Behind the plotlines: Sipho Tshapu

2017-09-07 14:11

Johannesburg - Do you ever wonder who writes your favourite characters storyline? Who decided to kill off your favourite character? Well Sipho Xolisa Tshapu is one of those people who write your favourite shows decide what happens next.

Get to know this screenwriter who has written for Isidingo, a Mzansi Magic movie, 2020 and so many other shows.

What does your job involve exactly?

I am part of a writing room in various TV shows. That means that with other writers, we are in charge of creating storylines for whatever TV show we’re writing. Coming up with all the story beats, the twists and the turns and plots. Who marries who? Who divorces who and so on. So a bulk of my job means that I am thinking story and creating story, giving life to characters and entertaining the millions of audiences around the country.

Was writing something you always dreamt of growing up?

I’ve always wanted to be a story teller. Initially I wanted to be an actor and I was fortunate enough to find my way in a few sets and acting a few roles on stage and TV. But writing has always been passion of mine, or rather story telling. I recall as a child I used to tell stories to my peers and they’d get annoyed at times. I also used to know who to get out of trouble at home because I was very creative about things HAHAHA.

What did you study and how long did it take?

I hold a National Diploma in Journalism from the Tshwane University of Technology. I also did drama at the TUT Coffee theatre and TV production at TUT. 

When exactly did you start writing for TV shows?

After varsity I needed to get an internship and I struggled for a long time. In 2010 I received a non-paying internship at Isidingo and I became a pest to the producer Pumla Hopa and Grey Hofmeyr and then head writer Ilse van Hemert and they gave me a chance and I never looked back. I officially joined the Isidingo writing team in November 2010 at the same time I wrote a film for Mzansi Magic called 2020, produced by Keketso Semoko and the rest is history.

Who were you influences growing up or as a fledgling writer?

A lot of local writers paved the way for me and became quite an inspiration. People like Ilse van Hemert, Thomas Hall were the first writers I got to work with and I learnt a great deal from them about story and writing. I have also learnt a lot from Phathu Makwarela, whom I believe is great in his own right.

International writer Shonda Rhimes is my ultimate influence. I think she is brilliant and amazing. I want to be as amazing as she is one day and having my own great shows at her caliber. I want to work with her. I continue to learn from her and I’m currently taking her Master Class.

Does being a writer for TV shows affect how you watch other shows and does it make you critical of other storylines and scripts when you do watch other productions?

YES. A great deal. It is frustrating at times because all you want is to just sit at home and watch TV but you cannot help see things jar out from stories and you find yourself asking what happened in that writer’s room for this to end up on screen. But at times I’ve been able to watch shows for just enjoyment. Mostly with comedy.

What advice would you give to people who would also like to be writers like you?

Push and push until a door opens. Write and write every chance you get. There are no aspiring writers – if you are a writer then you are a writer, you just need to be an employed writer or part of a story room. Contact production houses and ask for test scripts and that is how you will find yourself in a story room.

Would you say your industry is lucrative one for aspiring writers?

Yes, at the age of 28 I have made a very lucrative career and I live quite a comfortable life. So there is a living to be made as a writer.

What would you say are the worst and best parts of your job?

Sleepless nights, writer’s block, getting a blank page and you have to fill it up with compelling storylines that will make the show gain viewers. If your story sucks, your show is in trouble. It is daily pressure and you are as good as your last storyline and script.

What is a storyline/script that you’d like to be a part of or that you’d like to write up?

I’d love to be a part of the SCANDAL (America) story team – I know it’s now done, but a show of such calibre, and of course any of Shonda’s writing rooms.

I would love to write a Winnie Mandela biopic I have been doing my research for two years now and I just need that meeting with Makhulu Winnie and her go ahead for such a masterpiece.

What are 3 of your favourite TV series or movies?

This Is Us.


The Devil Wears Prada

(Photo supplied)

Read more on:    soapies  |  isidingo  |  tv

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