Submissions for the Netflix Episodic Lab open today – What you need to know

Earlier this month the Realness Institute and Netflix announced a partnership that would see writers from Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa working on content commissioned by Netflix.

Applications for that programme open today and both organisations have given us a better idea of what criteria the ideal candidates would meet. But there are a few concerns we have about this call for submissions, starting with the aforementioned criteria.

That criteria follows on below.

  • The Writer/writing team* must have either Film or Television experience, (*only one writer will be able to participate if selected.)
  • They can write in any genre of fiction
  • They must be able to communicate and work in English (although the story can be in a local language but would require translation for the Lab)
  • The concept must be set in South Africa, Kenya OR Nigeria
  • No producers or directors should be attached to the script
  • Pay a submission fee

The last point about a submission fee is new to us as it wasn’t mentioned in the initial press release regarding this initiative and there is more confusion within the press release we received this morning.

In order to submit your ideas you will need to pay €30 via PayPal although if you’re in South Africa you can pay R550 via “wire transfer”.

We’re told that this fee will cover the cost of having people read these submissions but quite frankly, given that Netflix is backing this project and there is no guarantee your submission will be chosen, it feels like a low blow. Is Netflix so hard up that it can’t pay the Realness Institute to have people read submissions from writers it may eventually work with? We have our doubts.

While the writers who are chosen will be paid a $2 000 stipend “to cover living expenses as they dedicate their time to the process” this pales in comparison to what Netflix could make from the content these folks produce.

What makes things even more confusing is that even if you are one of the six writers who are chosen to participate, there is no guarantee that your work will make it to Netflix.

“At the end of the Lab, each writer will have an opportunity to pitch their finished product to Netflix and have their series developed for production. If Netflix does not commission further development and/or production, the rights to the developed material default to the authors. Creators should not be committed to a producer or director to participate in the Lab,” reads a press release sent to Netflix.

To sum up then – you have to pay R550 to submit your work, then you have to work with other writers for three months developing your own idea earning $2 000 and then at the end of it, your work may or may not be selected.

Granted, getting your idea in front of Netflix isn’t easy but this contest just seems like a costly gamble.

While we understand that Netflix is looking to appeal to the local market with more African content this whole contest feels out of touch with the market.

What’s more is your submission is a job in and of itself with the following needing to be included in your application:

  • paragraph of your story idea,
  • one paragraph description of the story world,
  • one paragraph description of the tone and references for the series,
  • half page bio of writer or per writer if writing team,
  • 10 words description of each main character,
  • Eight one- line episode ideas;
  • and two writing samples of which you are the sole writer (10 page max.) It could be any writing but preferably a synopsis, a treatment or a short script or scenes of a long form one

If you’re still interested in joining the Episodic Lab you can head to this link to submit your application.

Applications close at midnight on 31st January 2021.


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