media update’s Nicole van Wyk explores how the entertainment industry can ensure that fair practices are put in place to protect current and upcoming practitioners.

The #OpenUpTheIndustry hashtag, which started trending on Twitter in 2016, aimed to create awareness around the issue of accessibility in the entertainment industry. Accessibility is an issue for many people who hope to enter the industry but lack resources or the necessary connections — connections grant opportunities that could catapult their careers in a promising direction.

A breakdown of the #OpenUpTheIndustry debate

The conversation surrounding the #OpenUpTheIndustry debate sparked questions about the extent of fairness and accessibility in the industry as a whole. There is a clear divide between those who feel that everyone should be given a platform to exhibit their talents and those who are of the opinion that those platforms should be self-proposed and created.

Aside from a lack of resources, the issue with leaving young hopefuls to their own devices is that they lack the guidance of someone more experienced in their field. Opening up the industry would solve this problem as it creates room for mentorship.

Mentorship is a way to safeguard the bona fide industry tips and tricks while incorporating fresh perspectives and creativity. Perhaps we should view this debate in this light: greatness is found where legends and newcomers’ paths diverge.  

Opening the proverbial doors of the industry, it seems, is not so much about kicking out the old and replacing it with the new but rather making space for everyone — legends and newbies alike.

 “Opening up the industry creates room for mentorship.”

Is it entitlement, or simply a plea for help?

You may be wondering where we draw the line between a sense of entitlement from newcomers and their plea for help — and simply put, the line is bold. Here’s why:

Newcomers are not putting forward demands. They’re reaching out to industry gatekeepers and asking for a fair shot at the opportunities presented to their more established counterparts. If they are granted these opportunities, it becomes easier for them to hone their craft and build a repertoire.

Many established artists may view the opening of the industry as a threat to current jobs and positions. However, this is not always the case.

A key component of getting ahead in the entertainment industry is networking. Networking is almost always the go-to option that predecessors propose to newcomers. It’s worth noting that having a contact who has helped you along doesn’t invalidate the trials and tribulations you have had to overcome to get to where you are.
“Newcomers are … asking for a fair shot at the opportunities presented to their more established counterparts.”
If more industry icons admitted to being on the receiving end of some career assistance, it would make for more honest conversation surrounding the #OpenUpTheIndustry topic. You don’t have to fear being labelled a hypocrite just because you asked for help along the way.  

Reaching out for help doesn’t make anyone less of an artist. Newbies who approach members of the industry for help should be viewed as people who are passionate and serious about making a positive contribution to the industry.

The way forward

Anger in this debate seems to be misdirected. If anything, it would appear that newcomers are asking those who are established in the industry to join their plight as opposed to fighting against them.

The real industry gatekeepers are media owners. Media owners should be challenged to hire — and be less wary of working with — new people in the industry. The hierarchy that has been created needs to be dismantled in order to create even ground.

Where to from here?

The #OpenUpTheIndustry narrative will only change when the government puts legislature in place that will aim to protect current key players in the industry, while making space for up and coming artists, ensuring they are granted fair opportunities.

Who is really in possession of the entertainment industry door keys? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.

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*Image courtesy of Vecteezy