Friday, September 17, 2021

INTERVIEW. Survivor SA: Immunity Island winner Nicole Wilmans on her 39-day experience: 'A day came when I was ready to go digging through a rubbish bin for food.'

by Thinus Ferreira

The winner of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island and R1 million, Nicole Wilmans (26), says the experience of enduring just 39 days with little to no food in bad shelter in the rain was an extremely humbling experience and that stripped of everything, a day arrived in the game where she realised why hungry, homeless people go digging through bins because she was there and ready to do it too.

On Thursday night M-Net (DStv 101) broadcast the finale and reunion show in which the digital marketing manager from Somerset West clinched the title of Sole Survivor in the 8th season of the South African version of the Banijay format reality competition series produced by Afrokaans.

Nicole Wilmans first eliminated Francois "Chappies" Chapman from the top three, after which she got more votes than Anela Majozi to become the winner.

After the final immunity challenge that she won, Nicole tells me that she "immediately knew I had to get rid of Chappies".

"Looking at his track record he was really a challenge beast. Regardless of the fact that people didn't like him as a player or as a person stealing food, I knew that some on the jury would not judge him on that but on the game that he played".

"Obviously for me, the dilemma that I had and that was a massive issue for me, was taking away someone's dream. I knew how badly all of us wanted that. Just the person in me was thinking 'This sucks because it's actually someone else's dream as well that I'm dampening'. That was difficult."

"Yet, in terms of game play, I knew what needed to be done. And Chappies had to go." 

In a lot of individual immunity challenges Nicole couldn't effectively compete but stuck it out to win the pivotal final one that was an endurance challenge, when it really mattered.

"It was phenomenal. I remember just standing  there. And we stood there for quite long. Viewers only see so much and for us it's a do-or-die moment. I knew that if I didn't win that challenge, that I wasn't going to win the game."

"Funnily enough I remember everyone said Chappies manifested a win. But I remember in the 2-week quarantine period before the time, I wrote down in my little journal 'I'm going to win'. I just kept that in my heart."

"I wasn't out there with "'I'm going to win' like Chappies' but I thought I'm going to be a more subtle about this," she says.

"I'm proud of getting to that final challenge, and secondly about slaying Chappies. It's just a feeling that I'll ever be able to put into words because it's just so priceless. It was just phenomenal".

'Playing my own game'
"I didn't want to play a game that everyone else was playing. In Survivor everyone usually goes in with the same strategy and say they're going to be social, or physical and I wanted to incorporate all of those things because you also have to play to your strengths," Nicole Wilmans says.

"I need to play what makes sense to me and plays to my strengths so that's really what I wanted to hone in on and make sure that I was not playing someone's else game but playing my own game and doing that really well. I tried to do my best at that."

"I'm a social person and I really wanted to make real relationships and I think that really benefitted me in the end. Obviously it helped me win but I really invested in people and listened to them and spoke to them about things outside of the game and it helps you to stay sane."

'The worst it can be is 39 days'
"Going into Survivor I knew it was going to be tough," says Nicole.

"I said to myself that the worst it can be is 39 days. Like that is it. I remember one tribal council sitting there and it was raining and I thought: 'What is happening?' I just kept saying to myself 'This too shall pass, this too shall pass'. I never ever wanted to quit. I knew in my heart that it's only 39 days. This will end."

"It's such a phenomenal experience. You have to do it justice and give it your absolute best." 

About what she's learned about humanity, Nicole says that "when people are placed in pressure situations, everyone reacts differently. I think at the end of the day, people just want to feel safe. It was really interesting for me to learn that this is just a game but at the end of the day we are stripped to the bare minimum and it's really a do-or-die situation."

"At the end of the day people just want to feel safe and to be treated with compassion. And it's difficult in the game. I met the most amazing people and I'm so grateful for that."

New perspectives
Nicole Wilmans is obviously R1 million richer which changes any life, but she says that Survivor SA has changed her life in many other ways.

"Just being even more grateful for the little things," she says - "having a warm bed. Having food in my fridge."

"I remember the one day. I was just sitting there. I suddenly thought: 'I realise why people dig in the rubbish bins in public spaces. They are so hungry. I thought: I am willing to do that right now. That is how hungry I am right now."

"Survivor SA has really taught me to be so grateful for just the little things. I go through every day of my life with even bigger intention and making sure that I do my most because there are so many people out there who are really struggling."

"Obviously what I went through doesn't even compare to a homeless person or someone who can't get food on a regular basis. And it's definitely changed my life and made me even more grateful for everything." 

MORE TV TRASH. MultiChoice pits more African women against each other with M-Net West Africa that commissions The Real Housewives of Lagos.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is moving to set up and bring subscribers more African women in conflict and clashing with each other and has commissioned another regionalised format season of The Real Housewives franchise for Nigeria, entitled The Real Housewives of Lagos.

Yolisa Phahle, the MultiChoice Group CEO for general entertainment and connected video, said on Thursday's MultiChoice Showcase held in various African countries, that MultiChoice is bringing subscribers The Real Housewives of Lagos in 2022 and that South Africa's The Real Housewives of Durban will be back for a second season.

The Real Housewives, a format from NBCUniversal Formats, a division of Universal Studio Group, is a reality show that selects groups of materialistic women with troubled lives who don't all get along with each other.

Often looking for external validation and showing off their conspicuous consumption as they flaunt their wealth and troubled lives, cameras follow them while they fight and their various dramatic confrontations with other people.

The Real Housewives of Lagos will go first to MultiChoice's video streaming service Showmax, after which it will likely make it way to M-Net West Africa's Africa Magic channel. 

The Real Housewives of Lagos is the third African format adaptation of the reality show and will be produced by Livespot 360. 

It follows after South Africa's The Real Housewives of Johannesburg and The Real Housewives of Durban that is produced by Let It Rain Films with Thumeka Hlotshana who will be directing the upcoming second season.

"We are so proud to build on the international success of The Real Housewives of Johannesburg and Durban with our partner Showmax," says Ana Langenberg, the senior vice president, format sales & production at NBCUniversal International Formats, in a statement from NBCUniversal.

"The vibrancy of Lagos and its rich culture, fashion and opulence makes for the perfect setting for the show. We also can't wait to see the second season of Durban come to life and deliver fans all over the world even more extravagance and entertainment."

Candice Fangueiro, Showmax head of content, says "We've seen audiences across Africa devour The Real Housewives of Johannesburg and The Real Housewives of Durban".

"The Real Housewives franchise lends itself to localisation and we know our audience is going to love seeing the show reinvented Naija-style. We can’t wait to show the continent - and the world - another side of Lagos, with all the drama, high fashion and luxury you’d expect from The Real Housewives franchise."

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Nicole Wilmans wins Survivor SA: Immunity Island on M-Net.

by Thinus Ferreira

The digital marketing manager from Somerset West, Nicole Wilmans (26) and the youngest woman to compete this season clinched the title of Sole Survivor and won the R1 million in the 8th season of Survivor South Africa, when she got the most votes from the jury during the finale that was broadcast on M-Net (DStv 101) on Thursday night.

"I don't even know where to begin. I'm just so grateful for everyone who did vote for me and just to have shared this experience with all of these amazing people and to be the Sole Survivor with such a phenomenal cast, I should feel - well done," said Nicole as she tapped herself on her shoulder. "It's mindblowing."

During the 2-hour finale of Survivor SA: Immunity Island - part Wild Coast-filmed, part studio-bound reunion show, that saw all of the castaways returning to a reconstructed tribal council set in Silverline Studios in Cape Town - DStv subscribers first saw Francois "Chappies" Chapman (32) from Centurion getting his torch snuffed as one of the final three castaways.

While Chappies was widely favoured and predicted to be the winner after stacking multiple, consecutive immunity challenge wins during the course of the 39-day season, he shockingly failed to win the last immunity challenge in an endurance challenge that would have guaranteed him a place as one of the final two contestants.

"What a beautiful ending to this amazing season. It’s another blindside right at the end," Chappies said.

That left Nicole Wilmans and Anela Majozi (25), a math educator and rugby coach from Johannesburg, as the final two castaways in Survivor SA: Immunity Island who had to plead their case before, and canvass for votes, from the jury.

In the end, Nicole Wilmans emerged victorious who said that "I think I was born to be on Survivor" before the show began, and who said she packed her bikini first - adamant to get the sun-tanned "Survivor-glow" during her time on the reality competition series. 

Inside tonight's Survivor SA Immunity Island finale on M-Net: Secrets, shocks ... and a blindside.

by Thinus Ferreira

Tonight behind the doors of studio 2 inside Cape Town's Silverline Studios viewers will see a final set of secrets, shocking revelations - and at least one blindside - come to light during the 2-hour finale and reunion show of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island on M-Net (DStv 101) at 19:30.

Despite - or perhaps because of the Covid-19 pandemic - the 8th season of the South African version of the famous "outplay, outwit, outlast" reality competition show of the Banijay format, produced by Afrokaans, concocted an extremely compelling collection of castaways rarely before seen on television: shrewd South Africans who are conniving, backstabbing, diplomatically devious and above all very outspoken.

The season that jettisoned plans for a foreign locale and that filmed as a Covid-19 safe bubble production on the Eastern Cape's jungle-like Wild Coast, culminates tonight with an adapted 2-hour finale that is a pre-recorded blend of on-location shoot, and studio-done work, without the usual large, live studio audience.

When Nico Panagio reads out the vote tally - moved back to the end of tonight's finale like in some previous seasons - viewers will find out whether rugby coach Anela Majozi (25) from Johannesburg, Francois "Chappies" Chapman (32) from Centurion, or Nicole Wilmans (26), a digital marketing manager from Somerset West gets anointed as this season's Sole Survivor R1 million-winner.

"The castaways came to Cape Town on Friday, they all got a Covid-test, and they were sequestered to their rooms in the Rockwell where they stayed and once we got the negative results back we formed a bubble to film the finale on Sunday," Leroux Botha, the creative director and series director of Survivor SA, tells TVwithThinus.

In attendance are all of the castaways who could each bring one guest along to the studio but had to provide a negative PCR-test for Covid to be included, and the final two castaways left could bring four guests each. Mike Laws is in Munich, Germany and Qieän Wang who is currently in Hong Kong both join the reunion by video call.

"We originally planned to have a full-on reunion show like we always do with friends and family and fans and media and sponsors but M-Net made the call to bring it right down to the smallest plan that was one of the options."

"All of the driftwood that we had with the set as viewers have seen the tribal council area, we packed into containers. We have the same flooring that we had on the tribal council set," Leroux Botha explains.

"Our arts construction team built three huts that viewers will see in the studio. All the props were brought through so there are quite a lot of things that we brought back in from the Wild Coast to help create a similar look and feel for the tribal council space," Leroux Botha explains.

Doing things a bit differently
"We're doing things a little bit differently this year," says the Survivor SA mastermind producer.

"As usual we start off in studio but then we go off to the island for about an hour and we do come back when to studio for a small section. Then it is the final tribal council and the voting and then we come back with Nico in studio and the castaways."

"Instead of reading the votes immediately, we're reading the votes at the end of the show like we did with season 5 and the others, so we are doing it a little bit differently."

In terms of studio-filmed content there's a lot more that the show simply can't fit in to the broadcast timeslot to show viewers, so Survivor SA will place some entertaining extended scenes online for fans to watch after the end of the episode.

Sworn to secrecy
After they all signed book-thick, ironclad non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) before the start of their Survivor SA journey, the castaways were once again sternly warned not to talk out to anybody about anything regarding this past Sunday's filmed finale and reunion show.

"They are already so invested. We did have a little talk with them again, but they are super invested in the outcome of the show and to make the show the best one ever. We reiterated the fact that they are still under contract and that there are fines if any of the information comes out."

"We are solely depending on their discretion and the NDAs that they sign not to talk about what's going to happen."

Sunday's final filming
Pre-recording the Survivor South Africa finale and reunion show compared to being a live finale "gives us a chance to go a little bit longer in terms of the chats. It's not push, push, push because you're on the clock. It gives us a little bit more pressure afterwards because the editors now have to put the entire episode together. The pressure is basically post the actual recording," Leroux Botha says.

"Sunday's final filming was very jovial from the contestants' side. Once we come back from the island we have the jury, without Wardah on set, and the final two castaways on set. Nico will ask the final two a question."

"Viewers will then see the pre-merge castaways, then the post-merge stuff, and at the end we have everybody on set for the reading of the vote."

Worthy bookend
"There is quite a lot of surprises in this episode. There are quite a lot of - there are some blindsides in this episode. I think Thursday's Survivor SA: Immunity Island conclusion is a worthy bookend to this amazing season," says Leroux Botha.

About the heightened scheming and much bigger outspokenness of the castaways this season, Leroux Botha says he thinks it has to do a lot with the fact that this cast was "basically in lockdown with the knowledge that were going to play Survivor".

"So they did come in a little bit more prepared that what we usually have with a cast that you get two to three weeks after your final panel interview. They usually don't have that long to think through their games and strategies."

"This time everyone came in prepared. I actually reached out to some international and South African Survivor players before hand and put together a 3-hour video of tips and tricks on what they would say to themselves if they had to start playing the game from the beginning - which the contestants watched the day before they started playing."

"So you have people like Adam Klein and Rick Devens and Nick Iadanza and Harry Hills and South African players like Werner Joubert, Tevin Naidu, Palesa Tau, Meryl Szolkeiwicz, Danté de Villiers - those people saying what they wished they knew before they went into the game."

"I think that video of all these people who have played before also mentally prepared them to go in hard, to be expressive and to speak their minds and to play the game."

"You can see it in the entries as well that we've had for Survivor SA season 8. It's changed in terms of the demographic and it's also changed in terms of people who want to play the game of Survivor. They don't just want to survive - they want to play the actual game which is fantastic and it speaks to this phenomenal cast."

Jane Dutton exits eNCA after 3 years.

by Thinus Ferreira

Jane Dutton is the next high-profile exit from eNCA (DStv 403) with the anchor who is gone from eMedia's TV news channel after 3 years.

Jane Dutton confirmed her exit from eNCA on Thursday, saying she's no longer there.

Jane Dutton who was the first news anchor of eNews together with San Reddy when started doing TV news bulletins in 1999, left in 2005 before the eNews Channel that eNCA was formerly known as, launched in June 2008.

Jane Dutton joined eNCA from Al Jazeera in July 2018, at first in a night time timeslot and later moving to the mornings, and thereafter jumping to morning and evening anchoring slots.

eNCA insiders told TVwithThinus at the beginning of September that Jane Dutton had resigned and left. eMedia was asked for confirmation of Jane Dutton's departure from eNCA in a media query on 1 September.

Viewers who spotted Jane Dutton's absence since mid-August have been asking for weeks where she is, along with Uveka Rangappa and Omar Essack.

"Jane Dutton are you okay? Nothing being communicated about your whereabouts on eNCA," viewer Piers Proctor remarked.

Jane Dutton's departure comes at the same time as Uveka Rangappa who exited eNCA (DStv 403) after 8 years and with Nisa Allie who also resigned and exited as part of eNCA's senior management team as the regional manager of eNCA in the Western Cape based in Cape Town.

INTERVIEW. A Survivor SA content producer on witnessing betrayals, blindsides and capturing secret conversations.

by Thinus Ferreira

The experienced producer Michal Malek knows something about making reality TV – he’s shepherded contestants, animals and even aerial drones across South Africa in multiple shows.

When the chance arose to work on the latest season of Survivor South Africa on M-Net (DStv 101), of course he packed a bag to the Wild Coast to go capture blindsides, betrayals and whispered conversations. 

He spoke to me about what content producers actually do on a reality show like Survivor SA: Immunity Island, and why the job is actually the closest thing to being a contestant in the show itself.

Thank you for the time. I'm wondering, the first thing that I wanted to ask, how was it for you working on Survivor SA as a content producer?
Michal Malek: Hello, Thinus, it's nice to see you again, long time. I mean, it is the closest thing you're going to get to actually being a contestant - that's what I can tell you. You are on the island you are among the contestants every day for up to, sometimes 14 hours a day. You are there, in the muck, in the cold, in the rain, in the sun, you know - you're are there!

So, for some people that can be daunting. And for some people like myself, that is the opportunity and adventure of a lifetime. So it is absolutely amazing. 

The production company, Afrokaans, and the way everything is run is incredibly professional. You don't feel it as much as you would think - the content producers have a lovely time. You go there, they see what's happening, and then they go home to their lovely warm bed, and food.

What did your role as content producer on Survivor SA: Immunity Island entail?
Michal Malek: So the content producer, essentially, is on the island with the contestants in-between the challenges. 

So the challenges are a different kind of almost, a different kind of production. When the castaways are back at camp the content producers are there to essentially "gather" the story.

We're a small team - I think this year we had around six - and we rotate because it's quite a demanding position. And we follow the crew around, and we follow them - we have a crew with us, and we follow the castaways and we observe. Our job is to observe. 

Our job is to take notes of the essential moments of you know, betrayals, alliances, strategy - that kind of thing. And then we come together at the end of the day, content producers with the director and the head of content and we discuss the stories and the main storylines; the main narratives that are coming out of the island. 

So that is in a nutshell, we are observers, we are note-takers. And whenever you see a moment where they're - where the show cuts to someone talking in that "diary-style", we're the ones who ask the question - the real questions. 

So we uncover, so if someone is talking to someone else, we will take them aside, and we'll ask them "what was that conversation really about?" So we get the real story out of them in those "diary-type" sessions.

What was interesting for you personally working on Survivor SA and that you realised you had to perhaps adapt to or figure out, that you maybe haven't encountered before?
Michal Malek: I think from a technical perspective, Thinus, you and I go way back in terms of the various first productions of mine that you've covered. And on those productions, I had to wear many hats. I had to be the assistant director, I had to be the director, I had to ask questions; I had to solve problems left, right and centre. 

And this is a strange thing to say but on the Afrokaans production of Survivor SA: Immunity Island, it was so weird for me to just have one job. I could - everything else was taken care of.

Everyone knew their position, everyone did their job incredibly well. And I could focus on the story. I could focus on what I needed to do without ever having to worry about anything else. It was so professionally done. 

And the level of professionalism was so great that I had to adapt to not being responsible for other things. So, sometimes in past work there were times where I found myself directing. But I wasn't a director. So I'm not used to that. So that's what I had to adapt to.

And then also from being out there, you really underestimate how physically taxing it is. When we go out to the campsite, it is a grueling journey. At one point you're driving in the back of this big Land Rover thing, and then like a safari vehicle through mud and water and you're in the rain and it's cold.

Then you have to walk. You walk far. So that is something I underestimated, like, it is physically taxing. You really are out there in the middle of nowhere with these people, surviving - not quite as extreme as their survival, but it is something else.

The times I've observed you work - your energy, and how fast you work, and just your confidence in yourself that you also instill in the crew around you and in participants of a show: You're really well-honed in terms of multitasking that I find really exceptional. 
Your ability to take charge and just do it - is that an innate quality that's part of your personality, or something that you had to learn to do and be because that's what the creature of TV demands?
Michal Malek: I think it's definitely the latter. I think Thinus if you had met me in high school, I was not a very confident person. I was a bit of a nerd. And I was a very kind of, a bit of a weirdo. 

And, yeah, I mean, productions that I started on, there was a fight-or-flight element, it was a sink-or-swim kind of scenario where you either step up to the plate, or you leave, you can't take it.

And there were those scenarios where I had to adapt. I had to, I just had to do it, there was no option and I had to power through. 

And once you've done it, once you've gone through a few of those moments, once you've seen that, yes, I can do this, it becomes easier and easier. I think that builds confidence within you. 

Energy-wise, I think, I'm naturally a very energetic and a very bouncy and an optimistic person. So having that kind of internal energy in the beginning, helped me get through those moments where I could feel that slump coming but the energy helps me to push through. So yeah, so definitely, it's the monster of television that has made me who I am today.

In reality TV, you can't really "direct" the events or people but you also want the buzz-worthy moments and you want the dramatic narratives. To what degree are you however able to shape or mould the situation or the circumstances to build a path that you then just hope people decide to walk on?
Michal Malek: Well, I think it starts with casting. I think if a show does its casting well, and I think Afrokaans did an absolutely spectacular job casting Survivor SA: Immunity Island this season, then the content comes truly natural and the content producers just have to observe and take notes.

In terms of moulding - various shows, allow for various levels of moulding. I can't speak to reality TV as a whole but I mean, as you know, something like Keeping Up with the Kardashians or The Osbournes is highly moulded; it's highly constructed. It's even actually a separate sub-genre of reality.

Something like Survivor where it's a competition and there are rules and it's an internationally acclaimed series - it's almost like sport.

There's nothing you can do and nothing you should do. Because anything you do, you would be affecting the rules and outcome of the game.

In Survivor you film for such a long time - you're there for 40 days - and the tensions are high. Everyone's hungry. There are competitions, there's backstabbing with alliances and those moments come completely naturally. You don't need to prompt or mould anything. 

Then in those "diary-style" moments that I spoke about, that's when we unpack what key conversations were about. That's what those moments are for so that you don't have to interrupt scenes because you can unpack them in these diary moments.

You left South Africa, I think you went to Dubai or some Middle Eastern desert country, and then back to South Africa, and then Covid-19 lockdown happened. How did you end up working on Survivor SA: Immunity Island?
Michal Malek: Doha! So my history with Afrokaans goes back a little while. I had a friend of mine, who was a camera operator there - her name is Fahema Hendricks - she is now a director of photography on various productions; at Die Boekklub on kykNET at the moment and she just DoP Temptation Island which I'm also working on.

She recommended me to the Afrokaans team and I got a call from them in 2018, to be a part of Survivor SA: Island of Secrets in Samoa. And I literally - I had just moved, I had like a weekend to go and I said "I can't". 

But we stayed on good terms. I interviewed physically with them as soon as I got back - we got along like a house on fire, they saw my experience with Cardova and with Tropika Island of Treasure, and Presenter Search and Win a Home

So they felt like I could step up to the position. I think I did okay. 

So yeah, it was a matter of staying in touch, and I follow up with them a lot. Thinus, I bothered them a lot. Every month, I would send them three or four emails or WhatsApps saying, "Hey, don't forget about me". It was persistence, persistence. But polite persistence.

And then during Covid - did you think now you can't do it?
Michal Malek: Survivor South Africa has been on my bucket list. So no matter what I was doing at the time, I was going to drop it and do Survivor SA

So when I came back from Doha, I joined a company called Special Effects Media, which is run by Danilo Acquisto, who I met on Presenter Search on 3, and he and I worked together on Win a Home for many years. 

And I worked with him for about a year and a half, and I told him before I joined him that "You know, I'm in contact with the production team of Survivor SA, and If I get it, I'm going to go, I'm going to go do it".
And then the time came and luckily Danilo's company is a digital-first company, they're a YouTube specialist company, they're a digital video company.

So under Covid and during the national lockdown period, we were lucky in that digital video was all the rage. And it was booming because everyone was stuck at home watching content on their computers and on their phones. So we were very lucky in that sense. So I had a bit of work still over Covid, and then I got the call from Darren [Lindsay, supervising producer], saying - I didn't get a call, I got a Whatsapp saying "Are you ready for the island?" And I said "Which island? Wink, wink." 

And without a thought, I said yes. I said yes to Darren first from Afrokaans and then I told Danilo, "Listen, I'm going to Survivor SA" and the rest is history.

I think as an audio-visual storyteller you're really incredibly gifted. What do you think South African producers doing reality-genre content don't maybe yet know or grasp about what they need to do? What needs to be done more or differently to take it to that next, let's say "American" level?
Michal Malek: The first thing that comes to mind - look, having worked in in reality for a long time, I know the budgets that people are working with. 

When you look at your American TV shows - one or two episodes of an American series is how much our entire season of most shows cost. 

So we have to kind of take that with a pinch of salt when you say "Why is it not like America? Why is it not like Australia?" We just don't have the budgets. 

We just don't we don't have all the fancy toys and all those kinds of things. Having said that, if you look at the American Survivor credits, especially season 40 Winners at War, you can count on your fingers and toes how many South African crew are on that production because our crew and our talent are incredibly good and I think we know what we're doing.

I have to say, one thing in general that producers and directors maybe could improve on, is with casting.
If you take your time casting a show "correctly", or if you cast a show with the cast that is going to give you the content that you expect from the show - so, finding personalities that are going to clash in the circumstances that you're going to put these contestants in - then half the battle is won in casting.

I think a lot of the time, because of the time restrictions and the budget restrictions, we simply just don't have the resources to cast better. So for several shows we just take whoever just entered and it's "go, go". 

I'm not saying it's their fault, or it's anyone's fault. I'm just saying that if we could improve on something, then we could spend a little bit more time on better casting because I've seen the results with great casting first hand.

Can you share something interesting from behind-the-scenes during the making of Survivor SA: Immunity Island?
Michal Malek: I mean, we don't have enough time to discuss all the things that have happened behind the scenes. Ha ha. I don't want to give anything away. Give me a minute to think about something that's not going to compromise the viewers' experience.

So let me ask you, it feels that with every season, the show gets better in terms of even capturing moments that it seems the castaways themselves are not aware of is happening. 
The camera captures the dramatic irony and we get the sound of who's talking to whom. And there are no do-overs. You capture it or you miss it. The split-second decisions of the camera and sound operators and where to focus and it's incredible.
Michal Malek: There are so many stories, and so many kinds of narratives happening that, you know, inevitably there's going to be drama because you can't stick a bunch of people on an island, not you know, not feed them and have everyone getting along all the time.
In terms of capturing those candid moments - quite frankly contestants very quickly forget the cameras. Even after day one, they get there and they used to get food and suddenly it's dinner time and it's a feeling of "I haven't eaten today". And now their priorities are completely different. 

You as a producer become second nature. You don't even become a consideration for them. All of a sudden for them, the cameras disappear, and microphones disappear. 

Kudos to the sound guys and the skill with which they operate those booms. The sound guys are incredible in the way that they operate to capture contestants' conversations. 

Camera operators zoom in from far away. They're so skilled in capturing moments where you can tell that if they were to just stick a camera in a contestant's face, they're going to get skittish, and you're not going to have that intimate conversation where they speak with each other but don't want other people to suspect they're having a conversation. 

Previous seasons of Survivor SA have been great. This current one I think is really excellent in terms of the narratives and the blindsides and the cinematography and editing - it's even more "turbo-charged". What factors do you things influence this elevation in the end-product?
Michal Malek: Firstly, I think the talent of the technical crew is, as you say, the cinematography is amazing. Every camera operator on the island with me is almost like a storyteller in their own way. 

So are the sound operators - even more so - because you can tell a story, you can cut away to an iguana while people are having a conversation, and so long as the sound is there, we have a story. 

So what I think really makes it amazing is the talent pool of operators, and technical operators that are just incredibly skilled at finding moments and as I said before, that is why many of them end up in Fiji on the American series, because they're just so good. So I think that helps, that helps a lot. 

Also, the streamlining of the system that the content directors, content producers have, is also incredible for distilling the core nature of the cool narratives and the cool stories for each episode. 

At the end of every day, we have a meeting of all the content producers, and everyone knows what the main story is. Then a comprehensive list goes back to the editors saying, "this is our story". That then goes into the edit, and that gets further editing tweaks. And the editing is so good. the editing is good. I think that's what enhances it, what makes a turbo-charged. 

What makes Survivor SA so good compared to other productions I've been on is that the distillation in the capturing of the story is done really well - both technically on the island by the crews, and also taking those notes and taking those questions that we have asked as key moments and putting it all together so that the editors know exactly. 

You can imagine, there are petabytes of footage to go through. And we help with that as content producers in that content meetings to really streamline that and to help make it so that you as a viewer can know that you're going to get to see the very best moments.

How has Covid-19 impacted you and your business? I'm so sure that M-Net will do several more seasons of Survivor SA - would you be willing to work on further seasons?
Michal Malek: I mean, absolutely I would work on further seasons.

As you know Survivor SA: Immunity Island was done in a so-called "production bubble" They were very, very strict with their production bubble. I'm not sure it's my place to say how strict but very strict.

It was organised in such a way where you still had your basic freedom  - you didn't have to sit in your room the whole time when you were not working. There were dedicated areas where you could go, although often you were too busy to even notice to be honest because you were on the island most of the time.

Covid-wise, business has taken a hit obviously. Smaller productions, especially smaller productions that can't afford to be in a production bubble - they can't afford to lock away crew in separate accommodations for weeks on end - are definitely struggling a bit more. 

Video is booming. People are finding ways. People want content. Luckily, we're on the provisional end of that, you know. We're providing content, so it's been okay. This new Level 4 has seen some jobs disappearing. But I'm not out of jobs, I've just found ways to adapt and to push through.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Oh my gawd! The devil is back in Days and returning to Salem for the soul of Marlena.

by Thinus Ferreira

Scream in terror you all and call grandma, because after almost 30 years the devil is returning to Days and searching Salem for the soul of Marlena. 

Just a week after characters in the kykNET comedy Lui Maar Op, Belinda joked and referenced the iconic storyline of Days of Our Lives from decades ago, the devil is set to return to the soap.

Back in 1994 when John Black (Drake Hogestyn) still had black, shoulder length hair and Deidre Hall as Marlena wore yellow contacts and floated through the air, viewers were transfixed when the evil Stefano hypnotised Marlena and were kept spellbound as she turned evil for almost an entire year because of secret demonic possession.

Now it's going to happen ... again.

Days of Our Lives, a co-production between Corday Productions and Sony Pictures Television, has since switched from SABC1 that originally showed Marlena possessed, to SABC3, and now to that is showing season 52 of Days at 16:45 on weekdays. 

South Africa is 4 years behind America and currently in the 2016/2017 season, while viewers in the United States are seeing season 56.

"The original story began in 1994 when the wicked Stefano DiMera began hypnotizing Marlena (Deidre Hall) as his "Queen of the Night". The hypnosis meant to make her fall in love with him left her open to demonic possession and ultimately led to Marlena becoming possessed by the devil," the soap says in a press release.

"Later that year on Christmas eve in one of the most memorable moments in American pop culture history, Marlena levitated. The story continued through 1995 and concluded that summer when John Black, her now-husband who was thought to be a priest at the time, had to perform an emergency exorcism."

"When Days of Our Lives revisits the storyline, fans can look forward to twists and turns you'd never suspect as well as familiar faces returning to save the day - or not - this time around, the devil knows no bounds and no one in Salem is safe!"

R2919.95 - the cost of watching it all in South Africa ... and counting.

by Thinus Ferreira

It now theoretically costs a South African viewer, as a pay-TV subscriber, R2 919.95 per month, excluding data charges, just for the ability to access all of the available television content on offer in the country - a cost that will definitely climb further as more video streamers launch over time.

Realistically speaking it's highly likely that there is no such person in South Africa paying, or willing to pay R2 919.95 per month but the theoretical exercise is indicative of what is costs now to watch all of the collective content that used to be more curated and bundled under fewer subscription television services like MultiChoice's DStv.

The cost calculation does however underscore the rapid way in which TV content splintering has accelerated in South Africa as Africa's most sophisticated TV market. 

This splintering of licensing rights across various streaming services is rapidly leading to ever greater audience fragmentation and is constantly making it more difficult - and more expensive - for viewers to watch television, and for audience research and TV ratings agencies to track them.

Here is the breakdown of what it costs in August if you wanted to capture all of the available TV content offered in South Africa from all of the notable pay-TV providers and video streamers in South Africa through a monthly subscription fee.

While some offer various discounts, free trial offers and day rates, for the sake of this theoretical exercise the cost of the most comprehensive monthly subscription package is used, or "basic" streaming plan, as watched on a TV set, and while there may be some overlap of content, a service is included if it offers a selection of some exclusive TV content not found on any of the others:

- DStv Premium: R829
- StarSat Max: R299
- Deukom: R725
- AcornTV: R79
- Amazon Prime Video: R79.99
- Apple TV+: R84.99
- BritBox SA: R99.99
- DEOD: R39
- eVOD: R29.99
- Marquee TV: R179.99
- NET Afrikaans: R79
- Netflix SA: R99
- PrideTV: R79
- Showmax: R99
- TelkomONE: R49
- VIU: R69
- Vodacom Video Play: R99

The pricing of the streaming service CineMagic at R5 per day,'s R25 per horror film, Netflix Premium, music streamers, as well as free streaming services, and Openview requiring a once-off decoder cost of R600, are not included in this list or calculation. 

Showmax is included as a free add-on for DStv Premium subscribers, so its R99 price has also not been added to the overall calculation.

South Africa also doesn't yet have access to the video streaming services of Paramount+ from ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal's Peacock, WarnerMedia's HBO Max or Discovery Inc.'s Discovery+, with Disney+ that will launch from around June 2022, and with the SABC that plans to launch its service by the end of its current financial year that ends 31 March 2022.

Streaming the great unbundling
Ironically, consumers who have begged traditional, direct-to-home (DTH) pay-TV services like MultiChoice to "unbundle" its packages and to let DStv subscribers only "pay-per-channel" and for the content that they want to pick and choose, are now getting their wish granted - although it's happening through an unbundling fuelled by the arrival and growth of over-the-top (OTT) streaming services.

It's also turning out to be a lot more expensive.

Consumers who already have to juggle a lot of different subscriber login details for different apps and services will have to contend with keeping a list of even more account and subscriber details as more video streaming services join the list, leading consumers to "forget" to cancel free trails or to cancel debit orders. 

Consumers also have to try and navigate their way through an increasingly complex content discovery process, trying to figure out where they can watch what, or which service has the specific content they're looking for.

A consumer who wants to watch a specific show - for instance the new upcoming science-fiction drama series Foundation based on Isaac Asimov's books starting in September on Apple TV +; or Schumacher, the F1 documentary on the German racer Michael Schumacher and his career in the sport releasing on Netflix in September - must pay a separate subscription fee just for that service in order to watch that content.

While the subscription fee charges quickly add up for the consumer, it's also creating big new challenges for South Africa's TV industry.

The Broadcasting Research Council (BRC) of South Africa is facing the growing challenge - similar to what Nielsen in America is experiencing - of trying to accurately track viewers and households across a growing range of streaming services.

Meanwhile, local and international streamers have to try and keep the incentive of "binge-watching" behaviour going and to try and limit user churn, by commissioning and acquiring a constant raft of new content.

Then there are also traditional pay-TV like MultiChoice's DStv and M-Net that used to gobble up the bulk of international content, as well as broadcasters like the SABC and, that have simply been blocked and prevented from acquiring certain overseas content even if they have the money and are willing to pay for it.

Global entertainment conglomerates are now using their own studios - that used to distribute shows and films internationally - to create new shows that they're keeping for their own streaming services.

It means means that South African viewers can't see a show, for instance The Mandalorian on Disney+ or FBoy Island or Gossip Girl on HBO Max since those streamers are not available in this region yet and are not available to be sold by the studios.

73rd PrimeTime Emmy Awards: Red carpet coverage on E! and awards ceremony coming to M-Net with Cedric the Entertainer as the host.

by Thinus Ferreira

America's 73rd annual PrimeTime Emmy Awards with Cedric the Entertainer as the host, will once again be broadcast live across Africa as a simulcast with the CBS network in the United States, with M-Net (DStv 101) that will show it from 02:00 on Monday morning 20 September, with a repeat in primetime on the same day from 21:30.

E! (DStv 124) is once again doing red carpet coverage, with E! Live from the Red Carpet: The 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards that will start at exactly midnight on Sunday and carry on until 02:00 on Monday morning when the Emmys ceremony starts.

There is a rebroadcast of E!'s red carpet coverage on Monday night at 21:00.

The 73rd primetime Emmy Awards is returning as a live-show ceremony, with a limited audience of nominees and their guests.

It's set to take place party indoors and party outdoors on the Event Deck at LA Live in Los Angeles - very close to the Emmys' usual home of the Microsoft Theatre and where it would have been this year as well if it wasn't for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Hollywood.

The broadcast is executive produced by Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart.

Apple's new iPhone 13 smartphone expands with 'Hollywood' cinematography capability adding Cinematic Video and Pro Motion technology.

by Thinus Ferreira

On Tuesday night Apple unveiled the specifications of its new iPhone 13 that is expanding the smartphone's capability as a "Hollywood" cinematography device, with improvements mostly geared towards the capture and creation of video content through the addition of Cinematic Video and its Pro Motion technology.

Apple's new flagship iPhone 13 will be available as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini. 

South African pricing is not yet available but will retail in the United States for $699 (iPhone 13 Mini, 128GB), $799 (iPhone 13, 128GB), $999 (iPhone 13 Pro, 128GB), and $1099 (iPhone 13 Pro Max).

To differentiate itself from competitors, Apple is focused on enhancing the iPhone's speed and performance, most notably through improving the camera and camera capability, as well as building a brighter and better display (23% brighter), and working on even longer battery life. 

The iPhone 13 standard has a 6.1-inch screen (iPhone Max has a 6.7-inch display), with the rear lenses which have been changed positionally and are now set diagonally within the back camera bump.
Apple has added its Apple Pro Motion technology to the iPhone 13 Pro models, as well as Cinematic Video to all of the iPhone 13 models.

With "Cinematic Video" mode, users can create foreground-background blending and transitions within "scenes" where either the foreground or background comes into focus, and vice versa, based on what the filmmaker wants to focus on.

Cinematic Video is smart enough to change focus when a subject looks away from the phone, and the user can also tap on the phone's screen to manually adjust whether something in the background or foreground should be placed in focus.

Interestingly a "depth map" is also automatically built into Cinematic Video mode, enabling the filmmaker to go back and to change the focus point later, even after content has been filmed.