12 October 2012

Sitcom Centers on Dysfunctional NGO

It was the opportunity that Hussein Kurji always wanted, but he was not prepared. A conference in South Africa invited attendees to pitch an idea for a television show. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, Hus turned to notebook where he scribbled down an idea from a few years ago: a dysfunctional NGO.

The native Kenyan went to Australia in order to study digital media. He returned home in 2009, unsure if it was the right decision. Radio dominates as the main media form in Kenya, but television is growing at a rapid pace. A survey in 2011 by Ipsos Synovate found that roughly half of all Kenyans watched television within the past week. The average viewers spent 26 hours a week watching television generally in the evenings to watch the news and soap operas.

Friends would tell Hus stories about their work at an NGO and oftentimes the main point of conversation centered around office politics. Hus thought it could make for a good television show, making a small note in a notebook without much thought that it would go anywhere.

A scramble to flesh out his idea led to successful pitch which means the idea of a dysfunctional NGO that does nothing called "Aid for Aid" is becoming a reality. "The Samaritans" centers around an NGO in Nairobi that is in the process of applying for a massive grant that will change the organization. The problem is that the grant is so big that nobody really knows what it is for.

The premise is drawn from the experiences of a friend. "His organization was excited about a big grant," explained Hus," but they did not really understand what they would do if they got the money." While an NGO sits at the center of the story, it is actually the characters that matter most.

"I was inspired by shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family. The side interviews, comedic aspects and attention on characters is what makes them work," he said. He intends to employ a British-style humor with his target audience being the African continent, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Kenya is still not at the point where it can serve as the only outlet.

"There are no systems or initiatives in place to tap into financing," said Hus. Because of that, he and his partner are turning to Kickstarter to raise money for the development of the film. Their $10,000 goal is meant to help with production and development costs to ensure that the scripts are perfected. "We already have the first three seasons sketched out," Hus explained.

The project tipped the $10,000 point this morning meaning that it will be fully funded, but Hus hopes that the project can make it up to $11,000 before it Midnight EST this Monday. Script writing should take place in early 2013 and Hus hopes that he can cast the 11 main characters and produce a few episodes by the summer.

A demo of 'The Samaritans' was filmed as a part of the promotion for the project. In it we meet Martha, the deputy director of Aid for Aid who is passed over for a promotion to director by a young American male who is half her age and his only experience is a 6 week internship in Casablanca. While navigating the office politics of Aid for Aid, the employees are all really focused on 'saving Africa.'

Watch the demo clip:

The Samaritans - Demo from xeinium productions on Vimeo.