in order and meets your favourable consideration.

Written by: Vuyo Ngaba


Lucas L. Mahlangu

Att/The Editor: Course Evaluation

Dear the editor: (Activities reflected during script writing sessions)

I hereby reflect on my journey throughout class sessions and re-evaluating the course as a whole. When I first met Ms Pippa in the beginning of 2014 I had no idea whatsoever about script writing let alone pitching. But through her hard and smart way of teaching, today I am able to critically think, write and narrate my story in film format. Ms Pippa introduced me into a brand-new World of possibilities and opportunity and to this day I cannot go to bed without writing a story. And for me that is creative thinking needed by most youth in our country. I therefore pray that God bless my special teacher Ms. Pippa in her endeavours, as she continues to teach others. I cannot wait to finish my third year and get my reward. The reward though is not the most essential part of this course but the knowledge thereafter.

Teacher God Bless You Whatever resolutions or changes you may Make
whatever new directions or paths You’d like to take …
May God bless your endeavours and guide you to success, and
Fill the coming years with all that brings You happiness.
Enjoy whilst lasts.
Regards
Mahlangu L. Mr

R. D. Coetzee A.K.A. The Thug Poet

I always choose my days to remain silent ‘cause I have come to a realization that meaningful silence is better than meaningless words. And as I jot down my thoughts, I hope it brings you to a clearer understanding into why I broke the silence. ‘Cause at times I feel like the former and my words are seeds, people are the soil and my hope for them is to grow like trees ‘cause I am trying to inspire those that admire my efforts of trying to make a difference, and like a good farmer, would always choose the perfect season. This course helps me in a great deal, where I myself have come to appreciate what I possess, which once I just thought as being circumstance of chance. At every attendance with dedication, I learnt more about we as inmates and objectively people are more similar than we are different, if only we take a second to listen. The cream always rises to the top so above all, this course has given me a platform to express my innermost feelings and thoughts with no prejudice and to me that’s my freedom, thanks Pippa.

 

William Kgapola

What I have learned from the course

This course is about English language. This IQU 2 Film course is about life stories. I write shit in this course because is long time out in school. I will write true stories next time. This course is about English language, culture and art. This is about eKasi life style. But I will pass this course next year. I did not mourn my sister’s death, that I was not right in this class. Thankx you for this course. This production is huge.

Tshepo Skhosana – Course Evaluation

During the time of my attendance of the course, I’ve learnt the true meaning of the phrase ‘Think out of the box’. I’ve learnt that every thought counts. I used to have many thoughts and ideas that I couldn’t put on paper. It made me put things on paper that I never even knew I had in me. I’m able to explore and share ideas. The two-minutes movie that we did made my love for movies grow. I am now able to analys, even though I am still growing in that field. I’ve learnt about the important beats. I now see movies in a different perspective. I now know that everything that we see and hear on the movie is for a reason. This course also improved my creative writing skills. I’ve taken my writing skills to another fascinating level. I know that I still have to learn more and grow within the industry. So my road does not end here …

Seleke Masike

My feedback to the course is that it is extremely empowering and interesting. I’m not even close to being well skilled with film making, but I can now break down the different stages of any film. We were faced with different challenges like early lock-up and complete lock-down, by despite these were managed to get through with it. I just feel that we needed more days in the week to attend the course. I have also taken a very keen interest in script writing and publishing, but have no clue whatsoever how to go about doing it. The course should be customized to fit the culture of the prison environment, and with that in place, the course can be completed in record time without anything left behind. I enjoyed it very much and hopefully will continue with it to the next level if I will not be acquitted by the Appeal Court or be transferred to another prison. But I will be making films in future, come rain or shine. Thank you for your time, love, patience and professionalism. May God Bless you, and take care. Much love.

Seleke ♥ xxx

Sabelo Maseko

What Scriptwriting has done for me?

This course has taught me a lot, it has taught me how to look at things differently. It has taught me to always find a solution to a problem. It has shown me how to express myself in words and in pictures and to try and foreseen the outcome of any situation. Today I can proudly say my visual sight has improved because of this course. Scriptwriting is a good course because not only does it teach us how to write scripts but it also teaches us to be confident. I thank the person who teaches us, you Mama, Mrs Pippa Dyer because you are the one who brings out the best in our writing and give us the confidence to believe in our stories. This course is giving us another chance in life and another place to change our lives for the better. I personally am very gratefully for this course because today I can say one day I believe I can be a successful writer because of this course and the things my mentor has taught me. They say being a good writer can take up to 20 years, I say my journey heading towards that advancement has already begun.

 

New Lease on Life

I am learning so much about human nature during this course. Needless to say probably as much about myself as my students.

A fellow colleague and thriller writer, Margie Orford compiled a manuscript many years ago called, Fifteen Men. She had been through a similar process to myself, working with prisoners in Groot Drakenstein. Sadly, the book is out of print but this is what she says in the opening chapters:

When I first arrived at Groot Drakenstein Correctional Facility I saw fifteen prisoners, reduced to a brutal sameness by the orange or denim uniforms, by the obedient way in which incarcerated men shuffled from one place to another at the order fo a guard, by my own fear of them. Most of the men I was to work with are serving very long sentences. I decided that the only way I could share a creative space with them was if I did not know what crimes they had committed. Nine months later, I have piles of handwritten stories and poetry on my desk. The paper carries with it the unique smell of the prison: a dusty grey hopelessness of lives turned to ash.

I used the same system as Margie, when I first arrived at the Meredale Correctional Facility my opening speech was that if I was to share a creative space with them then I did not need to know what they were in for. That writing is a soul journey and I was there to help them through to some form self-actualization.

They were highly appreciative of this, what they were not to know was that I was equally nervous that I would box them into brackets of … rapist, murderer, fraudster or thief. I chose to work against my fears and I have found such amazing spirit because of that.

If people get to a point of trusting me, they do eventually confide, or their past comes out in their creative writing, or film short stories they wish to tell. But because I don’t actually know, and have chosen not to enquire, of course I will never know which stories are true or not.

The Day I Died Inside … A creative essay I gave them to write … real or imagined I will never know.

  • The guy who’s brother was killed by gangsters that was the day he died inside.
  • The guy who tried to protect a woman from being raped by three thugs behind a pub, stabbed the one with a knife as big as a nail clipper, he died, which led to his incarceration. Then he found out that the love of his life had been shot by her ‘boyfriend’. He could not get out to attend her funeral – there was nothing he could do.
  • The guy whose baby-in-arms son (a twin) died just after incarceration and he couldn’t get out to go to the funeral – that was the day he died inside.
  • Another took in a girlfriend who was being abused by her father, housed her, kept her, even got married to her before he wanted to, to protect her, then the tables turned, she started abusing him, staying out late nights, drinking, he suspected sleeping around, then told him she didn’t love hi anymore. That was the day he died inside.
  • Yet another, fell in love with a married woman who was so-called not in love with her husband anymore. She had many rich cars in her driveway, he noticed the cars but was blinded by the woman. He needed money to start a business, she gave him R50,000. Next she gave him a gold watch. He accepted. Next he was arrested for murder of her husband. With the money in the bank account and the gold watch that had belonged to her husband (which he did not know) how easy was it for him to be convicted for 25 years for a crime he did not commit.

It dawned on me that the day these men died inside, was not the day that they were incarcerated necessarily, but more the day that they lost a loved one.

Does that make them so different from us out here? Love is what makes the world go around.

Mostly, if they did not have their orange overalls on I would not be able to tell the difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

So how does one help raise the consciousness of these people who live in darkness and yet choose to strive for the light? The people who have either come from an impoverished background; the guy whose brother died which I’m pretty sure must’ve led to a revenge tactic which in turn led to his incarceration; or the guys who are here because they tried to save someone; or the guy that is innocent?

Some people are innocent, some chose anger or violence, some were hoodwinked, some just took a wrong turn in life. Sounds a bit like all of us doesn’t it?

Yet all of them, whether innocent or guilty were close enough to the danger to find themselves in chains. For me – THAT is THE LESSON.

What I admire most about these men is that although in chains, ‘walls of pain’ as one of my younger students called it, they have to live inside their memories in order to write, produce work and keep their minds sharp and well-honed.

Some of them are writing poetry books, some are writing novels, some are getting excited about the prospect of film writing …

I applaud all of them for choosing to continue to live and grow – even under duress. For having the strength of character to turn:

Adversity into triumph.

‘Failure’ into freedom of the mind.

Lack into abundance.

And concrete into something beautiful.

Writing Blessings to all … Viva.

 

Christmas in July

I read their Christmas stories with interest. It was amazing for me to see how expressive they were particularly about food! I’m guessing that is a big gap in their lives, mum’s pot-roast, or fending the braai meat with dad, or Dave or john or Paul.

This is a description of one of the meals that came forward for my assignments:

“I stand and watch mom heat the butter in a pan and fry the onions and garlic until it softened and became translucent. She started adding the mushrooms, rosemary and wine and seasoned it with salt and pepper, while cooking it gently until the mushrooms became slightly softened. On top of that she added the creamy cooked sauce until it thickened, she added the cooked pasta to the sauce, and tossed gently until every strand of pasta was covered in sauce, a meal that she normally prepares on special occasions, Linguine al fungi.”

Clearly food and the quality of food there is an issue. By getting my students to live in their memories and imagination, I’m hoping to spark that special spark of magic that stirs in their souls.

The thing that fascinated me about this project is that these people are writing from memory. Some of the might’ve moved on from ‘jouvie’ to adult incarceration so their memory of events and circumstances might be a little blurred. They do not have the same influences as normal people do out there in the world. If I want inspiration, I go to a coffee shop and listen vaguely clandestinely to a conversation whereby a word, an action, a movement, the meal that the waitress delivers to the table, anything can spark an idea.

Here these men have to work solely from memory. It’s remarkable.

  • One story tells of their Christmas whereby they got up at 6 in the morning to chop wood for the fire that they would braai (barbecue) their food on that day. Clearly a luxury of a simple family braai is not something that the incarcerated can do.
  • Then the other one, who woke up on Christmas morning with the mountain above them looking like, ‘an angel’s dress’, the snow had fallen deep in the Drakensberg mountain’s the day before.
  • Yet another who remembers his uncle’s taking him to a shebeen (informal, illegal drinking hole in the township area) against granny’s wishes, and he returns home worse for the wear and granny forgives him and bails him into bed.
  • Another one who doesn’t even mind his ‘irritating little sister’s’ in preference to having a life buckled in by ‘walls of pain’.
  • Another whose girlfriend meets the family for the first time. He remembers the first kiss, her red ruby lips and the music that was playing.
  • Someone else chose to go and meet his friend in Cape Town for Christmas. This perhaps was one of the most delightful … for that moment, for that brief moment, he was not an incarcerated spirit, but a friend meeting another friend somewhere else in the world.

How precious these fantasies.

Interestingly, no-one spoke about the presents that they got … material objects giving way to the more profound observations that the ‘home is where the heart is’, or the ‘home is where the family is’.

I listen in awe as the student who seems to have a very good relationship with his wife misses their monthly ‘love-in’s’, where they would hole up for the weekend to renew their love and keep the flame of passion alive. On Friday nights it was a movie, a show, a party, a jorl (rave) of sorts; Saturday the whole day was lazing around in bed, watching movies, eating, and renewing their interest in each other; and Sundays was spent outdoors, going to museums, parks, recreation centers. It struck me as such a good idea, why haven’t the rest of us thought about that. Maybe we should make it a condition of marriage that on one weekend a month, granny keeps the kids while we have a relax and revive session with our spouses! Priests could bring it into their sermons … judges could rule on it, teachers could introduce it into classrooms …

My dream was to put myself in an environment whereby I could help people find their creative spirit and by so doing eliminate the need for drugs drink, crime, violence.

By the looks of things, my dream is already becoming a reality. Consistent with my Slogan, Greenlight District Project intends to:

To raise the hearts of a few – and the spirit of a nation.

 Humdu’allah … In the name of God …

The First Screenwriting Session

The First Meeting – At Correctional Services Sun City – April 9th 2014

I was nervous, but I knew my way around a bit better this time. Yes, the route to Sun City was not so far away from Jozi … in fact it’s quite simple to get here!

I knew the security battle this time so was able to get my basket of teaching materials through quite effectively.

My contact inside – the organizer of the school – Mrs Moape (not her real name) that everyone refers to as ‘Mamma”. I expected a large maybe quite frumpy woman, but what I received was a large woman yes, but with an ebullience and joy that was unexpected. Beautiful face with long dark hair extentions. I could not have been more wrong. She was pleasant, welcoming, as were the offender liaisons who were allocated to my task.

They were lined up waiting for my entrance, just to show me the ropes …

Beno (also not his real name) thrust a very well prepared document into my hands, which was my profile that he had downloaded from the net, including an outline, giving my new class of 50 students an introduction of what my course might entail. Clever. It was perfect. However, the course obviously will change according to circumstances.

The class started and what I thought was going to be a brief preliminary meeting and introduction turned out to be a barrage of questions and answers.

Hungry for knowledge, thirsty for fresh ideas and a new approach, and an appetite for both!

They listened, gleaned, absorbed, gathered as much information as they could to shift them from a dull laborious life into a remarkable one of research, information and enlightenment.

After just a couple of hours I felt like I had already lived a life-time inside there, my voice was getting tired and hoarse, I mean 50 students is a lot to keep engaged for a lengthy period of time and these guys are razor sharp.

Think about it – it makes perfect sense that they should be awake and ready to receive information – they do not go out at night, they do not get drunk, their minds are not hazy from an excessive amount of drugs and various intoxicants. I’m sure there are some that slip through the cracks … there will always be that … but it will not be on the excessive scale as it is outside of the facility.

The lectures are supposed to be 3 hours long. They usually don’t have a break in that time – we did – because I needed to rest my voice, go to the loo, and regroup.

But they must have bladders like a camel, because they usually do not break!.

This is not the kind of facility where you can nip out for a cuppa coffee then dive back into your lecture – you cannot take anything inside – and I mean anything, no water, no coffee, no juice – nothing.

So the only time one can get to sip a … something … is to go to the loo.

I make a mental note to change that in the future. I mean the body is made up of 90% of water, water hydrates the body, including the brain! How are they supposed to think long term without water. So water bottles is definately something worth looking into.

During the December Holidays I had asked them to submit to me their first assignment:

To create their very own Christmas

What would they most like to do for Christmas, would they want to be at the table with their family? What kind of food would there be? What would the decorations look like? What were people wearing? What would their conversations be about? Or would they want to sit quietly at a river talking to their best choomie? Do they celebrate Christmas al all, and if not what would they prefer to be doing? Do they engage in deep conversations with anyone? If so, what would they be about? What advice would they give to their children for the future?

Because I’d had to wait so long for the authorities to approve the project and get the paperwork signed, they handed in their Christmas project, in April. Hmmm … I’m fascinated to see how they turn out.

There was a guard posted in the room with me. Let’s call him Mr Javu. He came forward at the end of the session and asked if he could participate too – so I got a form from Mr Javu too. He wanted all the assignments also. He got them too. However, I did warn that the project is specifically for the offenders, so they had to have first priority. He understood but wanted to participate anyway. What a joy. Only in SA …

A young guy from the group stayed behind … he had the sweetest face … let’s name him … Sugar. He wanted to alert me to the fact that he is being transferred in the next two months to Pretoria Prison because he’s getting to the end of his sentence and wants to continue there to be closer to integrate with his family again. It struck me how humble and earnest he was about this request and how difficult it must be for offenders in this position – they know they are going to be released – it must be like running the end of a marathon, that is the time when you get weary, freak out, when the ‘game’, the journey, the track, whatever it is gets too much for you and how difficult it must be to get to that finish line intact without losing your mind (or your life) especially if you’ve had a 10 or more year sentence.

Moreover, how do the other inmates treat you – do they wish you well on your way and wave g’bye … or are they a little envious? I’m guessing it’s the latter, which could give rise to all sorts of misgivings and counter reactions. Oi. It’s almost unbelievable that people actually mange to get out of there alive devoid of war wounds. And I’m sure there are always scars.

So the end of the day drew to a close. During the session the colours of their orange overalls fade into oblivion. In fact, if they did not have their overalls on I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between themselves and others from the ‘outside’ world.

But bidding farewell to my well humoured class … one becomes all too aware of it. I go back to my home, where I can have that cuppa coffee, warm hot and with milk.

They go back to their cells where they get 5 slices of bread for supper.

I applaud my class for taking the time out to learn a new skill, keep their mind active and growing, and embarking on this journey of new life.

Writing Blessings

Pippa Jazmine Dyer

 

Crossing the Threshold into the Extraordinary World – Oct 2013

Extraordinary Day – October 2013

 The function was to be held at the Correctional Facility for Offenders at Meredale – commonly known as Sun City. The purpose of the function was to bring the concept of Brand Joburg to the public or interested parties. Brand Joburg is a gateway project to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society.

It was October 2013, a swelteringly hot day. For people – no let me rephrase that – for whities that live in Jozi proper, one doesn’t always know the roads or the route to places deep in the south of Johannesburg. I had been married to a Lenasia local for many years prior to this incident, so I more or less knew my way around Southgate heading towards Lenasia, but not really Southgate heading towards the Meredale Correctional Services Prison. But I found my way, albeit a little nervously, and waited patiently for my contact outside the Shell Garage, which was the designated spot.

I saw several people arrive in taxi loads of shuttles, be dropped off at that Shell Garage and carry on along their merry way. Some looked a little askance at this ‘whitie’, dressed quite well, (because I was going to a function) but in a battered Nissan X-trail. I was bemused by the different codes of dress that seemed to be much more free than in the north. One would never see so many ‘I’m so sexy’ T-shirts in Fourways or even Hyde Park.

My contact arrived and a little while later we drove in to the front entrance of Sun City, the lethal, brutal Correctional Facility where its reputation preceeds it.

Getting through the security was unsurprisingly vigilant. Several trips back to the car later, I’d had to dump my cell-phone, bag, bottle of water, and was guided in through the several iron-gate structures with literally, just my car keys.

The function was a get together of sponsors, dilitentes, delegates, or interested parties from human rights organizations, sympathetic advisers, companies or NPO’s whose humanitarian conscience had allowed them to gift products, funds or services to different causes hoping to scrape the surface of reducing crime in South Africa, or at the very least showing that they cared. Although the contributions never feel as though they are enough in the grand token of things – they still feel as though they are doing something. Personally, I was there to observe and to make contacts for my new project teaching film writing to offenders.

We sat down at a the arranged place under a shaded covering. The 500 prisoners, offenders as is the politically correct term, are on the other side sitting in the sweltering heat, unguarded from the harsh sun. 500 chairs squashed together, the offender’s overalls up to their chins, down to their ankles and covering to their wrists. They must have been so uncomfortable. Yet they listened, silently and well behaved, to the numerous (and lengthy) speeches throughout the day.

I was so boiling hot under the shaded area, that I was concerned about them. Several offenders had caps on, some found pieces of cardboard from … somewhere … and were using it as a rigged umbrella, and my eyes fell onto one lone white boy in the midst of this pool of darker colored shin tones. His face shone from the sun. His brow sweltering with sweat and yet he sat almost comatose in one position for virtually 5 hours of excruciating heat slipping further and further down into his chair. I wondered why he didn’t get up and walk away? Perhaps they were not allowed to? Is he going to collapse? The effect of his face shining with the reflection of the sun and sweat gave the illusion of an aura of light around him. I watched him sink lower and lower into his chair willing him to please get up and go inside – I know what the brutal effects of the suns rays are on our pale skins and that it can take up to three weeks to get rid of the damaging effects of burn, blisters, sun stroke, headaches, needless to say the effect of trying to sleep or even sit down with a body so tender from being burned. It’s like he was being roasted, fried by the sun. Cooked. Because that’s what it is … our bodies cook. Eventually I saw him and his buddy next to him get up and move indoors. I felt relieved and wondered how the rest of them outside were coping. I mean I know they are offenders, but why not just get some green car port netting and throw it over there?

All the while the chefs team, the catering department were bringing eats outside on trays and the offenders in their orange overalls very politely served us. We had little meatballs, chicken wings, sausages, sticky meat things, potato crisps and many sweets. Later, lunch of curry and rice was served. The offenders careful to keep us plied with cool-drinks and water.

When the serving started I had paranoiac reaction of … are they going to poison me? I caught myself having such a silly thought and with the progression of the day had to smile in disbelief that I could ever been so ridiculously prejudiced. Yes, bad things happen inside there, have happened inside there, but I had given nobody any reason to dislike me? What was I thinking? Oh, the ignorance of the unknown, the existential fear, the lack of knowledge. I had to remember the reason I was there in the first instance – to meet my liaison officer for my film writing training programme. For the sake of this article let’s say his name was Beno. Beno was the sweetest, most accommodating person. Beno had no arm. I was shocked at how he could cope in a place like that without it. But he was extraordinarily dexterous with his one appendage. He gave me the run down of how to go about my program and some tips, as did the very impressive offender chairperson of Brand Joburg, Johannes.

The offenders were ordered, gave speeches, worked in groups, have an orchestrated committee chairperson and various delegated team members working hand in glove with people from the ‘outside’.

And the people sang … in harmony.

The prison bands played their music, several of them, each one in-between each organizations speeches. I heard offenders get up and give motivational speeches about how to conduct their lives from now on, I heard ex-offenders tell of how they they had left this very facility 25 years ago, thinking that they had a 45 year sentence, which was then miraculously reduced to only 5 short years. But – he warned – to start making arrangements for what they will do after their release – NOW! That it was just as tough outside, but in a different way, and that they must start to plan before they get outside so that do not have to rely on reactivating their lives of crime. I saw a group of impassioned offenders get up and renounce violence. They publically pledged to never more do violence or crime. It seemed absolutely genuine.

Then of course, the inevitable inspirational religious speaker. Clap. Clap. Praise the Lord. Halleluia.

The Extraordinary Day ended. I still had to find my way back to the city sans my deep-south guide. I was tired. But so inspired that in the face of adversity these voices could stand up and pledge their commitment to a worthy cause. That within these walls of hell there is teaming life, and not always a treacherous or ungrateful life, but an inspired and persevering one.

I also felt comfortable and settled that my film writing programme was going to work. With this kind of inspiration why would it not? The thrust of the programme is to allow people to live outside of their cells, to live in their minds, instead of rotting in a cell somewhere; to use the power of the imagination to create whatever they would want to outside of their circumstances; to raise their consciousness and conscience-ness. Yes. It was going to work. By working with the underbelly of society I could help them rise above their circumstances and create something beautiful from something daunting. Provide them with skills, real skills to take back into the community when they finally get released back into the world.

Writing is a soul journey. There is nothing complicit about writing. My programme the Greenlight District Project, could help create more whole human beings, not ones that are more broken and angry. By permeating the underworld in this way perhaps, just perhaps we have a chance of reducing crime and allowing people to find their emotional intelligence, come to terms with … whatever it is that they have to come to terms with … and live beyond, as well as have a potential means of profession and viable financial income that rehabilitates them back into a society that once rejected them.

In film, one needs to be able to have a balanced view of the subject matter, see both sides of the story. By writing about one character’s needs and goals, one needs to understand the adversary’s needs and goals that might be polar opposites for a complete outcome. To show love … one has to understand hate, to show betrayal … one needs to show loyalty and to show justice … one needs to show lack of justice. And so on.

Could they be potentially good students? Can I teach them to come out with a more balanced view of life? Well, we shall see … They certainly have the time to perfect their skill. And from what I saw on that first extraordinary day at the correctional services centre – they definitely have the will.

I am due to start lecturing to them in film writing, amongst other related disciplines on the 9th April 2014. I am looking forward to helping people along the path to their self-actualization process of self-discovery, and I feel privileged that this group of 50 men has entrusted me to help raise their souls from lack to abundance of spirit.

I am certainly going to keep you guys up to date on this extraordinary journey because if I don’t write it down after every session I’m so nervous that I will forget the details.

I hope that you will be with us every step of the way too, for this pilot project in 2014. And if it works – who knows – perhaps we change the history of a nation.

Writing Blessings

Pippa Jazmine Dyer

pippa@iqu2film.co.za