One moment I was relatively new in the industry and had never really done any TV work worth noting, the next moment I was Naomi Malotana on Generations. Many people couldn’t believe my ‘luck’ as there were a lot of actors who had worked for years in the industry and still could not land a role on Generations. This ‘luck’ came with a bit of work though, coupled with determination, tenacity and a never-say-die attitude. Here’s how it happened…
Early 2011, about 18 months after joining my agent, and all I had managed to do was one TV advert (where you needed binoculars to spot me in the final product) and a cameo on Muvhango. I was getting frustrated. You see, I’m the type that decides she wants something, then decides she wants it now, then obsesses about making it happen. At this point I was stagnant. I felt my agent was not sending me to auditions,
understandably so, because I was a new-comer competing against known faces. I so badly wanted her to take a risk on me, but being in the recruitment industry, I understood how the world works. In recruitment, if my client asks me for a candidate with 5 years’ experience, I try to give him/her that. I don’t suddenly go out of my way to find graduates with no experience to send to my client, because that will cause reputation damage for my agency. So basically I was stuck. I couldn’t get acting roles because I had no TV experience and I couldn’t get TV experience because I had not acting roles.
Around that time a very good friend of mine, Zotshokazi (now Lusanda Omelo) , came by for a visit. As I told her of my dilemma, she naively asked “If your agency doesn’t send you to the auditions, why don’t you call the ‘auditioning people’ directly and try your luck with them? That way, you will get a role that will also convince your agent that you are worth taking a risk on”. It sounded doable, but the catch was I had no idea who the ‘auditioning people’ were that I had to call. Then, she came up with an even more naïve solution (surely no one who knows the industry would even suggest this). She said “Hee wethu Lu, if you want to be on Generations, wait for the end of the episode and when the credits go up, take down the names of the people in charge and google their contacts.” It was so naive, so far-fetched, so optimistic, but that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t even know how the hierarchy works, whether it was the Producer or the Production Manager or the Casting Director I should be looking for. It became an ‘ini mini mani mo’ situation, and I decided I liked the name Friedrich Stark (Producer), so that’s who I googled.
I remember calling Friedrich Stark’s office and being told he was out of town until Tuesday (I was calling on a Friday). I did not leave a message. I was certain there were hundreds of messages from ‘wanna-be’s” such as myself. While I had the energy, I decided to write him an e-mail. I started with “I hereby apply…” 😂, then quickly realized that approach would not work. So I started again, in my real life tone and personality. It was an honest, confident and almost cheeky e-mail. I was clear about my position, I had no experience, but I had loads of talent. I challenged him to sparing me just 10 minutes of his time and assured him it would be time well spent… Then I forgot about it and life went on.
The next Tuesday I was writing an exam, then I got a call from Gorata, my PA, saying I must please call Fr…Fred… Fredr… (she couldn’t pronounce it) and I said “Stop right there! What’s the number?” I called him back. He asked if I could come see him. I asked when. He said now…. and the rest is history.
A few things to note about this experience:
The day I went to see Friedrich, there were two ladies who were at 4th audition stage for the Naomi role. (From experience, I know that when people ask to interview / audition you 4 times, they are not sure).
I asked Mr Stark how on earth he decided that my e-mail was worth responding to, as I was certain he received loads of them. He said it was in the way I wrote. He could ‘see’ me. He could ‘sense’ my personality, and he concluded I was as cheeky in real life as I was on the e-mail 😂.
I auditioned for the Naomi role ‘today’, I started work ‘tomorrow’.
Maybe I was lucky. Maybe I made my own luck. You decide.