I’ve loved watching this #OpenUpTheIndustry hashtag and the accompanying conversation unfold. To hear from would-be, up and comers, A-listers, industry experts, and radio personalities on 702’s Night Talk last night was great. It’s amazing to see how passionate some of you up and coming entertainers are about this topic. It’s also amazing to see how some of the ‘A-listers’ have taken offence and become somewhat defensive as a result. I remain objective and I see both sides of the hashtag convo. Here’s what I have observed and can offer in terms of suggestions, if I may:
- If you’re a commissioning editor, producer, director, casting agent, you’ll be concerned with ratings. That’s fair, but don’t be fooled by a big social media following. A big social media following doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get all of those hundreds of thousands of followers watching your show. What happens when your show is only on the pay-tv, premium package? It means a significant amount of those followers might not be in the position to watch your show. Bear that in mind when you’re casting
- Your PR minds are constantly on the go; be it good or bad press. It’s press. I guess that’s how stars are made and shows get ratings. Is it right? Probably not all the time, but it’s the business and that’s the way it works
- Casting agents, broadcasters need to exercise some tough-love with some constructive feedback. Instead of saying sorry it’s a no, offer some reasoning as to why it’s a no. Sometimes you’re just not right for the brief, sometimes you just aren’t talented enough for the industry. I believe that if such transparency is offered (not in a nasty manner), it will give you the answers, the closure you need to move on with your life and pursue your other dreams.
Let me tell you about my experienced. I’ve submitted demo after demo, had meetings for days with the correct people, auditioned countless times. Hell I was referred to as the Ryan Seacrest of South Africa a few years back, and yet I haven’t been given the platform to showcase those areas as much as I’d hoped. Is it because I’m not ‘pretty’ enough for TV, or that I’m not as talented as I believe I am? I don’t know because nobody has told me as much
- Sometimes you need to take the less fickle and shallow approach and give the undiscovered, raw, ‘unprettied’ talent a shot. Maybe we should start a channel for ‘ugly people’. Some of the most unpolished in the looks department individuals might actually turn out to be the most talented, and successful, commercially
- If you’re investing in productions, invest your talent too – with proper, competitive salaries. In that way, you can lock them in, and they can be associated with your brand only. You’re likely to retain them for longer too. I’m sure talent would appreciate that too
- Can we actually move away from the format shows where you go on a nationwide search to find the next big thing is done. It’s tired. It’s boring. Quite frankly, you may discover the talent, but once the show has aired, you don’t do anything further to keep that hype up. Sure, the winner or top five or whatever should do their bit too, but to go from zero to hero on a massive platform, to well done, you won, do your thing is not great. Time to go back to the drawing board
- You can study all you want. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get the big break you desire because you have a Masters in Drama or were top of your class in Presenting. Talent floats to the top and sometimes yours doesn’t quite match up. It’s just what it is. Again, someone making those decisions should tell you if you ask.
- While I am qualified and trained in my field, and I respect all my fellow peers who have done the same, it’s not fair to say that those who haven’t studied are not eligble for these opportunities too. Some are naturally talented, gifted in this field and you can’t dispute that. What will you say when that person goes on to winner an Oscar or an Emmy? I have one person in mind who I believe will achieve this one day, and she is trained in a completely different field. I won’t mention her name, but she knows and believes in her talent just as much as I do, and you cannot dispute that. She was given the chance and trust me they could’ve cast someone far more qualified, but they saw something in her… It’s probably the closest one will get to a definition of the x-factor. These decision makers might appear to give special treatment here and there, but don’t think you wont get your chance if you’re good and convincing enough
- If you don’t feel like you’re getting the opportunity, make one. I told someone on social media last night that YouTube can be your new best business partner. If you have an idea and the broadcasters aren’t keen, go and pitch the living daylights out of it to a potential funder. Will they get their ROI? If your idea is good enough and you wholeheartedly believe in yourself and your project, then yes they will. Remember Caspar Lee (you may have seen his videos or seen him in Spud) didn’t get his big break on TV. He used YouTube and his current reach and influence speak for themselves.
- We don’t need eight other Bonangs. You’ll never be Bonang and quite frankly you shouldn’t try. Be unique, be you and shine. I understand the thinking around that statement, I do. Just keep your hustle up, knock on doors, then knock again. Phone, pester, make sure they know you’re serious and in the interim continue to build you profile. If it’s to be and you believe it, it will come.
We have a long way to go in our little industry. We don’t need to bash the ones we aspire to be like, or are inspired by. We don’t need to break them down. We do need to carry on with the honest, frank and constructive conversations. Let your voice be heard… Maybe this is how your big break will appear 😉