OPINION | No need for an open letter, Blood & Water proves the industry is open

We're just looking for talent in the wrong places

22 May 2020 - 08:00
An open letter to Somizi sparked debate this week.
An open letter to Somizi sparked debate this week.
Image: Gallo Images / Oupa Bopape

Like those stupid tweets you posted with young bravado, the #OpenTheIndustry debate has once again surfaced and caused a stir.

The debate around opportunities in the industry was thrown into the spotlight this week when a video open letter from an aspiring actress to Idols SA judge Somizi went viral.

In it she claimed that she was struggling to find work, while Somizi was “getting all the jobs”. 

“I wake early and go for auditions and stand in long queues, with many people in front of me, not knowing when it'll be our turn ... But here's a person called Somizi, he's all over the TV. Where are we supposed to work if he's getting all the jobs?”

It’s hard not to feel her frustration, especially when Somizi seems to be everywhere in the industry.

No one is depriving the star of his coins or blocking him from taking opportunities, but the defining line of what he does for a living has been blurred.

Just looking at his projects over the last few years: he's a performer who is a choreographer, actor, reality show judge, reality show star, radio host, author, singer, theatre producer and mask manufacturer.

While the cult of celebrity has often blocked those who are far more talented from getting jobs, we are not at crisis levels.

It can be frustrating as a young artist to try to break into an industry where it often seems that popularity means more than talent.

But while the cult of celebrity has often blocked those who are far more talented from getting jobs, we are not at crisis levels.

There are many productions and channels that have embraced young talent and given them a platform to shine. One of these is Netflix’s new South African original drama Blood & Water.

The series, which centres on the story of a young girl who engineers a transfer to a prestigious school to investigate the 17-year-old cold case of her older sister's abduction at birth, premiered on Wednesday and has been trending on social media ever since.

While there are a handful of big names on the show, the real stars of it are its largely-unknown leads Ama Qamata and Thabang Molaba.

It's a clear example of talent shining through - and fans appreciating the talent without the hype.

The production has flourished because it tells its story in its own way, without being overshadowed by a big-name star. People are tuning in for its story, not because their “fave” is in it.

Of course there are several TV shows and films that also allow young talent to flourish, including the super popular SABC1 soapie Skeem Saam.

The show has over the years brought in several actors, given them a platform and watched them become household names during their time on the show. Here, like with Blood & Water, talent shines through and steals the show.

It’s a winning formula that makes sure the door is open for young talent to enter the industry on a big stage.

It has also seen the likes of actor Thabo Mkhabela, who plays Leshole on the show, become a firm fan favourite without needing to write a memoir or make masks to stay relevant.

Here talent shines brightest and if you are earnestly searching for young talent, you can find it.