The South African Guild of Actors in excited to be hosting 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 is of course fortunate to have the unreserved support of influential players around the world, as we strive towards establishing international best practices within our own industry.
Since 2012, the Guild has been a full member of the International Federation of Actors (FIA), with our Chair (Jack Devnarain) and Secretary (Carlynn de Waal-Smith) recently having returned from the 21st Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
As many may know, 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, it’s vital that the various actors’ representative bodies 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 in a row, FIA will sponsor conferences in Johannesburg and Cape Town, where SAGA will host our global counterparts, sharing knowledge and building capacity. Previous conferences have been fruitful; for example, FIA made significant contributions to the drafting of SAGA’s submissions to the Department of Trade and Industry regarding revisions to the Copyright Act and the Performers Protection Act.
Incidentally, so impressed were the DTI with the Guild’s submission that they sent a delegation to last year’s SAGA/FIA conferences to learn more about our industry. Subsequently they invited SAGA to sit on a select Technical Working Group concerned with amending the outdated pieces of legislation which are currently in the process of being tabled in parliament. Actors can look forward to their share of revenue generated as their body of work is commercially exploited on the various platforms and markets that continue to find audiences.
SAGA is concerned at the disproportionate number of supporting cast that 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 are relocating abroad with the hope of getting their foot in the door. This is happening at a time when global connectivity is offering innovative mechanisms for promoting talent more widely. Surely it’s time to brush-up our approach?
To this end, the latest iteration of the FIA conference includes special sessions with actors’ agents in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, an opportunity for open discussion around the standard practice of agents internationally. As South African agents align with universal industry practice, it is hoped their clients (that’s us actors) may see a more equitable slice of the global action.
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 the 24th to the 28th 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.