What the industry organisations have to say about the year ahead

Karen van Schalkwyk

With this year seeing South Africa host the biggest sporting event to take place on African soil, what are the opportunities for showcasing our talent and expertise in the audio-visual sector and has enough been done to capitalise on these opportunities? In Focus conferred with the organisations representing sectors of the industry for their viewpoints.

Kate Skinner of Support Public Broadcasting (SOS)
Donyale MacKrill of the Association of Film Industry Suppliers (AFIS) says they are excited about 2010. "I think the World Cup is going to be great. I'm proud that we have this opportunity and that our investment in the infrastructure required to host the World Cup will leave a legacy of improvement for decades to come. I also expect there to be an increase of work around the World Cup for companies in the broadcast sector.

"However, I do not believe that the public and private sectors were sufficiently coordinated to secure the significant work that was available to our industry for 2010. The opportunity has been lost between the political challenges that occurred at critical points in the run-up to the World Cup, insufficient public/private cooperation and poor communication with international broadcasters about what we have to offer."

Bobby Amm of the Commercial Producers Association (CPA) adds: "Over the last few months, there have been a significant number of commercials produced both for the local and international markets in anticipation of the World Cup, mainly by sponsors. We are anticipating that this will continue into 2010 but that production will drop off from April to July as it did in Germany in 2006. It will be difficult to shoot in and around our major film cities due to increased activity, limited resources, security restrictions and FIFA protocols."

Kate Skinner of Support Public Broadcasting (SOS) maintains that there will be ups and downs. "The World Cup is very heavily regulated so for all the live broadcasts there will be global television crews, suppliers etc. It will be difficult for South Africans to get a look in. However, for the 'hype', promotion etc around the event there will probably be more work. Hopefully there will be more documentaries on South Africa, tourism programmes and the like. There will be spin-off for South African crews, post production facilities and companies."

Basil Dube from the Soweto Performing Arts Centre (SPAC) believes that the World Cup presents a perfect opportunity. "All systems are in place and I think it will be a great event. We are collaborating with the Soweto Events and Festivals Consortium (SAFCON) to run events during the festival from film, theatre and dance. In May, for instance we will run the African Festival of the Arts (AFA) and this will showcase film, theatre and live performance talent and coincides with Africa Day on 25 May. FIFA is also organising a massive concert to take place in Soweto the day before kick off and we have been speaking to the South African organising committee on ways to get involved. The World Cup is a great opportunity for all."

Dube continues: "The other thing we are looking at is the FIFA International Media Centre which is being built near Nasrec and will be a gift to the City of Johannesburg after the World Cup. We are proposing to make this into a film city. This will be a fantastic legacy and can contribute to the growth of the industry."

Thandi Brewer of WGSA
Thandi Brewer of the Writers Guild of South Africa (WGSA) is slightly pessimistic about the World Cup. "Work for writers around the World Cup will be limited. Sadly I feel that 2010 isn't going to be that great a year for writers. The majority of our members earn their bread and butter from the SABC and it appears unlikely that commissioning is going to resume in the near future. This will also mean that writers need to take far more control of their work and be far more proactive about the business side of being a writer. We will be running a series of workshops from January on the business of being a writer and international agents will come out to discuss representation of work in the international arena."

Patrick Walton of the Official South African Casting Association (OSCASA) explains OSCASA's viewpoint: "The indication from commercial work production towards the end of 2009 is a positive indicator that we will see an increase in work. However, the effects of the World Cup are not truly defined and despite our continued efforts to engage with Government bodies and associations, we have been unable to get a discussion going which identifies the impact 2010 will have on our industry as a whole. Specifically, we are concerned with the closure of locations within the non-exclusion zone and the large number of artists who will be occupied as volunteers or part time staff for 2010 activity. We fear that production will shut down during this period."

Marc Schwinges of the Documentary Film Association (DFA) is positive. "I returned from IDFA co-production market at the end of 2009 in Amsterdam and there seemed to be much interest in South African documentaries to be broadcast around the time of the World Cup.

"There is thus a small brief immediate window of opportunity which we should use to make the world appreciate that we can deliver good films, good stories and great production value. The general message from the commissioning editors and distributors is that there will be great interest in films now and then there will be a saturation point. I think the challenge is to deliver films that create awareness that we can produce good documentaries so that into the future the world pays attention to films from South Africa. This has already happened with good producers like Don Edkins, Francois Verster and Dumisani Pakhati. The challenge will be to use the World Cup as a window to show that we can do it into the future and create a sustainable industry."

What are the objectives of these organisations now and beyond 2010?

MacKrill explains that AFIS was established to meet the needs and objectives of the suppliers to the content production industry. "Suppliers make up a vast majority of the film and television industry and crossover numerous other industries, yet they do not have one voice and unified platform from which to engage with their clients or Government. In terms of independent producers, we are developing a centralised fund to assist them financially through credit vouchers for the whole supply chain. I am also very optimistic about 2010 and the future of our industry."

Amm adds: "The CPA's main objective is to look after the interests of the commercials industry. We have recently finalised a lot of our long outstanding issues so in 2010 we hope to start focusing more on providing value for our members. We are going to take a stronger role in marketing our sector and offering additional value. We are looking at focusing on projects rather than issues. I think we will do well in 2010 and will continue to grow and develop."

Skinner says that SOS is there to lobby government and broadcasters. "I hope that there will be some spin-offs from the World Cup. Hopefully the SABC will start to function a bit more efficiently and effectively. I think the biggest challenge we face is ensuring that Government allows enough time for debate and discussion on the new Public Service Broadcast Bill. This is an absolutely critical piece of legislation. Its proposals are radical and if implemented will change the face of broadcasting in this county. As SOS: Supporting Public Broadcasting - previously Save our SABC - we have been calling for a proper policy review process. We need to look carefully and have these issues thoroughly debated. I look forward to 2010 but we cannot have certain situations that could undermine what we are trying to build up."

Brewer adds: "Our aim is to standardise industry contracts, protect our members IP and build on the work done in 2009. I think we have amazing talent and the writing has improved dramatically. I look forward to a productive 2010." Walton maintains. "OSCASA remains focused on negotiating equitable rights for our talent and agency owners represented in our sector. We also aim to educate our artistes on the rogue elements within our sector and effectively bring attention to illegal operations which are threatening the sustainability of our sector. We have renewed our membership with SASFED and opened dialogue with other Government bodies and associations. We look forward to an industry that can go from strength to strength."

Schwingers concludes: "We represent the interests of documentary filmmakers and are actively involved in the People to People documentary conference and the documentary competition, My Town for example. I think we can look forward to making better films and getting them out into the world at large. We need to look at distribution of our films as a priority. SABC has never, to my knowledge, made attempts to sell our content on. We must be proactive and I think then we can become the industry we are destined to be."