#OpenUpTheIndustry is back on everyone’s lips following the official announcements that Lerato Kganyago, Somizi Mhlongo and Khanyi Mbau have joined Metro. The now too common chorus of disapproval has echoed its sentiments that the industry is using the same people for everything.
While I understand the sentiments of the #OpenUpTheIndustry movement, I would be remise if I did not explore the reality of our industry and why the movement is shortsighted in its views.
What a lot of people choose to ignore is the fact that our local creative practitioners are not making millions. For a Boity, Bonang or Somizi to have a financially viable career, they have to work — that may mean taking on numerous projects to be able to meet their livelihood responsibilities.
We are the first to act all shocked when a local celeb dies poor yet we also expect them not to use every avenue at their disposal to make money. This is their job. This is what they do for a living. What do we expect them to do?
Calling for new faces to be used for projects is a noble idea but it is often [not always] based on false perceptions and misinformation. Our industry has 100s of people working in it. Unfortunately only a selected few get media attention so it appears as though they are the only ones working.
What we should be calling for is for the media fraternity to stop using Twitter as a gauge for career status in this industry. We should demand that they stop focusing on just five people. This year people like Nokuthula Ledwaba, Thabo Rametsi, Yonda Thomas and many others have worked on big projects but nobody is talking or writing about them. They are not on the covers of magazines. Why? Because they done trend on Twitter.
I fully concur that having the same people seemingly on everything in this industry has contributed to the redundancy of the industry. Having Khanyi on radio in the morning, tv presenting on weekends and on primetime every time you turn a dial on your remote, writing for a newspaper and appearing on the stories covered by that very same newspaper — yeah it can be a bit much!
Artists working on numerous projects is not something that is unique to Mzansi. Ryan Seacrest has 5 or even more jobs but nobody is complaining. Yes, our industry is small… perhaps so small that it does not seem open enough to accommodate everyone but in reality, each year there are many new faces that join the industry. You see them on your screen and hear their music on radio. BUT you choose to ignore them.
#OpenUpTheIndustry cannot be the responsibility of producers alone, the viewers have a role to play too. If you rallied behind new talent and showed them attention, the media will have to cover them and brands will follow. Don’t boast about not watching SABC then go on Twitter and complain about #OpenUpTheIndustry.
We need to expand opportunities in the industry — that will always be part of the industry but people deserve to work if offered to. Say we have new presenters on every new show this year, by some of the #OpenUpTheIndustry logic, are we supposed to only give those new presenters one job? How will that pay their bills?
Support local projects, pay for local project then perhaps our artists can make enough money that they can have one role in a project and have that sustain their livelihood. We are all in this together.
Furthermore, if you feel you are tired of seeing some people everywhere, use your power as a viewer or listener by not tuning in. If you tell me someone does not deserve a job because they are not suited for it, then I will fully support any call you make for them to open up the position for someone else because that would be a legitimate complaint.
To be clear: I am not saying people should just be hired because they have to get jobs and make money without any talent or skills suited to that specific role. I am saying; if someone is qualified to do the job and is given the opportunity, they can not turn the opportunity down just to make you comfortable when you are not paying their bills.