Netflix’s first South African Original acquired series was a courageous move for the streaming giant.
That’s the view of Gareth Crocker, writer and director of Shadow, is an eight-part show that began airing on Netflix a week ago. The series, which revolves around the life of a superhero and ex-cop, Shadrach “Shadow” Khumalo, is South Africa’s first Netflix Original.
“Our studio hasn’t had the opportunity to work with Netflix in the past,” said Crocker. “Netflix brings a fresh approach to TV, and they’re here to disrupt the TV industry.”
Crocker was asked how he got his show to be the first South African Netflix Original: “We didn’t approach Netflix. We made it series first, financed it ourselves, and it went out to the market. Very fortunate for us, Netflix loved the show and acquired it. There was a very big chance, and it took a lot of courage, especially considering we are the first show that has been acquired.”
With the various recent superhero Netflix Originals added to the platform, Crocker said: “The superhero aspect is very
As a South African series, an obvious question is how the show would be perceived across Netflix’s international audiences.
“Our thinking was to make a universal show with a South African flavour. It’s also important to note this is an aspirational show, and it’s not rural. The Western-African fusion that the South African TV viewer doesn’t often get.
“A great example to compare the fusion to would be Cool Runnings. What’s so fantastic about that is you get a touch of Jamaican culture in a Western film.”
The series also represents a variety of genres.
“In terms of the show’s overall genre, it’s an action drama. My background as a novelist leads me to pay a lot of attention to emotion. I felt like my job really is to make viewers feel something in the show. We have created ‘micro-genres’ per episode. For example, episode two follows a very serious tone, while episode four is a lot lighter. We have tried to bring some nuance to each episode to keep it fresh for viewers.”
The show was shot on location in Johannesburg. Visitors to the Maboneng precinct will recognise many scenes.
Said Crocker: “We’re a small team. What makes it quite different is that very little of the show was set-based. Most of it was location-based – we’re talking tops of building, coffee shops, it is very much set in Johannesburg and we think it shows.”
We asked if the show was born from Netflix’s need for more superhero content. Crocker said: “Because we made the show without Netflix in mind, we made it as our own original. Netflix’s acquisition only came later. Writing the show, we wanted to make our audience feel something and I like to think the emotions will be strong for viewers. I think locally, we will get a kick out of it being a South African themed show but, in my experience, my novels have been international sellers.
“We are very mindful about where the show is experienced, and it won’t always be in a lounge. With Netflix on smartphones and tablets, especially available for download over Wi-Fi so that a user doesn’t have to use data, it will be easier for viewers to watch. We designed the show so that viewers on public transport can get their quick fix. We think Shadow will be that.”
The Netflix Original series, Shadow, is available to stream now on Netflix.