SAGA hosts a high-level International delegation keeping actors ‘plugged-in’ to global developments in the entertainment industry.
The South African Guild of Actors is preparing to host a series of conferences in both Johannesburg and Cape Town next week, aimed at strengthening actors’ rights to decent working conditions and fair compensation. SAGA says it’s fortunate to enjoy the unreserved support of influential players around the world, as they strive towards establishing international best practices within their own industry.
Since 2012, the Guild has been a full member of the International Federation of Actors (FIA), and Executive members Jack Devnarain and Carlynn de Waal-Smith have recently returned from the 21st Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil. FIA is a global federation of performers’ trade unions, guilds and professional associations, representing several hundred thousand performers with some 90 member organisations in more than 60 countries around the world. Through FIA, SAGA enjoys direct access to sister organisations, such as Canada’s ACTRA, British Equity, SLC in Italy and Germany’s GDBA & BFFS. Since South Africa has entered into co-production treaties with each of these territories, SAGA argues that it’s vital for the various actors’ representative bodies to coordinate their efforts. FIA President Ferne Downey agrees.
“As producers consolidate their power – becoming large, vertically integrated corporations with ever-greater international reach – professional performers must build even stronger international solidarity and work towards global agreements to protect performers’ rights. We must fight to ensure every performer gets the benefit of a union contract, a safe work environment, and a fair share of the revenue that is generated from the exploitation of their work in all media”.
For the third year running, FIA will sponsor conferences in Johannesburg and Cape Town, where SAGA will host FIA affiliates who will share knowledge and help build capacity. The Guild says previous conferences have been fruitful; FIA made a significant contribution to the drafting of SAGA’s submissions to the Department of Trade and Industry, proposing crucial adjustments to the outmoded Copyright Act and Performers Protection Act, which date back to 1978 and 1967 respectively. Parliament will consider the relevant amendment bills in the coming months.
SAGA Chair Jack Devnarain contends that the proposed revisions are exactly the kind of reform actors need to bring the local performance industry in line with international standards: “We want actors to own rights to their image and earn a residual income from the exploitation of their audiovisual performances.” Devnarain is confident that these rights are now realistic possibilities. “We are privileged to represent the actor’s voice in the DTI’s Technical Working Group, and with guidance from FIA, we can put actor’s rights at the very heart of the performance industry”.
The Guild recognises that a disproportionate number of supporting cast continues to be recruited in the US, England and Australia before an international project even lands on our shores, while at the same time local actors relocate abroad with the hope of getting their foot in the door. SAGA Secretary Carlynn de Waal-Smith points out that the advent of global connectivity comes with innovative mechanisms for promoting talent more widely. “It’s time to brush-up our approach,” she says.
This year’s FIA conference includes special sessions with actors’ agents in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, providing an opportunity for open discussion around the standard practice of agents internationally. Devnarain is adamant: “As much as South African actors need industry reform, we can’t do it alone. We rely on our agents to help us find international exposure so we need to include them in discussions about global industry practice”.
Other items on the agenda include a look at “Disability in the Entertainment Industry”; an examination of “Discrimination Policy and Practice”, including LGBT issues and questions of sexual harassment. Contractual matters and concerns with outbound international touring theatre productions and inbound film projects will get an airing, as will the bread-and-butter business of television commercials and language dubbing.
The conferences run from 24 to 28 October: In Cape Town on Monday and Tuesday at the Pepper Club on the corner of Loop and Pepper streets; and in Johannesburg on Thursday and Friday at the Little Tuscany Boutique Hotel in Queens Road, Bryanston.