tvplus investigates how Isidingo’s writers work current events into the episodes so quickly and seamlessly.
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.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE DEEP DOESN’T JUST STAY THERE
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.
KNOW YOUR NEWS
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.”
IT’S A NUMBERS GAME
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.