#OpenUpTheIndustry Op-Ed for Huffington Post
#OpenUpTheIndustry started as a call to action for the entertainment industry, particularly directors and casting agents, to give new talent a chance.
The hashtag was born after some of us noticed the same faces on at least four different TV shows at a time. However, as with anything on the internet, it was bound to turn into an attack-fest -- the hashtag was quickly turned into an attack on artists / actors who accept those roles, which was not the hashtag's intended purpose, given the fact that our actors are underpaid and people obviously need to make an income in order to survive.
The negative attention attracted by the hashtag and the attacks on celebrities who accept those roles distracted people from genuine concerns -- the fact that there have been instances where people were cast on the basis of being friends with casting directors, which would become evident on social media.
At times, one would notice the fact that young actors are solicited into doing things in order to get roles, or that one needed x-number of followers to be cast.
We cannot overlook the positives -- in the past two years, there have been strides made, and we have seen new faces pop up on our screens. Individuals such as Moshe Ndiki and Farieda Metsileng, who peaked on Youtube and ended up presenting some of the biggest shows on TV.
People like Thuso Mbedu, who got cast in shows such as MTV Shuga, are now nominated for international awards like the Emmys, which is an indication that the industry is on the right track in terms of opening things up.
However, we still have a long way to go, as the negatives outweigh the positives, in my humble opinion.
There is enough pie for everyone to eat, given the fact that Mzansi Magic and other new channels are starting to produce a number of new shows.
I believe the only way that the entertainment industry will be open, is if we eliminate the ills that the industry faces -- such as nepotism, directors wanting to bed actors in exchange for roles, and underpaying actors. Maybe if actors were paid properly, then people would not have to take as many roles in order to survive.