It's time for South Africa to make our mark on Netflix this March with the debut of Shadow: the first South African series to air on the streamer.
It's loading globally on 8 March for an eight episode first season and stars Pallance Dladla in the eponymous role of Shadow, a detective and former task force operative who feels no pain - literally.
You pierce him with a screwdriver and he feels nadda.
A very useful state of being, especially when you're on a mission to take down violent, evil criminals who are responsible for the murder of a young girl.
Which is how the series starts - with her murder and no justice.
Shadrach ‘Shadow’ Khumalo, who's been failed by the criminal justice system, quits his job to become a "fixer" for people who've also been failed by the system's so-called justice.
This takes him into the grimy underbelly of Joziburg where he takes it upon himself to catch the criminals that the police can't catch.
Besides his numbed pain-o-meter, he has another weapon in his holster: Amanda du-Pont, his lurve interest and confidante.
Here's a snack pack of cool stuff for you to tuck into...
We got our clutches on these insights from the series director Gareth Crocker of local production house Motion Story Productions, who've created the series:
A non-traditional approach to making television - smaller crew, more time
As opposed to the standard approach of committing a large crew and post-production team over a short and intense period, Motion Story utilised a smaller and more versatile team over a longer period to produce Shadow.
We believe this played a major role in enabling us to elevate the quality of the show as more time was allowed to refine various aspects of the production.
A flat, collaborative structure
We made it very clear from day one that we wanted and welcomed input from the actors and crew on how the show can be enhanced. While the main crew were committed to their vision for the show, they were always open and flexible enough to allow for a good idea, regardless of where it came from.
Creating the right culture - everyone pitching in
Because of the size of the crew, everyone was prepared to multitask. Once the actors and the rest of the crew understood that there were no egos on set and that everyone was prepared to roll up their sleeves and do whatever was needed to get the best out of a scene, they were equally happy to pitch in wherever they could.
This sense of ‘community’ fostered a genuine team atmosphere on set.
An appetite for improvisation
As a result of our small crew, we were often able to improvise on set where larger and more cumbersome crews would not have been able to given their sheer size and the amount of complexity involved in changing plans on short notice.
This agility allowed the crew to always be on the lookout for production opportunities that would enhance the show. This size of the production also allowed for a spirit of ‘running and gunning’ certain shots that would have been impossible with a larger production crew (particularly when shooting on busy city streets).
In order to take full advantage of the numerous action scenes in Shadow, several of the actors committed to performing many of their own stunts (within safe limits).
This allowed the crew to get a number of powerful and impactful shots that would otherwise not have been possible.
To set Shadow apart from other African productions, the team created a string of ambitious set-pieces that included stunt people scaling high-rise buildings and towers, base jumpers performing low-level jumps, filming with wild animals (including lions) etc.
Many of the show’s set-pieces have never been seen on local screens.
To set Shadow apart from other local shows, the crew were adamant that Shadow would not be shot predominantly on a handful of sets. Instead, it would move between a number of challenging and varied locations.
The result is that Shadow jumps from rooftops and basements to clubs, bars, towers, dams, shooting ranges, treehouses, bridges, animal sanctuaries, game farms and various other colourful locations. It was critical that viewers were given a rich and diverse sense of Africa.
A heroic storyline
In an age where so many TV shows are pessimistic by nature, Shadow strives to be an uplifting show, appealing to a global audience that is universally frustrated by the many injustices in their lives.
While Shadow may not always follow the rules, his intentions are always pure. There is a strong moral undertone in the series.
Within the ambit of the overall genre, each episode of Shadow leans slightly towards a different sub-genre. One episode might feel like a traditional action-drama, while another a thriller. There are certain episodes that creep towards horror, while another places emphasis on humour.
This has been done intentionally to keep the show as fresh as possible and to guard against repetitiveness. The one common thread , however, is that most episodes engage the audience on an emotional level.
Film-style approach to a TV format
Despite being a TV series, Shadow has been written, shot and edited with a film-style mind-set. From the special effects to the grading to the inserts and cutaway shots to the visual storytelling philosophy and all the enhanced foley effects, every episode of Shadow has the look and feel of a film.
Gritty, artistically lit, expansive in its scope - this is an approach not normally employed by producers of African TV shows.
Local settings, international stories
While set and grounded in Africa, Shadow has an international feel and deals with issues and challenges facing most people around the world. Shadow has been created to appeal to a wide international audience, beyond Africa and the diaspora.
South Africa and Netflix: where to from here?
Netflix has bought the series from Motion Story Productions so it's an acquired series. They've also commissioned their first South African series called Queen Sono, which they'll be producing themselves. It stars Pearl Thusi and will be released later this year.
Keep a lookout in TVSA's daily round-up of New Shows and Seasons
where we'll remind you of Shadow on the day it debuts.