On the front-line with SABC’s new local Teen drama.
When she’s not dealing with the intricacies of setting up a television production set at a Cape Town high school during school hours (aka nightmarish job), Alison Evans is most likely to be found at a nail bar getting a delish French manicure or perhaps cooking up a storm for 20 people. Make no mistake, her cool, composed exterior belies a total trooper underneath. This is a woman you’d want with you on the front lines of any battle. For 12 years, Alison has contributed to the corporate culture of Okuhle Media in remarkable ways. It was her involvement on the PTA committee of a local school, and her gift for writing that led our Director and Co-founder, Paula Brown, to discover her writing and bring her on board.
Her years as a national sales rep and working in a family business certainly prepared her for the ever-changing landscape of Okuhle Media. From the marketing department, writing for clients like Woolworths to scriptwriting cooking shows for the SABC, Alison is thrilled to be out of the pressure of churning out scripted content to deadline. Now, the most satisfying element of her work is the combination of creative and logistical outputs, which is unusual within one job spec.
Television Production is a whole new animal, full of spontaneity and muscle. “It requires tough leadership and a built-in ‘I don’t take any CR*p’ o’meter”, she says! As the Producer of Cape Town’s latest teen drama Signal High, her time has certainly come. The show was originally established by SABC 2’s flagship tween program, Hectic Nine-9, with 1- 3 minute inserts rather like a mini-series within the magazine program, and covered a range of issues from sexual identity to teenage pregnancy, peer pressure and other relevant content. Now, as a standalone 13-part, 24-minute drama series, Signal High is telling African stories with a unique African voice, and Okuhle Media is sharing this responsibility with Sibulele Siko-Shosha and her team at Dumile Films.
It has been a broadening of skills for the two independent companies. Merging teenage drama and entertainment meant enlarging their creative circles, being more inclusive, and not letting a tough day get you down. It is so vital to keep scripting content that the youth of SA can resonate with. For Alison, her inspiration every day is leading her viewers to that aha moment, “Oh wow that is exactly MY world.” Then you know you’ve done something right. Storytelling for teens can explore any content, even ethnic hair, because in fact, says Alison, “this topic is so richly layered and such a fundamental part of our communal struggle for true identity. Signal High is not afraid to dive in and explore all aspects of this very real teenage issue in the first series!”
So much is plaguing our youth, and a television production like Signal High simply says. ‘Me too. I know how you feel.’ It creates room for empathy; a safe space to unwind after a tough day at school. The real success of this television production is in unpacking deep complexities and offering a clear direction for the viewer, away from the usual teen ‘angst’ responses. It is the farthest thing from a glamorous Kardashian reality viewing experience! The genre of drama gives our South African teens a proper voice. It exists for their freedom and to instill self-knowledge, which is then transformed into power to express themselves in reality. For Alison, her role is given enormous meaning knowing Signal High might guide young people, giving them tools to contextualise their situation.
Alison is heading up crew, cast and client liaison, so she is ultimately responsible for tying a big picture together and making her client happy. We know that the SABC have had tumultuous times but Alison sets the record straight about Okuhle’s largest client. The dedication from the many gems within the SABC management and content teams is what makes her job possible. The passion is there and the commitment is there, to script the content that South Africans need to hear.
It is a whirlwind of adventure and Alison wouldn’t have it any other way! It can be as finicky as accounting for every last shoe worn by the actors on the asset audit, or as delicate as a catering crisis due to the recent listeriosis outbreak. No day is the same, and “I’d do it all again in a heartbeat”, she says!
Don’t worry about the five year plan is Alison’s advice to her future self. Go with the flow, there are better things ahead than you can even imagine…
About Signal High
Set in beautiful Cape Town, in a senior school under transformation and reconstruction, Signal High follows Amanda, Zolani, Zakes, Zuko, Winnie and Sam as they journey through the highs and lows of teen life. These rich, complex characters invite the audience to fall in love with, grow contempt for and rage over the choices they each make and learn who they are in a world of different personalities, backgrounds, situations and, yes, temptations. Signal High airs on SABC 2 on Fridays at 17h00 from the 29th of June 2018.
For enquiries, contact;
Alison Evans, Signal High Producer
M: 082 474 9359
For more information contact;
Paula Brown, Director & Co-founder at Okuhle Media
T: 021 486 2900