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Behind the scenes of Netflix SA’s Queen Sono

South Africa’s first Netflix Original TV show, Queen Sono, is almost ready to air. Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER spoke to the show’s creators on set.

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In the heart of Johannesburg, a house is about to make history as one of the first homes to have a South African Netflix Original filmed inside. During filming, it’s surrounded by a dozen large trucks that carry props, camera equipment, set equipment and equipment needed to make this production a reality. 

We chatted with Queen Sono’s writer, director, and showrunner, Kagiso Lediga, on set recently. He also heads up Diprente, the Johannesburg-based production company behind the show.

“[Being writer and director] gives one the ability to carry out the vision,” says Lediga. “I mean, it’s not just that I’m wearing many hats. But there’s the other creators, other HODs: from production designer to cinematographer, to the other writers that I work with. So it’s great, I guess that being a showrunner you kind of have to touch on all of those.

“It’s a huge responsibility in terms of carrying out the narrative. You know, sometimes what’s great is when you come up with an idea, and then when you see it when, either you’re sitting behind the monitor, directing, or while you’re sitting and editing, and you’re like ‘Whoa, that’s exactly how we imagined it’.”

The show is an action-packed series that follows Queen Sono, a highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life.

Of course, the gravity of being a Netflix Original means that Queen Sono will be put on a global stage, and will be available to stream in over 40 countries. We asked the show’s Director of Photography, Motheo Moeng, how the show’s image has been carefully crafted for a local and global audience.

“Overall, the treatment of the show is based on the characters we have written, naturally, and other spy films that we have looked at,” says Moeng. “So the treatment of her visually, and the look to the show visually, had that in mind. So as much as you wanted to treat it as an African show, we were well aware that it had to have international appeal.”

It’s also dangerous work getting the show to be perfect, Moeng says.

“It’s like being in a boxing ring, so there are days when you’re getting punched, there are days when you have to stand up and go. But overall, I guess the banter between myself and the first aiders is interesting. Our jobs are a direct contrast to each other; I’m trying to constantly light and make things look pretty, and he has to make sure we make the day, so if you stick around for long enough, you’ll see the love-hate relationship between us.”

Stunt Coordinators Grant Powell and Filip-Ciprian ‘Chip’ Florian have us a quick insight into how to get the actors (and film crew) ready for a spy movie’s action.

“[Most productions] have the same demands because they all have the same elements,” says Powell. “It doesn’t matter how big the movie, they’re still an actor. An actor still has to be trained. I still have to deal with the psychology of that. Convincing them that they can do it. So it really doesn’t matter the scale of the film, you’re still dealing with the same elements, which is training an actor from scratch sometimes.

“There was a combat scene with Queen Sono and the baddies, and she kicks one of them out the window, which is Chip by the way. So he goes through plate glass, goes over the balcony, three stories up and lands on a car. I thought that was cool. We had three weeks prep, which is great for a local show. You never get that, you’re usually learning on the day. That’s why the audience will instantly see the quality will be better because of this preparation. That’s what’s going to make this show stand out over and above anything that’s ever been done locally.”

Queen Sono is expected to be released exclusively on Netflix in 2020.

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Black Friday, Cyber Monday, shot the lights out

The numbers are in, and it shows that the start of holiday season shopping in South Africa saw spectacular growth

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday continues to be a hit in South Africa, with both days exceeding expectations.  

“Black Friday did not disappoint,” says Solly Bellingan, head of customer relations at BankservAfrica. “Despite the tougher economy, it seems South Africans took advantage of the days’ special deals with in-store and online transaction volumes reflecting strong year-on-year growth. Both days have certainly made their mark amongst local retailers and shoppers,

South Africans shopped up a storm with the total number of Black Friday transactions processed by BankservAfrica, in-store and online, at 7,077,117 (*) in 2019 – 36% up from 2018’s 5,204,594. This translates into a total spend of R6-billion, an impressive 106% increase on 2018’s R2.9-billion.

When compared to 2018, it seems bargain hunters decided to get the best deals early with a 33% year-on-year increase in sales at midnight. The 12-hour period between 06:00 and 18:00 proved to be busiest, with similar volumes being processed each hour. The highest number of transactions processed in a 60-minute period was between 10:00 and 11:00 at a volume of 595,792.

“3D-Secure, our online card authentication service, i.e. transactions that require a one-time pin(**), showed steady growth this year with a 32% year-on-year increase on Black Friday and transaction volumes  reaching a total of  534,828,” says Bellingan. The busiest shopping times were between 09:00 and 10:00 in 2019 compared to the earlier start in 2018 at 08:00 to 09:00

“The most expensive online transaction recorded on Black Friday was for a hospitality purchase of  R10,067,400 by an international company. The most uses by one card was 83. During peak, we processed  717 transactions while the average was 371 per minute for the day.”

Cyber Monday was less active than Black Friday with a 42% growth in online transactions that reached a volume of 249,908 in 2019 (up from 176,595 in 2018). However, in both years, most of the transactions took place between 10:00 and 11:00, with the most expensive being R1,997,800 and 151 uses by one card. The highest average transactions per minute was 322 at peak and 173 per minute for the day.

“This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday data mirrors the global data of record-breaking sales – and the BankservAfrica featured figures are only a portion of the entire sales figures for both days,” says Bellingan. “It will be interesting to see if these manage to outpace festive season spend this year.”

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Amazon records biggest ecommerce day ever

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Image from www.quotecatalog.com

Amazon has announced that Cyber Monday was once again the single biggest shopping day in the company’s history, based on the number of items ordered worldwide. Customers all around the world shopped at record levels across a wide selection, with hundreds of millions of products ordered worldwide between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, alone. Customers purchased millions more Amazon Devices compared to the same period last year in Amazon’s Stores globally and the best-selling items were Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote.

“We’re focused on making this holiday season more convenient than ever for our customers, especially given how short this holiday shopping season will be,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer, Amazon. “We are thrilled that customers continue to come to Amazon in record numbers to discover what they need and want for the holidays. Thank you to our customers and employees all around the world for making this holiday shopping weekend the best yet.”

Holiday Weekend Highlights:

  • Customers worldwide purchased more toys this Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined than ever before. Among the tens of millions of toys purchased during this time period, best-sellers included LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader’s Castle, Monopoly Game: Disney Frozen 2 Edition and Hasbro games such as Jenga, Guess Who and Candy Land Kingdom of Sweet Adventures.
  • Cyber Monday was the single biggest shopping day for Amazon Fashion worldwide, with more items purchased than any other single day in the company’s history. Best-sellers included Carhartt Men’s Acrylic Watch Hat and Champion Men’s Powerblend Fleece Pullover Hoodie.
  • Amazon customers worldwide ordered more than 25 million home items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, combined.
  • Best-sellers on Black Friday in the U.S. included Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, Instant Pot Duo80 – 8 Quart, 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service: Personal Genetic DNA Test, L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Disco Bigger Surprise and iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum.
  • Customers worldwide purchased more than four million beauty products this Cyber Monday compared to last year, with best-sellers including Oral-B Genius Pro 900 Electric Toothbrush, Lagunamoon Essential Oils Top 6 Gift Set and L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Makeup Lash Paradise Mascara.
  • Top-selling categories worldwide include Toys, Home, Fashion and Health and Personal Care.
  • The best-selling products in Amazon’s Stores on Cyber Monday in the U.S. included Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Cookie Creations, Keurig K-Cafe Coffee Maker and LEGO City Ambulance Helicopter 60179 Building Kit.
  • Independent third-party sellers in Amazon’s Stores — mostly small and medium-sized businesses – sold more items during Cyber Monday 2019 than any other 24-hour period in the company’s history.
  • For the third year in a row, Whole Foods Market broke its all-time record of turkeys sold during the Thanksgiving season.
  • Amazon delivered millions of grocery items to Prime members in the U.S. through the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Best sellers from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery included Honeycrisp apples, lemons and avocados.
  • Top selling items at Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star stores over the holiday weekend included the Amazon Smart Plug, Echo Dot and All-New Echo Dot Smart Speaker with Clock, L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls, Wrecking Ball (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 14), and the Wyze Cam 1080p HD Indoor Wireless Smart Home Camera with Night Vision.

Record-Breaking Weekend for Devices

  • Shoppers purchased a record number of Amazon Devices globally this holiday weekend.
  • Amazon customers worldwide purchased millions more Amazon Devices, compared to the same period last year in Amazon’s Stores globally, including Echo devices, Fire TV devices, Kindle devices, and Fire tablets.
  • It was a record-breaking holiday shopping weekend for smart home devices in Amazon’s Stores globally with shoppers purchasing millions of smart home devices, including iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum, Furbo Dog Camera, and Wemo Mini Smart Plug.
  • The best-selling products in Amazon’s Stores globally were Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote.

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