After many years in isolation, local actors can look forward to global assistance when it comes to protection of artists’ rights, procuring equitable deals on international productions, and the use of their images abroad.
South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) board member, Carlynn de Waal-Smit represented the Guild at the 20th congress of the International Federation of Actors (FIA) held in Toronto in November 2012 and was assured of full support in, among other things, our on-going battle to get equitable deals for local actors working on international productions.
“Many overseas companies use South African locations because it is much cheaper to film here - not only is the weather great, but local actors can be hired for a fraction of what they would cost in, say, USA or Europe. The down side of this, is that our performers are often exploited badly, given sub-standard accommodation and per-diems, and are left with little recourse to claiming residuals or repeat broadcast fees. A notable exception was the production of 'Invictus', which gave local actors the same daily expense allowance and hotel accommodation as the leading international players”, she said.
One of the main talking points at the FIA congress was the signing of the Beijing Treaty on Audio-visual Performances, which was adopted consensually by the Member States present at the WIPO Diplomatic Conference in Beijing in June 2012.
For the first time in history, and at an international level, audio-visual performers have been granted meaningful worldwide economic and moral rights.
Members of FIA, from all parts of the globe, have indicated their full support and willingness to work closely with SAGA in drawing up internationally acceptable contracts. They will also provide advice and support as SAGA lobbies to revise local legislation. The SA Performers Protection Act of 1967, for example, is hopelessly outdated, sidelining freelance actors while catering mainly for musicians and the broadcast of their work. The FIA Congress further resolved to work toward assuring performing artists of access to social protection and decent working conditions. “In South Africa, we don’t get much social protection besides UIF, which we can’t claim from anyway”, said Carlynn. As Independent Contractors, freelance actors are denied access to those safety-nets afforded full-time employees: Unemployment Insurance and Workman’s Compensation.
There is a lot of work to do, but knowing the international acting community is with us, will help spur us on in the never-ending battle for the respect and compensation our members deserve. While we don’t necessarily expect local actors to be paid the same as international stars, there is much room for improvement. There is a definite need for a remuneration structure that ensures our actors are paid decently without undermining the attraction of South Africa as a filming location.