It is critical to make sure that talent in the film and television sector is promoted and protected. There are challenges that this sector faces, for instance the new SARS tax requirement, foreign actors playing leads, fees and a host of other issues.

Bobby Amm of the Commercials Producers Association (CPA) says there are a variety of factors influencing the industry. "This includes the international recession, the SABC crisis, the strong rand and the decline in service work this season. The challenge from the producer's perspective is to convince talent (and their agents) that a solution to these problems is not to push up rates or to become inflexible."

Patrick Walton of the Official South African Casting Association (OSCASA) adds: "There are concerns that a number of policies are adversely affecting our ability to remain cost effective. Introducing new mandatory requirements by SARS, for example, will increase the cost of doing business for our industry. The industry is fragmented as representative associations continue to find difficulty in understanding the respective issues each segment faces. There is a strong requirement for more open dialogue and communication between the associations."

Martin Cuff of The Collective, a new location and talent agency, comments: "The industry is not dying. Production will continue to hire thousands of characters, models and extras each year. It is up to the agencies to decide whether they will supply. With regard to SARS, every worker in South Africa earning a certain amount (R165 per day), requires a tax reference number. If this means that the industry professionalises and moves away from cash in hand, then we support it. The current proposed rates of 'fair payment' for characters/extras per day, is significantly higher than the national wages. These rates are set by character agents and not producers."

Asked whether it is right to complain about foreign actors playing South African leads, Amm responds: "No, it's shortsighted and does not take the realities of filmmaking into consideration."

Walton elaborates: "We think the question is more suited to a producer with inroads into finance deals. It is also great exposure to our industry when a name is used. It would be good to see larger supporting roles offered to local talent."

Regarding the SARS issue, Amm replies: "SARS has issued a new requirement for IRP 5's for the forthcoming year. It's now mandatory for production companies to include certain details, including tax numbers, on IRP 5's. If they do not they could be liable to pay hefty penalties. The solution is for everyone who works in the industry to register as a taxpayer which is relatively simple to do. The majority of PAYE issues have been resolved over the last five years. The problem comes in where people try to implement 'creative accounting' to reduce or avoid paying tax thereby placing production companies at increased risk. Industry freelances have a relatively good deal when it comes to tax."

Walton explains: "The use of non-standard employment and the payment of PAYE thereon, means that the Tax Act requires employees below the threshold to register for tax as of 1 March 2010. No public announcement or consultation on this has been entered into, leaving agents three months to attempt to get over 50 000 artistes registered. A recent survey of agents indicates only around 11% of the artistes have tax numbers. The interim solution is for SARS to grant the industry an extension of the deadline. The long term solution is to allow daily tax tables within the industry for non standard employment."

Cuff maintains: "According to the UNISA report, the average national income in South African households is R334 000 pa. Children working in the stills sector earn a proposed day rate of R3720 + VAT. In other words, in seven days, a child can earn what a graduate earns in a month. I think that given the global economic crisis, we need to be far more competitive, these questions need to be asked."

Amm says that talent is a vital part of the industry. "Without actors, models, characters and extras, commercials and films could not be made. Talent will always be required but I think it is important for artists to inform themselves on issues and make the choices that are right for them. Although it may be tempting to draw up rules and regulations to professionalise the industry, we must not lost sight of the fact that this is a highly creative and demanding industry which does not fit well into too much structure. Supply and demand are the key fundamentals of a workable economy."

Walton concludes: "OSCASA remains focused on negotiating equitable rights for talent and agency owners represented in our sector. We also aim to educate our artistes on rogue operators. Increased focus on the factors affecting the 27% decrease in the talent pool over the past year will also be addressed with our suppliers and related governing bodies. To this end, OSCASA has renewed it membership with SASFED and opened dialogue with other governing bodies and associations."