Come Saturday, October 28, renowned actor Thapelo Mokoena will make his first official move towards opening up the South African film and TV industry to new talent.
Through his talk, #BookYourFirstGig, Mokoena will share with budding entertainers practical skills and tools to help them secure their first gig.
Speaking to HuffPost SA, Mokoena said that in his line of work as a producer, he had come across talented people who do not make it through auditions simply because they just did not know how to audition.
"This initiative came up as a concept. It was born from interactions I'd have with people. On an average day, I'd have people stopping me in malls, restaurants and other public spaces asking how they too can get their big break. It frustrates me that I never have time to share all that I want to share with them, because I'm very keen for people and always like to engage," Mokoena said.
He said the talk is the first of many to come, and also part of the bigger picture.
"It all starts here. We are starting from the bottom with a dream, where the playing fields are levelled. Anybody can just get up and go try. We are helping you pack the right tools and carry the right weapons, so you can go book your first gig.
We are on a mission to empower African artists and to guide them in how they can establish solid careers," he added.
Mokoena has roped in industry heavyweights who will also share how they got their big break -- the speakers are Terry Pheto, Warren Masemola, DJ Sbu Leope and Sthembiso Khoza, among others.
We asked Mokoena his thoughts on:
"We should be having the conversation every day, because that's what grows the value of our industry. Opening the industry goes beyond just performances -- from distribution all the way down to acting. Also, how you see yourself as an artist matters -- do you see yourself as just a local artist, or a global artist? Your stage is not Soweto; it's the earth. You open up your mindset, and then you will start attracting things that are out there."
Does social media following outweigh talent?
"No. Nothing can ever take away your talent. The one thing you possess is your talent -- your signature as an actor always sets you apart. You may be replaceable, but no one can ever be the same DNA of artist as you. I believe what you need to focus on as an artist is not your following, but rather your offering -- because that is what determines whether or not you're working. You could have three followers, but if your talent is on par, you cannot be ignored," he told HuffPost SA.
Mokena added: "I cannot, however, speak for [the] industry, because at times I watch TV and wonder how some people got to be in the positions they're in. Also, no one knows why people make such decisions -- some brands just prefer to go for the following, as opposed to true talent. But then again, what is true talent? That being said, I think the focus needs to change into tangible value -- for example, if you put a Warren Masemola or a Denzel Washington on a film, you know you're guaranteed a certain value -- and that's not because of the following they have on social media, but rather that they have an offering that is good for business. I believe we need to empower ourselves as artists to be good for business. Increase your value, and let the followers do their own thing."
#BookYourFirstGig takes place at the Tin Factory in Kramerville. More details are available here.