The Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA), which recently chose its first democratically elected council, is making progress in their quest to secure standard contracts and rates for writers in the film and television industry.
“We have a standard contract ready from the writers’ side, but it is up for negotiation with producers and broadcasters,’ says the guild’s Natasje van Niekerk.
According to the WGSA’s Thea Aboud, negotiations are going very well, with a meeting on this subject scheduled with the Independent Producers’ Organisation (IPO) at the beginning of June.
Among new initiatives, the WGSA is involved in the creation of MediaCamp, a social network for media professionals to improve networking and collaboration within the industry, which is currently being tested on WGSA members. (See May issue of Screen Africa.)
According to Harriet Meier, WGSA treasurer and editor of the WGSA Magazine, the WGSA also launched an electronic magazine (e-zine) recently, which is distributed by email to their members and a database of interested parties.
Other plans for the near future include Skills Lab – an extension of the regular WGSA workshops and knowledge exchange sessions. “It will give writers the opportunity to work with trainers in small groups or even one on one, if necessary,’ explains Meier.
The labs will include sessions for new writers or those writing in a language other than their mother tongue; skills enhancement for professional writers; and “Script Flip’- where writers can work on their scripts with either peer groups or a story editor in a “creatively safe’ environment.
“We are awaiting decisions from prominent funders so that we can make Skills Lab affordable for our writers – who already suffer due to the fact that they do not get paid jobs,’ says Aboud.
She adds that the non-commissioning of local content and the ongoing crisis at public broadcaster the SABC remains the biggest challenge facing writers and threatens to impact the sustainability of the industry.
“The SABC put out a request for proposals in November 2011, but over six months later no one has been called in to pitch their ideas. Writers are also being paid less and less for the little local content there is. The rates broadcasters offer in many cases is totally exploitative,’ says Aboud.
She adds that they are addressing the lack of local content through the South African Screen Federation (SASFED).