IPO statement on COVID-19

The Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) executive committee recently issued a statement with regards to COVID-19 and current developments within the industry as a result. The IPO wants to ensure the industry that they are working collectively with industry stakeholders during this time, and are mindful of the impact this is having on the film and television business, crew, cast and suppliers.

“Many of our members are battling to formulate the right action with regards to projects already in production or about to start production. We are all mindful of the fact that we are potentially putting a large amount of people at risk by continuing to shoot, and that we might participate in the exacerbation of this national and worldwide health disaster by not containing the spread of the virus. At the same time, we, as producers, are responsible for the jobs of thousands of our freelance cast and crew, and are also very mindful of the economic implications of suspending or cancelling a shoot,” said the committee in a statement, addressed to IPO members and colleagues.

“In addition, in the vast majority of cases, legal liability would ordinarily rest with the producer. We are therefore the ones bearing the brunt of the risks – financial and otherwise – if we continue with a film or TV shoot in order to honour our commitments to broadcasters/ clients despite the current pandemic, or if we suspend it to protect the lives of our people and find ourselves in breach of our contractual obligations. We are therefore caught between a rock and a very hard place.”

“Since the President declared a National Disaster, we have engaged with broadcasters to obtain guidance from them, since in most local productions we are dealing with commissions where they ultimately have the final word on anything we do, but so far they have not come back with a clear policy. It seems some of them are actually keen to hear from us, the IPO, on how we, as an industry should deal with the current crisis with calmness, clarity, unity and responsibility.”

“Heeding our President’s call to do everything in our power to stop this pandemic and save lives, acknowledging what the rest of the world is doing and the ensuing suspensions of all foreign productions in the country, the IPO ExCo has decided to recommend that all our members suspend their ongoing production or delay any imminent production, and inform and consult with their lawyers, their channel CEs and Business Affairs as to the best way of implementing their decision. Action is required TODAY to reduce the exponential risk in virus spread,” the statement continued.

“We have also decided to write an urgent memorandum to all the broadcasters, as well as the department of health and the presidency to outline the specific challenges faced by our industry and to call for an urgent all industry response. All broadcasters have the same anxiety. This is that they won’t have enough material or new material to show and this would cause them a drop in ratings and consequent financial harm. But we believe the industry needs help to do the right thing, to protect the cast and crew’s health, their loved ones and minimise the impact on their financial wellbeing. We will recommend that broadcasters must take responsibility for cushioning some of the economic impact by providing support on halted productions to cast and crew during this unprecedented crisis.”

“We are immediately calling for urgent meetings (telephonically or video conference) with all stakeholders, including SABC, eTV, Multichoice, other broadcasters and platforms, as well as NFVF, DTI, IDC, DAC, etc. to coordinate our actions, with the aims of limiting the immediate impact of this crisis, and allowing our industry to come back stronger when this national crisis is over.”

The IPO will also reach out to the relevant Minister in the National Command Council that was created by the President, and ask for urgent and meaningful support measures to soften the huge blow that the screen industry is about to receive. “We are in the process of reviewing terms of trade, standard commissioning and co-production agreements (incl. force majeure and insurance clauses), as well as our agreements with the various guilds, and will share with you our findings as we go. We are also taking steps to secure the pro bono services of labour and entertainment lawyers to assist our members as they have to face these huge and never-seen-before challenges,” said the committee in conclusion.

Please contact the IPO if you have any questions or matters you wish to discuss with the executive committee at ipoexco@ipo.org.za