Writing for a show like Skeem Saam is a collaborative effort, which can also be a daunting task. This week, we spoke to one of our amazing writers, Chisanga Kabinga about her journey to being one of the show’s writers.
How did you get to be a writer?
I think my earliest memory was being a voracious reader, even before I started grade 1. Then my cousin and I, who were good sketch artists, would re-draw Archie and Veronica comics and write our own versions of the stories/thought bubbles. It was our way of escaping, and telling our own stories. We didn’t think that we were writers, we just did what we thought was fun.
Do you think there’s anything in your childhood that prepared you/steered you into being a writer?
We lived in a home where my father loved words, read a lot, and we later discovered, had been a speechwriter, so working with words was always encouraged. Also, when things were hectic for me as a child, I escaped into my own world and my own mind, and I turned into quite a dreamy child. I still am to this day. Writing, or having a fertile imagination, allows you to create worlds pf your own, and it is a great escape. I do think that it was part nature, and part nurture. My father was a writer, so I think part of it was inherited, and part of it was circumstance. Even when writing was not encouraged formally in school, the interest was always there, and I would always write stories for myself, or help create plays in high school.
What’s a normal day like for you?
Normal is a nebulous word for me. No two days of mine are ever the same. My life is basically structured around which deadline is looming. So sometimes, if I work late – into the early hours of the morning – then I might sleep in. If there is a deadline that day, then little sleep will be had. I do most of my work at home, so the plus side of that is that I work in my pyjamas a whole lot. I don’t have to worry about looking cute because I am not going anywhere or impressing anybody.
Favourite Skeem Saam storyline
There have been a few, but I must go with the big original one, where the boys stole the car and tan over and killed Ben Kunutu in a hit and run.
Favourite Skeem Saam character? Why?
That’s a hard one. I enjoy the boys’ friendship. I generally love characters that are a bit on the ‘bad’ side. Rule breakers. So I relish writing for Leeto, even Kamo. Wallet is fun in how random he is. Kat is also a sweetheart.
What do you think makes Skeem Saam special?
it has slice of life type stories that resonate well with the public. Skeem’s winning formula lies in the fact that it stays quite faithful to the setting. It’s a Limpopo based show, and people love that it is innately, primarily and unapologetically Pedi.
Which other shows have you worked on?
I have been writing professionally for over 10 years, so there have been quite a few. Generations, back in the day – I started there as an intern. Soul City, Muvhango, Tsha Tsha, Hard Copy, Fourplay (Sex Tips For Girls), A Place Called Home, Intersexions 1, Zabalaza, etc.
How can one be a great writer?
Different things work for different people. You have to have a good grasp of your language of choice. and also just writing talent, but I think you develop it in different ways. Some people go to school for it, but you don’t necessarily have to. I am self-taught, so I make it my business to read about craft as much as possible. I think good writers are students of human nature. Unless they write about animals or are technical writers. In a broader sense, know the subject you are writing about intimately. My interest is people, so I spend a lot of time observing how people interact, react, behave, speak, etc. I could watch people all day. Given the chance, I would probably study psychology, because people interest me that much.
What are the challenges that comes with being a writer?
Being a writer can be quite a solitary profession. It’s you, your words, your computer. Unless you do technical writing, the kind of writing that I do requires emotional engagement, and that can be quite taxing. Being creative on demand can also be a challenge, but for the most part, though, it is an immensely rewarding job, one that I will always do, in some form or other.