Along with the title of “South Africa’s next YouTube Sensation”, 36-year-old Graham, has won a trip to Hollywood and R250 000 in cash.
The Life and Investment broker and father of three from Hillcrest in Durban said he was delighted to have won. As a crusader for wildlife, it would help him get his conservation message out to a large audience.
The competition received 837 entries and saw #BTN register 63 000 users. 36 900 GB of data was redeemed by Cell C users during the competition, with the total YouTube views of all content appearing in the app reaching 477 000.
“South Africa has its own crop of social media celebs with a loyal local and international following,” said Doug Mattheus, executive head of marketing at Cell C. “From wildlife spectacles to rappers, South Africans have contributed a lot to the online sensation of YouTube. #BTN aims to change the face of reality shows, and ultimately bring South Africa to the forefront of social media enhancement.”
All Graham’s videos used wild animals and reptiles. He invited celebrities to star with the animals in his videos. In one of them, he persuaded Greg Minnaar, South African World Champion Mountain bike racer, to help him restrain a crocodile for a health check-up.
While he has been inspired by the late Australian wildlife personality Steve Irwin, his love of wildlife began early.
His father worked for nature conservation in Pietermaritzburg and, he says, from as young as 4, he used to catch water snakes and help relocate them with his dad. His passion for reptiles continues.
Having no YouTube channel has made no difference to Grahams video views. Viewers young and old have loved them.
Each week of the competition, Task Master Darren “Wackhead” Simpson gave the contestants a new task that had to be filmed.
Graham said his favourite week was filming the “cat” theme, in which he had to rescue a curious cat that happened upon a deadly black mamba in a horse stable.
“It was a difficult shoot because of the danger and the risks involved. But very worthwhile once it had been captured.”
He said it was a pleasure to work with his chosen celebrities, comedian Aaron McIlroy and Cell C Sharks rugby player Beast Mtawarira, who “were absolute troopers and got stuck into the task and the shoot”.
“The entire shoot with Aaron was a complete laugh from start to finish. He is, in my opinion, the funniest man in South Africa. For the rest, all the shoots – spitting Cobra, Black Mamba, Crocodiles – had moments that were pretty scary.”
Graham’s team is comprised of his wife Kirsty as the safety officer, Dusty Van Niekerk as first cameraman and editor, his wife Taniele as second cameraman, and Kevin Bender as still-shot photographer – all using iPhones to record.
His team extended to his network of friends and family who viewed and shared his videos.
On his award-winning trip to Hollywood in Los Angeles, Graham said he would like to meet directors whose specialty is the wildlife film industry. His R250 000 prize money will be spent, he says, “buying food for my snakes”.
Graham said he intended to expand on the exposure he has received from winning #BTN by launching a YouTube channel.
“I will continue to promote the message of conservation through my passion and love for animals,” he said. “We will continue to include celebrities in our videos as it has been incredible to watch them change their mindset about so-called dangerous animals. Because they have such a large audience, I hope that the celebrities will be able to help me get the message out to as wide an audience as possible.”
Other local celebrities used in videos across the competition included funny men Donovan Goliath and Joey Rasdien, local sports heroes Tera Mtembu from The Cell C Sharks and Wayne Parnell of the Proteas, as well as TV personalities Maps Maponyane and Pharoahfi.
One of the highlights of the Cell C #BTN weekly online show was the guest appearance of two inspiring young South African women who have made it in Hollywood.
Swimsuit model Genevieve Morton who, like the Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron, grew up in Benoni, has a massive social media profile with over 3-million Facebook “likes”.
Miss South Africa semi-finalist Cara Frew, from Johannesburg and now living in Los Angeles, is a singer who is making a name for herself in Hollywood, having signed to Sony Music Entertainment.
Both women attribute their success to the fact that they believed that anything was possible and that they could achieve their dreams if they put their minds to it.
* #BTN videos can be viewed via the Cell C Reality app and YouTube.