Sunday, November 8, 2009

SASFED Submission to the Minister of Arts and Culture

Dear All

Below please find the submission drafted by SASFED for the Minister of Arts and Culture:

To view the minutes of the meeting held with the DAC Minister, click here.

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South African Screen Federation (SASFED) Submission

to the Honourable Minister of Arts and Culture:

Ms Lulu Xingwana MP

26 October 2009

Thank you for this opportunity to supplement the oral presentations made to the Minister on 12 October 2009 at the introductory meeting with the film and television production industry.

As a federation SASFED has encouraged its affiliates and industry associates to make independent submissions, some of which as per the listed below, accompany this submission for the Minister’s attention:

Writer’s Guild of South Africa
Fiona Tudor Price (Chair, Women in Film and Television)
John Stodel (Executive, Independent Producers’ Organisation)

As indicated at the meeting with the Minister, these representations are made in a context of industry depression. The immediate cause of this is the financial and management crisis of the public broadcaster, which is the mainstay of the independent production industry. However the current state of the industry results also from the general shortcoming to achieve a vaunted post-apartheid vision for a vibrant, sustainable industry, dynamic to its society and the world. The requirements that have been failed include:

due Intellectual Property ownership and copyright;
dynamic commissioning structures;
dynamic terms of trade;
conducive budget structures, including for development;
audience and platform growth and development;
effective training and development across the value chain;
an effective, policy and operationally growth-aligned public broadcaster;
accessible, policy and operationally growth-aligned commercial broadcasters.

In addition a number of industry gains that have been achieved over many years through toil and struggle have been eroded and/or are in danger of being lost. Among these are:

requisite local content levels;
independent commissioning;
integrity of the role of independent producers and content creators;
freedom of expression and diversity of voice;
co-productions and joint ventures by the public broadcaster;
the integrity of the public broadcaster.

Local industry growth and development since the early 1990s has been driven by local content regulation, independent commissioning, state funding and mechanisms of support, and policies of transformation that have benefited industry access, equity, and content and aesthetic development.

In this hour we call on the Department of Arts and Culture to rise to the defence of the industry and to forge renewed hope for its future.

Since the recognition of the economic value and role of the film and television industry, various other government departments, in line with national policy, have actively engaged programmes that support the industry. This is undoubtedly welcome and justified. However the arts and cultural imperatives that underpin film and television has taken somewhat of a back seat, making for a less well-rounded environment of support that in fact stymies the prospects for the industry at a very fundamental level.

SASFED is of the view that the industry’s commercial and economic prospects depend on its inherent cultural and artistic development. Related to this is a central question of how the industry and its growth path is conceived, based on a conception of South African society and its social trends.

SASFED therefore looks to the Department of Arts and Culture as the lead partner of the industry in government. We look to a department that profoundly appreciates the social and cultural role of film and television and of its practitioners in society; that is sensitive to and familiar with the industry’s workings, requirements and motives; and that uncompromisingly defends the historical gains of the industry and facilitates key requirements for its further growth and development, including especially the integrity and quality of product and the audiences for it.

With the advent of a new administration, many departmental initiatives, including by the Department of Communications, are being undertaken to refresh policies and programmes. It is imperative that the established outlooks and modus operandi of the industry form the frame of reference in the development of these, rather than be destabilised. SASFED therefore looks to the Department of Arts and Culture to lead in articulating the perspectives of the industry within government at this time.

To aid this process of partnership, SASFED reaffirms the proposal it made at the meeting with the Minister, and which the Minister welcomed, for regular scheduled meetings between the Department and industry representatives.

Among specific industry concerns that the Minister is at this time called on to address are:

The lack of measures to ensure the sustainability of the industry has a direct impact on jobs, including on a multiplier basis of industry supporting sectors.

Intellectual Property
DTI is required to urgently reform Copyright Act provisions that constrain the independent production industry.

The DTI’s rebate caps need revisiting to benefit smaller budget productions. Additional funding sources, with a diversity of mandates, too are critical to the development of a dynamic industry.

The up-take and performance of existing co-production treaties are required to be assessed and further ones developed.

Local content and ICASA
ICASA’s inability to monitor local content and its admission to industry representatives that it has not done so for the past seven years is of grave concern.

An evaluation is required of local content compliance and, of the regulations with a view to increasing requirements.

Strategies are required for audience and platform growth and development, including cinemas and exhibition centres in historically black townships.

Measures such as a levy on ticket prices, which was once an industry proposal, should be revisited and investigated as a measure to support local film.

In principle, SASFED believes there is a need for an industry market to cyclically stimulate the industry and facilitate its business and interests, including on a core basis of intra-industry collaborations. However the nature and orientation of such a market requires assessment on the basis of past experience.

Education, training and development
The industry is concerned about a mooted National Film School. The time for this seems past, being emblematic of the unfulfilled opportunities post-apartheid to timely develop the industry.

At this time the industry instead calls for support for existing film schools, including of their rural outreach capacities, and for support for the development of training capacity in rural regions of the country.

Training is required across the value chain, including especially of black practitioners as editors, sound engineers and in technical fields. Producer development is also required in the areas of business and project management, creative story development, finance, fundraising and distribution.

Training outcomes are required to focus on quality rather than only on quantity, and attention should be given to training for digital and converged media.

The NQF and Seta systems are lacking in that they do not quantify experience or creative ability. A grading system is required that recognises the worth of creative collaborations involving experience and ability.

The Seta database of trained persons is also largely unknown and requires updating to a national resource so skills may be progressed upwards.

The industry is particularly aggrieved by the dysfunctionality of the MAPPP-Seta, to the point of wishing to leave it.

Among support measures for training, SASFED calls for consideration of:

SABC, NFVF and commercial broadcaster production budgets to include line items for trainees;
the DTI Rebate scheme ring fencing a percentage for training;
the reinstitution of a mechanism for foreign producers to explicitly contribute to on-the-job training of local practitioners, particularly in light of the rebate and co-production incentives for foreign filmmakers.

Freelancers and livelihood security
Freelancers are a predominant component of the independent industry. Among the lack of provision is:

the ability to claim UIF that is paid for;
the absence of benefits such as pension provision, medial aid and the like. This is a general condition afflicting the small, self-employed entities that make up the industry;
inadequate compliance with the issuing of IRP-5s, resulting in freelancers being taxed twice.

Amendments to the Section 24F tax deduction facility for film investors are also required to enable this finance tool to operate effectively. The inability of the industry to use 24F in its present form adversely affects crew, cast and ancillary services as much as it does producers.

Policies of transformation related to access, equity and diversity have undoubtedly been a driver of industry growth and development, including in content and aesthetic development. Continued transformation, including particularly of the commercial broadcasters, is necessary. Transformation however should not be reduced to a simple question of racial demographics and, the principle of non-racialism should be upheld.
Women in particular are in need of much better representation in positions of seniority and, at a craft level - including as producers, directors and camera and sound personnel.

SASFED is concerned to ensure better consultation by and accountability of the NFVF to the independent production industry, so as to enhance partnership and the role of industry representative organisations.

SASFED is also concerned about the NFVF ‘s commercial criteria (and equity structures) for production funding. This replicates other commercial financing mechanisms and undermines the social, cultural and artistic responsibility of the NFVF in the development of South African film.

The financial and operational capacity of the NFVF also needs improvement to support its core mission of production support and, to better balance with its administrative and other non-core costs.

Industry organisation support
Industry representative organisations, reliant on working practitioners with livelihood commitments, have historically been unable to effectively fulfil their roles because of a lack of dedicated administrative and operational resources.

SASFED calls on DAC to support industry organisations like SASFED to effectively fulfil their mission as stakeholder partners in the development of the industry.

Such support should also be envisaged to capacitate the service and professional trade association roles of industry organisations, including such as legal advice.