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Into the Shadow: A look behind SA’s Netflix Original

Netflix Original writer Gareth Crocker chats with Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER about writing a show as a novelist.

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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 subtle, and very different from the recent Umbrella Academy series. We didn’t want the superhero aspect to dominate the show, and rather portrayed a street superhero approach.”

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.

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Notre Dame, Scoop Makhathini, GoT, top week in search

From fire disaster to social media disaster, the top Google searches this week covered a wide gamut of themes.

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Paris and the whole world looked on in shock as the 856-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral crumbled into ash. The tragic infernal destruction of this tourist attraction of historical and religious significance led South Africans to generate more than 200 000 search queries for “Notre Dame Cathedral” on Monday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that razed the architectural icon.

In other top trending searches on Google this week, radio presenter Siyabonga Ngwekazi, AKA Scoop Makhathini, went viral when it appeared he had taken to Twitter to expose his girlfriend, Akhona Carpede, for cheating on him. Scoop has since come out to say that he was not responsible for the bitter rant and that his account was hacked. “Scoop Makhathini” generated more than 20 000 search queries on Wednesday.

Fans generated more than 20 000 search queries for “Sam Smith” on Tuesday ahead of the the British superstar’s Cape Town performance at the Grand West Casino. Smith ended up cutting his performance short that night due to vocal strain.

Local Game of Thrones superfans were beside themselves on Sunday, searching the internet high and low for the first episode of the American fantasy drama’s eighth season. “Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 1” generated more than 100 000 queries on Google Search on the weekend.

As the festivities kicked off in California with headliners such as Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, South Africans generated more than 2 000 search queries for “Coachella” on Saturday.

South Africans generated more than 5 000 search queries for “Wendy Williams” on Friday  as it emerged that the American talk show host had filed for divorce from her husband Kevin Hunter after 21 years of marriage. Hunter has long been rumored to have been cheating on Williams, which reportedly finally led to the divorce.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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5G smartphones to hit 5M sales in 2019

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According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”

Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025. The introduction of 5G networks, by carriers like Verizon or China Mobile, opens up high-speed, ultra-low-latency services such as 8K video, streaming games, and augmented reality for business. The next big question for the mobile industry is how much extra consumers are really willing to pay, if anything, for those emerging 5G smartphones and services.”

Strategy Analytics provides a snapshot analyses for the outlook for 5G smartphone market in this Insight report: 5G Smartphones : From Zero to a Billion

Strategy Analytics provides a deep-dive into the air-interface technologies that will power phones through 2024 across 88 countries here: Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies : 2003 to 2024

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