The power of social media platforms have given rise to some of our biggest trailblazers in many facets of the entertainment industry. The growth of the digital era and social media has afforded a lot more storytellers a platform and space with which to express themselves independently from the mainstream so much so that online entertainment has firmly cemented itself as one of the main proponents in breaking new and alternative talent. This article series aims to spotlight quality local content creators and explore the crossover potential we believe they have. This volume will focus on content creators who all started within the throws of Lockdown that have gripped us with their content. You can read Web-series Watch 1 here, and 2 here.
Telling The Told and Untold
Basic Info: Telling The Told and Untold is a true-crime YouTube channel hosted and produced by Tshego Paledi. Born and raised in Rustenburg, Northwest, Tshego Paledi is a 20-year-old full time Social Work student currently studying at Wits University. As it currently stands, Paledi’s channel has strictly stuck to its Telling The Told and Untold format of revisiting infamous and harrowing crime cases within South Africa’s history.
Breakdown: As previously stated, Telling The Told and Untold is a true-crime channel which consists of Tshego Paledi narrating some of the most infamous crime cases within South African history. Whilst most of her highlighted cases of crime revolve around murder cases, serial offenders and massacres, see Ananias Mathe, Van Breda and ABC Killer, she has also covered kidnappings and rape cases such as Zephany Nurse and Baby Tshepang respectively. Each episode usually focuses on a specific case with which Paledi provides concise information on both the perpertrator/s, victim/s and circumstances surrounding the case mixed with her own commentary. Some even go as far as to include audio and visual footage surrounding the case in an effort to give as detailed of a snapshot as what she has access to.
What’s exciting about a channel like this, is that it plays within generally uncharted territory. I grew up with a father who was obsessed with watching Crime & Investigation shows, so true-crime has been a content staple but rarely within a local context. Paledi not only revisits some contemporary high-profile cases but showcases historical ones in a way that makes Telling The Told and Untold feel like it’s a building journal. On-top of that, whilst her personal commentary can be sparing at times, it brings with it a youthful accessibility often not found within this type of genre. There’s something about hearing an introduction like “On another episode of why men deserve less…” in an episode like Baby Tshepang that provides immediate context of what to expect whilst being comical about it. Telling The Told and Untold is compelling niche content that looks to get more engaging as Paledi gets more experienced and nuanced in her approach to content creation.
Basic Info: Lockdown Heights is a groundbreaking format that comes in the form of an insta-telenovella. The show was created during Quarantine by actors Ayanda Makayi and Bradley Olivier, as a platform for actors to keep sharp during the time. Its first season ran as a daily-drama for what was meant to be the initial 21 days of Lockdown, and has since finished three seasons with a writing team led by Kirsten Mohammed and an expansive cast including the likes of Candice Modiselle, Schelaine Bennett, Letuka Dlamini, Kay Sibiya and Camilla Waldman. Lockdown Heights is currently in its fourth season under the direction of Amanda Lane.
Breakdown: Lockdown Heights is a serial drama with episodes that usually range around 10-minutes long. The storyline of the show is known to revolve around the lives of people living within the fictional complex known as Lockdown Heights as they try coping with life in quarantine. Lockdown Heights is an act of social distancing, from its writing to production. The show is completely shot remotely with all the actors self-taping their performances separately, even when they are sharing a scene, with some episodes weaving dozens of actors into its building narrative. Of all the Lockdown-specific content I’ve encountered, this stands out as one of the most unique and ambitious efforts. Its triumphs and downfalls are both intrinsically linked to it as it navigates the limitations of self-isolated shooting whilst juggling as many characters as traditional opera with no budget. Some of its earlier seasons require a heavy suspension of disbelief but its continued development finds that decreasing with each season.
Lockdown Heights feels like it’s truly a trailblazer in its field. In a country as fascinated and supportive of longer-form narratives like telenovelas and soap operas within traditional television, it’s quite fascinating to witness the independent growth of one in a digital space. At point of publication, Heights is 43 episodes deep and what’s encouraging is that each growing season seems to find the show getting more adapted to its space and in spite of its limitation. In the world of local fictional narratives, Heights teases an air of experimentation that’s exciting within such perilous times and that’s likely to only get bolstered once the restrictions of this pandemic loosen and the show receives financial backing.
Basic Info: Uncomfortable Growth is a vlog/talk channel hosted and produced by Gugulethu Nyatsumba. Nyatsumba is a 22-year-old content creator currently on a studying sabbatical whose base switches between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The channel’s content is quite varied with some of its tenets including music reviews, vlogs and mental health type journals and topic conversations.
Breakdown: Of all these selections, Uncomfortable Growth represents the most “YouTuber” type content, in that its primarily driven by its central personality, and what a personality Nyatsumba is. Gugulethu Nyatsumba is both a charismatic personality as well as a natural host and Uncomfortable Growth is a vessel that explores that. As the channel has progressed, and probably due to COVID, one of its key offerings feels like a mini-talk show that finds her having conversations with a revolving door of guests. The topics have ranged from exploring mental health, consent and the dynamics of friendship all the way to star signs, things that define a “cool girl” or “city girl” and the experiences that come with it. The channel is very contemporary in feel and Nyatsumba moves fluidly within it, providing a healthy mix of humour and candor. It’s funny, it’s weighted and it feels genuine.
Uncomfortable Growth is one of the more accessible formats due to how entertaining it is, and this is shown through Nyatsumba’s personality and the chemistry she cultivates with her guests. Listening to it, one can feel like you’re getting a snapshot into the world-views of black middle-class Generation Z-ers, through Nyatsumba personally as well as through her engaging guests. More than anything, it shows off Nyatsumba as a capable and aspirant media personality with how comfortable her presence on-screen has been from the on-set and what it can build to, the more she explores this uncomfortable growth.
The Viral Wellness
Basic Info: The Viral Wellness is a talk-series surrounding the COVID pandemic and how its outbreak affects key components of our society, from Health and Economics to Mental Well-Being. Hosted by Kagiso Rabada and Cameron Scott, the series finds the dynamic duo unpacking various topics with special guests in the hopes of better understanding how to cope and/or live within these pandemic times.
Breakdown: Originally launched as an audio podcast The Viral Wellness is a multi-platform serial talk show that usually finds Scott and Rabada exploring concepts that affect or promote human wellness. At an average of length of fifty minutes to an hour, each episode usually finds them deep dive interviewing a topic with a special guest, often qualified or active in the field, to gain a deeper understanding of the topic. In-between these interviews are their own personal anecdotes on the matter often used to splice humour or bridge a gap within complex topics. Within its current two-season run the show has explored topics like Mental Health, Exercise, Education and Gender-based Violence.
With an hour-long format focused on an individual topic, The Viral Wellness offers up an in-depth dive into the topics they’re covering, bolstered by the wealth of knowledge their guests offer at different levels. In doing so, the show makes waves in how it makes certain complex subjects feel more accessible like the budget speech and the dynamics of nutrition. The Viral Wellness is part of a growing generation of research intensive podcasts and one that’s currently dedicated to unpacking the complexities of this pandemic. As it grows, it offers up a collective journal of not only Lockdown living but also the shifting sentiments that have surrounded it.