Web-series Watch: Piloting The Future of South African Entertainment.

The power of social media platforms have given rise to some of our biggest trailblazers in many facets of the entertainment industry. There’s a growing number of influential creatives in the film/television space who got their rise through their popularity on social media platforms. One of the most high profile examples would be Issa Rae’s incredible success creating and starring in HBO’s Emmy Nominated Insecure, which is partially based off her popular YouTube web series The Misadventures of an AWKWARD Black Girl. Other shows with similar blueprint’s are Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson’s Broad City as well as Derek Waters’ Drunk History. On a local front, one could look at Showmax’s mockumentary comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary. It’s main cast both rose to prominence through their own web-series, Julia Anastasopoulos’ Suzelle DIY and Anton Taylor’s Jozi Shore. Web-series are steadily becoming a legitimate way to pilot your voice and niche within our rapidly expanding entertainment industry. In this article series, we will be looking at quality web-series we believe have great crossover potential and why.

  • The Sit Down (Thato Rampedi)

Basic Info: Thato Rampedi is a multi-talented TUKS student whose YouTube channel works as a canvas to display his many talents. A visible through-line amongst a great deal of his content revolves around student culture, showcasing it as well as dissecting it. One of his best segments for dissection is The Sitdown, where a cast of him and his friends discuss various youthful topics at length.

Breakdown: It is both an incredible as well as turbulent time to be a student and/or young adult within South Africa; balancing and navigating the everchanging vibrancy of city life, dealing with parental/societal pressures whilst still figuring yourself out etc… With all these topics and issues that one can cover, there aren’t enough local platforms that cater to this market deftly. What I love about The Sitdown is that it has the potential to become one of those platforms. The cast has an infectious energy and chemistry about them that works. Each member carries great charisma, knows how to eliquate their viewpoints concisely and brings something different to the table; whether it’s Khensani’s candor, Tladi’s giddiness, Abongile’s poise or Lucas’ cool factor, their individual dynamics add towards the whole as opposed to taking from it. Rampedi plays an often overlooked/underrated but critical role as a mediator that glues these dynamics and keeps the conversation flowing.

Future Potential: The options for something like The Sitdown are extremely varied and the concept can live on multiple platforms. Some of the more seamless options would be podcasts but with enough finessing even a full-on talk/variety show; somewhere as a cross between The Real and TRL. Youth-based programming is still extremely uncharted territory and one that I’m sure the savvy mind of Rampedi should be able to continually carve his niche into.

  • Mama Nells (OM Films)

Basic Info: OMFilms as a company are at the forefront of digitally based media in South Africa. Their scope of work ranges from comedy sketches and vlogs, to music videos and dance videos. I’ve already dissected some of their music video output, which you can read about here. In this piece, I’ll be focussing more on their comedic output, specifically the sketches that involve the character, Mama Nells.

Breakdown: OMFilms has housed a vast array of some of the nets best comedic talents from Fash Ngobese and Ta Fire to Lasizwe and Bridget Mahlangu, the most revelatory of these being Nelisiwe Mwase. Mwase has consistently delivered pointed comedic performances since her debut early last year, but her most iconic character is that of Mama Nells. Mama Nells is a conservative, god-fearing mother whose slap will knock the soul out of you, literally. Her character is a considered mix of over-the-top matriachal stereotypes and whimsy which coupled with Mwase’s delivery often results in sensational entertainment.

Future Potential: Mama Nells’ is a larger than life character that seems primed for film-length slapstick adventures in a similar vein to Madea, Ernest Worrell or Mr. Bean. There’s so much that one can explore through her whether it’s in a romantic lavish setting she may not be accustomed to, ie her finding love again in a How Stella Got Her Groove Back type-flick, a scandal at Kiss Me Jesus Ministries or even an action-packed espionage flick akin to that of Spy or Get Smart. Mwase’s Mama Nells packs enough humour and heart which when put within the right script could light up our big screens and Netflix binge sessions.

  • Bryce Broom (Righteous Reptiles)

Basic Info: Righteous Reptiles is a YouTube channel focused on the care and education of reptiles; at the centre of it is Bryce Broom, a 17-year old qualified animal handler. The style of content ranges from adventure based vlogs, where he takes trips to sanctuaries and conventions all the way down to DIY-based content, like how to take care of a reptile or clean their cages.

Breakdown: Righteous Reptiles often plays within the realms of edutainment (read educational entertainment) and does so brilliantly based off of the storytelling instincts of Bryce Broom. His videos often have a professional feel towards them, and his editing skills are developed enough to be able to create and intensify drama (see Africa’s Born Survivors video). Incredibly charismatic mixed with an unbridled sense of wonder, Broom makes for a captivating host as he guides us through whatever adventure he chooses to cover.

Future Potential: One of the greatest things going for Broom as a brand is that he’s so young and has found his niche. To be creating the kind of content he’s doing at 17 is a marvel. He’s able to provide a youthful perspective to the world of wildlife, that may be able to pull in a different demographic. I personally find it fascinating, almost like I get to see the birth of what could be South Africa’s answer to Steve Irwin. Given the right format, Broom could make the transition to making captivating docu-series or films.

  • Angry Amber (Bokang Phelane)

Basic Info: Bokang Phelane is a Lesotho-born actress that’s currently gaining ground within the South African television industry. She’s most commonly known for playing roles like Pula on SABC 2’s Keeping Score as well as having lead roles on SABC 1’s supernatural anthology series Emoyeni as well as recent Mzansi Magic movie iSipho soThando. She launched her first web-series titled Angry Amber on YouTube in May.

Breakdown: Angry Amber is a comedy web-series that follows the title character, a modern 20-something girl, as she navigates her life following a break-up. The show is extremely stylistic in its approach and really shines because of it. Phelane and her team find interesting ways to pull comedy that doesn’t rely solely on the actors’ performances. Each of the episodes thus far have found her dealing with different possible suitors and the emotions that can arise from it. It does so in a way that is relatable and refreshing.

Future Potential: Of all the web-series that we’ve unpacked, Angry Amber bares the strongest resemblance in the blueprints laid by Insecure and Broad City. This web-series has the potential of becoming a contemporary comedy series. Hangout sitcoms (read FriendsHow I Met Your MotherLiving SingleGirlfriends) are a genre of television that’s been extremely popular for exploring the lives of young professionals. Whilst this genre is extremely popular in import, we don’t have nearly as much produced locally and feels like a general gap in the market. It’s not a stretch seeing Angry Amber progressing and/or adapting into that space with more support. It will be really interesting to see how the web-series progresses.

As stated in the introduction, web-series are a legitimate way for one to pilot their voice and concepts. The more we start taking them seriously for what they could be, the better our entertainment industry will be for it. This will be a series of articles as there are a lot more channels brimming with potential to explore and discuss. If there are any you’d like for me to look at leave a comment below or reach out to me on twitter: @wnjakes, instagram: njakes21.

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