Nobody does a cocktail event at sunset better than Cape Town and the sociarati and Cape Town's publishing and media elite came out in full force for the media press launch of the new local reality show Saktyd (Afrikaans for "Deadline").
With a red carpet rolled out, guests getting their sparking wine topped up, and designer mini-hamburgers in boxes, chicken bites and wraps being served by waiters, the 13 contestants were revealed who will be fighting it out for a job at the South Africa's magazine with the biggest readership.
ALSO READ: Saktyd, a new local reality show on kykNET, looking for a new employee at Huisgenoot.
Saktyd, produced by Homebrew Films, will shoot episodes for the reality show for the next 5 weeks with one episode being put in the can every one or two days. The first episode of Saktyd is set to start on kykNET (DStv 111) on Tuesday 17 July.
The launch party was filled with the publishing world and Media24's who's who as well as celebrities like Liezel van der Westhuizen who stayed up probably well past her bed time since she has to wake super early for Expresso. In the foyer I ran into Esmare Weideman, Media24 CEO and I climbed into the lift on our way to the 26th floor with my old friend Waldimar Pelser, editor of NewsNow and soon moving to Rapport as deputy editor from July.
On the rooftop it was a veritable cornucopia of very familiar faces from over years and lots of people I've known for a very long time - both in publishing and television. The print and the electronic visual media merged for the launch of this show and it was gossip, wine and laughter as Cape Town winter sun set. But enough blatant name-dropping.
I found out that the 13 Saktyd contestants - chosen out of just over 1 000 entries - are staying in two houses in De Waterkant. I'm told that one contestant will already get the boot tonight, after principal filming started on Sunday.
The 13 contestants who were introduced at a glamarama press launch event on the roof of the Naspers building in Cape Town's Foreshore - the home of Huisgenoot - will be battling it out in various challenges over the next 5 weeks for a job at Huisgenoot and You magazines.
"My hope is that with this show people will see how hard we work, the integrity we work with, and I can tell you Saktyd will be good [TV] content, because good content is what it is all about," said Izelle Venter, editor-in-chief of Huisgenoot, You and Drum. IzelleVenter will be the one on-screen judge, together with Wicus Pretorius (deputy editor) and Haidee Muller.
[Complete disclosure from my side: Both Izelle Venter and Wicus Pretorius were both at times my previous editors in the past when we all worked elsewhere. Whenever I see them or run into them, it is as if no time has passed. Even this evening, although I could see them stress a little bit behind the scenes, they still laughed when I made little injokes about old times.]
Izelle Venter, Wicus Pretorius and Haidee Muller took turnsat the cocktail launch to introduce the 13 contestants - all with interesting backstories [tick box one of making a successful reality show].
Saktyd's contestants are Elridus Grobler from Durbanville; Christian ''Rooibaard'' [who cried when called that he made the show] and who has the nickname Rooibaard since there's another Christian in the group.
There'sChristian Lee from Rosebank who discovered his biological parents; Jeannie "E" (Jeannie Erasmus) from Potchefstroom who sings opera; Leon from Middleburg in the Eastern Cape; Charlene from Stellenbosch and Uri Prins from Franschhoek who is a dad working in construction.
Laura from Stellenbosch ["who can write or spell but has a lot of charm"] with the nickname Laura Spellnot and Lillian from Oudtshoorn who is a copywriter with the nickname "Polkadot" also made the cut.
Then there is Tertia Jacobs from Gordonsbaai, a babysitter who apparently loves television [don't we all] and Levinia from George who works in human resources and is the oldest competitor - she has a son who is 21.
Astrid from Muizenberg used to be a researcher at Pasella at SABC2. Her motto when doing stories [I like her] "Just call and call and call again and dig deeper". Leilani Marx from Pretoria is the "Danville diva" and "a go-getter scared of nothing".
Insiders told me there is already rising tension on set. "These people want to win. There will be individual challenges and they will have to work in groups, but in the end there is only one job, so there's already some of them who are not getting along with each other".
I also overheard staffers, sipping champagne, telling guests in soft gossip how akward it is to have cameras in their faces. "Everything is deadline driven. You sit there with pages and difficult layouts with very little time and you have to talk heavy stuff and like how you would talk for real and then you realise: oh, there's a camera ..."
Saktyd's formulae has been tried before by the M-Net group when M-Net Series (DStv 110) produced Style Intern set at Fair Lady.
The reality show, also set in Cape Town, was boring and considered a collosal flop since nobody was real or showed the real brutal time constraints, challenges and fights for stories which really is the bread and butter of magazine publishing. None of the judges wanted to be "the nasty one" and viewers sensed the "we'll all play nice" atmosphere.
Hopefully Saktyd will take viewers beyond the fake veneer - because being real doesn't damage your reputation; if you're real and you're right it actually enhances credibility.
"I had an Oprah moment," said Izelle Venter. "This is going to work," she said of the idea of the show. She said Karen Meiring, kykNET channel head "is our enthusiastic partner". "And with cameras constantly in their faces, thank you to all the colleagues of the magazines, some I know feel a bit exposed."
"With TV you need good content," said Izelle Venter. Our secret weapon for Saktyd, just as for our magazine, is excellent contestants, chosen out of 1 000 applications."
I asked Wicus Pretorius how he would describe what the 13 Saktyd contestants are in for, how difficult the challenges will be and how lifelike and real in terms of industry standards. And listen, I worked for the guy. You need to be brilliant and work suuuper hard.
"It will all be extremely true to life and industry relevant. We conceptualised and came up with the various challenges so that it's not removed from reality. Everything these contestants are going to have to do over the next few weeks are things our own journalists are doing for real, every single day. They will have to wake up very early and leave work very late. They will have to improvise and strategize. They will find themselves in the real shoes of Huisgenoot people. The challenges are real. It's what Huisgenoot journalists do and what we expect from them."
"I think it will be eye-opening for a lot of people who don't realise what it actually entails. I think it will be difficult. I think for people not familiar with this industry and with journalism - they think it's all glamorous parties, and short skirts and high heels and drinks," Wicus Pretorius told me. "That's not the case. And we are going to show it."
"The only 'unrealistic' part of it all - if I can call it that - is that we're going to do it all within 4 weeks. I don't think a normal journalist has ever experienced it all in such a compact sense - having to experience and learn and process it all like this. But that is the nature of reality television. These contestants also for the next few weeks won't have a normal life. Where a normal journalist might get home late, they do still have a bit of a personal life; kids. These people are here for the next few weeks and in our hands."
I asked Wicus Pretorius why viewers should tune in from 17 July to Saktyd and how Saktyd will at once be similar to previous reality shows, but also what new it might bring to the genre which viewers haven't seen before. "For Huisgenoot readers I think it will be wonderful to see how everything works and flows and comes together behind the scenes," he told me.
"For us it's important to give people a glimpse and to help them to understand how Huisgenoot happens and comes about every week. On the other side - we just met the contestants. I can guarantee you there's very interesting characters. I can guarantee you there is already some tensions. We already had it yesterday. There's already some people who have angered some people."
"I think that the natural personal clashes which inevitably bubbles to the surface over time when people work together and have to work together, will absolutely be coming to the fore as each one of them compete to be the best," said Wicus Pretorius.