Break­ing news

tv­plus in­ves­ti­gates how Isidingo’s writ­ers work cur­rent events into the episodes so quickly and seam­lessly.

TV Plus (South Africa) - - BEHIND THE SCENES -

If there’s one thing that’s unique to Isidingo (1998-cur­rent), it’s their abil­ity to weave cur­rent news events into the sto­ry­lines. View­ers of­ten ques­tion how a break­ing news story from the pre­vi­ous day or that morn­ing gets men­tioned in an Isidingo episode that airs that very evening, de­spite the episode be­ing filmed three months ago. Here’s how and why they do it.


Isidingo head­writer Ro­han Dick­son says that “this is one of the things we do that sets us apart from any other soapie in the coun­try. It’s a sys­tem that we have put in place over many years that al­lows us to en­gage with cur­rent news and write a scene as it’s hap­pen­ing”.

Ro­han goes on to ex­plain the process of how they’re able to script a cur­rent news story: “We choose the news that hap­pens the day be­fore or the night be­fore. Then the writ­ers will wake up at 04:00 and we script the scene, called a TXC (trans­mis­sion scene), we check if the scene is rep­re­sented fac­tu­ally and that we aren’t be­ing bi­ased. The script is signed off by 05:30 and is sent to set. This scene will get shot first thing in the morn­ing with the ac­tors. Then this par­tic­u­lar scene is sent at high speed to the SABC build­ings where it’s edited.” The Isidingo episode that is to be broad­cast that evening might have been shot months prior but the TXC is edited into that episode in the spot where al­lo­cated time is al­lowed.


When it comes to choos­ing which cur­rent news items are worth fea­tur­ing on the soapie, Ro­han ad­mits that he’s picky. “We choose news that we know the au­di­ence is go­ing to talk about the next day and it must have an emo­tional con­nec­tion with them. For ex­am­ple, if some­body tried to as­sas­si­nate Pres­i­dent Zuma, then that’s big news. How­ever, the drought sit­u­a­tion isn’t break­ing news but a lot of peo­ple are talk­ing about it and that makes it wor­thy to com­ment on. Our au­di­ence isn’t in­ter­ested in what the Queen Of Eng­land does,” says Ro­han. Fur­ther­more, the cho­sen cur­rent news story must make sense to the viewer. “One of the chal­lenges is that we have to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the au­di­ence. We have to take into ac­count that our au­di­ence is di­verse and mul­ti­cul­tural.”


Weav­ing cur­rent news into the sto­ry­lines doesn’t ac­tu­ally af­fect Isidingo’s rat­ings – that’s not why they do it – but it does af­fect the soapie’s so­cial me­dia pres­ence. Ex­plains Ro­han, “Our so­cial me­dia ‘rat­ings’ do get higher and we do trend when we have a TXC.” For ex­am­ple, Isidingo’s on­line pres­ence boomed when there was a TXC about the DA walk­ing out of Par­lia­ment dur­ing the State Of The Na­tion Ad­dress in Fe­bru­ary 2015. “I liked our cur­rent news about de­ceased Or­lando Pi­rates goal­keeper Senzo Meyiwa (Novem­ber 2014) and any­thing Os­car Pis­to­rius re­lated. It gets peo­ple talk­ing,” says Ro­han.

Sport­ing events like the Rugby World Cup make it into Isidingo.

The re­cent ter­ror­ist at­tack in Paris was in the sto­ry­line within 12 hours.

Isidingo head­writer

Ro­han Dick­son.

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