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Brendan Gabriel appointed as VP of Creative and Production for The Africa Channel
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Mon, 07 Aug 2017 10:55
Brendan Gabriel

South African Brendan Gabriel, former head of Creative for Endemol Shine Africa – the largest independent content production company in Africa – has joined The Africa Channel (TAC) as vice president of Creative and Production.

No stranger to the industry, Gabriel has enjoyed a remarkable career thus far in both television and digital platforms across the African continent. After achieving his Bachelor of Arts in Media & Communications, Gabriel took a gap year to travel and as fate would have it, landed a job as a writer and producer of a kid’s radio show in Taiwan – and the rest (as they say) is history!

"After two years in Taiwan and travelling through Asia I decided to come back to get serious about my career – I really wanted to be a genius creative director of an advertising agency. I ended up coming back to Durban and working for African Mediums Advertising for two solid years as a Creative Strategist," he shares.

Thereafter, a then 27-year-old Gabriel worked as creative director at FinePoint Productions, an above the line Johannesburg-based agency which ultimately led to him joining Endemol Shine Africa: "My former senior producer, now at Endemol South Africa, had told them about me," he explains. "Endemol South Africa decided to take a calculated risk by hiring me – this young creative director from the TV commercial world. With that said, I took equally big a risk in jumping ship into an industry I knew very little about. In fact I didn’t know much about Endemol South Africa until I sat in their reception and realised that these guys were giants in the television content world," he expands.

"When I got the position as key creative I soon realised that I was working for the world leaders in television content development. Endemol was television – the definers of reality television, game shows and scripted content. I realised I wanted to be a part of this industry and most importantly I wanted to make an impact in the world of content."

In his time at Endemol, Gabriel pitched and realised his first original development ever commissioned Step Up or Step Out, which he cites as one of his career highlights: "I learned about going with gut feeling with this particular project – I knew it was going to be a success as dance and Africa are a match made in heaven. Though I never anticipated that it would out perform its competitors in the most coveted Sunday reality primetime slot. Ever since my break with Step Up or Step Out it’s just been success after success."

Today, Gabriel’s impressive portfolio of work includes both scripted and non-scripted production development, including award-winning dramas like Tempy Pushas on SABC1, the reality TV series Reality Check on e.tv, the local format adaptation Clash of the Choirs South Africa, to pan-African hit adaptations such as Big Brother Africa and Survivor South Africa.

Having enjoyed almost eight successful years at Endemol Shine Africa, Gabriel says that when the opportunity to join TAC came, he was itching for a new challenge. “It just so happened that I had a meeting with The Africa Channel at DISCOP Africa which turned out to be a discussion about our future collaboration together,” he explains. This discussion resulted in Gabriel’s current role as VP of Creative and Production for TAC.

In his new position he will be taking up a more executive role on the production and creative front: "I will still have my hands involved in the creative process however I will also delve more into the business strategy of The Africa Channel with particular focus on building TAC studios which is our production and creative development division."

The Los Angeles-based TAC Studios, launched at DISCOP Johannesburg last year, gives African producers that coveted Hollywood outlet "to realising local ideas on a global scale," says Gabriel. "My purpose is to constantly engage with local producers and talent with this mandate in mind. I do believe that the next big idea will come out of the developing world and the one thing that Africa really brings to the fore is our passion for creativity and the arts. Our oral history lineage makes us natural story tellers, our innate rhythm makes us born entertainers and our expansive biodiversity creates the ideal stage for untold stories."

Gabriel says that for him, the key to African producers unlocking international audiences is "thinking out the proverbial box". He explains: "One really has to think big. If you want to compete on the same level as the writers of Veep and the creators of Big Brother, then you have to start thinking like them. Far often we have restricted ourselves by conservative broadcasters and nervous commissioning editors who would much rather take a safe editorial approach to content. Now this doesn’t mean ideas need to be expensive and over the top because no one is just going to bet their money on an African producer with the next Jurassic Park idea. I’m particularly referencing creative development by writing characters that are different and that push your reader’s expectation. Our continent is thriving with inspiration and unimaginable possibilities."

Despite coming from a previously disadvantaged township, Gabriel says that he never limits himself in anything he does, and that is partially what he attributes his success to: "I never really saw myself as limited in opportunity. In fact I have always felt that I was given the upper hand by experiencing so many more textures of life in a working class household and community. Though I believe that the true key to my successes has been driven by my curiosity to discover more and this has in turn resulted in me discovering so much more about myself and my true potential,” he concludes.

- Chanelle Ellaya




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