Photographers in Cape Town are protesting against the City’s new photographic and film permit policies which they believe are “unworkable’ and put the livelihood of freelance photographers at risk.
The Cape Town Professional Photographers Association (CTPPA) was formed in February this year after photographer Robert Miller contacted City officials to voice his concerns, and was told that they would only engage with representative bodies and not individuals.
Miller notes that the CTPPA currently has close to 300 members, including a mix of freelance commercial photographers, fashion, landscape and wedding photographers, as well as hobbyists.
He explains that their problems with the new system stem from the way the City of Cape Town authorities are choosing to implement By-Law No. 30441, which addresses film permits. While the law is aimed at minimising the impact of big commercial shoots, Miller says there are no guidelines in place to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial shoots.
“The City claims that only commercial shoots need to be permitted and that non-commercial shoots or tourists don’t need permits. However the by-law does not allow them to make this distinction. We have numerous examples to prove that the City is in fact targeting all shoots, commercial and non-commercial.’
According to Miller the CTPPA believes the City has no real understanding of the small size and minimal impact of a typical freelance shoot, and that officials seem to use the level of gear being used as the guideline to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial shoots.
“I have personally been asked to leave Clifton Beach when shooting a panoramic vista alone on a rock because my gear was obviously “professional’, and was also asked to leave beaches on two occasions during non-commercial shoots because I had a single battery powered light with me. At the same time two other shoots using only reflectors were also chased off the beach. This was at 7am when we were the only people on the beach. We have heard others complaining about similar incidents through various forums.’
Miller notes that the nature of their business requires photographers to be very fluid and flexible with regard to last minute shoots and location changes.
“A case in point — I have just been asked to shoot for a client this evening. With the current permit system it takes up to 48 hours to get a permit issued and once issued you cannot change location.
“It also means that effectively we can only apply for permits from Monday to Wednesday and weekend shoots that get planned on Thursday or Friday can’t happen. This could force many of the City’s freelance photographers out of business.’
Instead of the current system they propose a one year open location permit for freelance photographers. “We are happy to give full permit shoots preference as long as the City publishes the information about these on a website prior to the shoots so that we know which areas are off-limits,’ he stresses.
According to Miller they are also concerned about the online permit booking system, which they believe was designed primarily in consultation with production companies.
“The whole system is based around the booking and securing of entire locations. This is not what we need in most cases – we just need a small section of a location for a short period of time, and we need flexibility and fast turnaround that the current system cannot offer.
“Another area of great concern for us is that the system requires you to register as both a user and a “production company’. If you register as a user, the system informs you that you will be assigned to a production company. We question why we cannot just register as freelancers and why the whole system is built around the concept of production companies being issued with all shoot permits. We believe that the system is unworkable in its current form.’
He notes that they started a discussion with a City representative, but were referred back to the permit office, which has so far failed to respond to them. They are also waiting for a promised response from Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille.
However, according to Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Councillor Grant Pascoe, the City has met with Miller on two previous occasions and the current issue has been up for debate before. “There was an appearance on Cape Talk, where the City’s executive director: Tourism, Events and Marketing, Anton Groenewald, met with Mr Miller and the issue was seemingly resolved,’ says Pascoe. “However, the City will consider all input aimed at facilitating film permitting in Cape Town and ensuring the integrity of the system,’ he adds.
They believe the film permit policy is being misinterpreted or misunderstood. “It is designed to protect production companies that are registered with the City for film permitting,’ says Pascoe. “The policies in place legitimise permits and streamline the system – if a freelancer is acting on behalf of a service provider, the actual client must provide confirmation that the freelancer is doing so legitimately. This is to protect both the City and the service provider and also to avoid misrepresentation by parties.’
As protest against the City’s policies, the CTPPA has asked members to submit photographs of themselves holding a message asking the mayor and City officials to stop ignoring the issues that threaten their livelihood.
The CTPPA has also joined the Cape Film Commission (CFC), which has offered to assist in managing a “workable’ freelance permit system that they have proposed to the City. “Most importantly, the CFC shares our belief that the City cannot in future adopt policy or implement systems without ensuring that the entire industry has been consulted,’ concludes Miller.
By Linda Loubser
Screen Africa magazine – June 2012