WRITERS' GUILD NEWSLETTER
It’s been a while since I’ve last had the pleasure of sharing my thoughts with our membership, but with the year winding down and the loss of so many of our greats like Tata Madiba and writing guru Syd Field, it has become obvious that we have to take every opportunity to communicate.
“So, what happened to the magazine?” many of you have asked. Well, let’s say it’s gone on a sabbatical. Or rather, the people who gave their time and talent for free to produce the WGSA Magazine have found it necessary to earn a living for a change. Unless we actually charge for the mag, or find a gracious sponsor to provide at least a minimum wage for those who spend a good two weeks of every month creating the mag, for the time being it’s back to the newsletter we had two years ago. Our grateful thanks to all the people who contributed, from Kyle Stevenson to Thea Aboud, Liam J Stratton, Sean Bosse, Sam Phillips, Thinus Ferreira, Anonymous (and no, I’m still not going to tell you who it is) and all the photographers, council members and members who had their say on the WGSA Mag pages. And here’s to hoping that we will manage to resurrect it in due course.
In the meantime, the newsletter will inform members of urgent Guild news, and our regular contributors will find a new home next year on an interactive blog on our revamped and exciting new web page.
What’s happened with the Guild over the last couple of months?
Well, we attended countless meetings on Guild and membership related matters, we had 6 meetings with broadcasters, two meetings with government's Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and are still waiting on a further meeting with both the DAC and Department of Communication (DOC,) (which controls the public broadcaster). We worked hand in hand with the South African Screen Federation (SASFED) to lobby for better funding opportunities and to streamline the controls on what is classified as a “local” movie. We attended workshops on Intellectual Property (IP) and commented – in some cases quite strongly – on proposed changes in the IP and contract laws. We assisted 23 members with legal and contractual issues, collaborated with the IPO on new standard industry contracts and had face to face meetings with producers to ensure that residuals and royalties would be paid to the writers who did the work. This is an on-going matter which is still far from resolved.
In October, Thea and I headed off to the yearly AGM of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, which was this time held in Toronto, Canada. We spoke about the challenges which SA writers face, and they heard us - loud and clear. In fact, WGSA will collaborate with WGA West and individual show runners in Canada and the USA to bring a show runner training course to South Africa. We have also initialised the international side of a long distance training project, where our members will be able to attend workshops with some of the biggest names in the international writing community via the Ethernet or possibly even satellite, as well as still have “real” live workshops like our upcoming one with people like Andrew S. Walsh, one of the most experienced and exciting people in computer games development in the world. The next IAWG AGM will happen in Warsaw, Poland, next year, and will form part of an international writers’ festival. We are already working on the logistics and financing to take at least 5 deserving WGSA members with us to the festival.
Further, WGSA has been in constant communication with many of the local writer training facilities, and we are looking to jointly provide a full and on-going grassroots development and mentorship programme for up and coming screenwriters – and this time not just in the major centres, but in all corners of SA via long distance training. Eventually this training will be provided in a number of ethnic languages via our Train the Trainer project.
We have also teamed up with Audio Describe SA and Access Media Inc in Toronto, Canada, to train AD writers and roll out Audio Description for the visually impaired people of SA, enabling them to not only hear what others can see at museums and galleries, but also to bring theatre, sporting events and film and television to those who cannot see. The museum and gallery project is already underway in pilot phase in Durban, with other centres to follow soon.
Then, of course, the inaugural Muse Awards, an award specifically for writers by writers, was started by WGSA in August this year. With big name local and even international judges, this award promises to finally shine the spotlight on the so often ignored local performance writer. More on this later in the newsletter, and we hope to see you all at the awards ceremony in March next year.
And finally, our negotiations with government and the broadcasters have made it very clear that WGSA has to unionize if we want to force through legislation which is crucial to the growth of the South African performance writer. At this stage, negotiations with the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) and the Actors Guild (SAGA) are already underway to establish a “closed shop”, where all three organisations will only work with producers, writers and actors who are members of organised industry like the IPO, WGSA and SAGA, which will guarantee quality, professionalism and recourse for all. Please make sure that your membership is up to date and get all your colleagues to join, so that we can all be part of this ground-breaking occasion.
For now, the very best wishes for the holiday season from council and all of us here at WGSA. Be safe, be creative and be with those you love. And be there next year, which we know will be a huge one for the South African writer.
Much love and, as always, Unite to Write,
GUILD NEWS IN A NUTSHELL
Thanks to our WGSA MUSE AWARDS, the Guild has grown over the past couple of months to a nice 200, but we’re still not where we were last year this time. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all our new members and also remind all our other members that renewals for the 2014/2015 membership cycle are now open.
Since our last magazine we had some very interesting workshops in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Our next series of workshops will start in mid January 2014. As most of you know by now, we are bring Andrew S Walsh from the UK to South Africa – Cape Town and Johannesburg - in May 2014. Get your tickets now. More information available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over and above what Harriet mentioned earlier, over the last few months WGSA also attended the NFVF Film Indaba, where we lobbied for organised industry, and the DAC’s Copyright Act Review Committee, where we focused on obtaining rights for our writers and residuals from all users (that is all broadcasters, not just SABC).
While we were at the 3 day Conference of the International Association of Writers Guilds in Toronto, we subscribed to the following resolution on behalf of WGSA:
At the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds meeting in Toronto, Canada on October 3, 2013, the member guilds unanimously passed the following resolution:
The International Affiliation of Writers Guilds condemns all practices in which screenwriters around the globe are pressured, coerced, or otherwise impelled to provide free work, whether prior to engagement, or in excess of contractual provisions. This exploitation by producers and broadcasters undermines the writers’ right to fair payment for their creative labours.
Moved by Roger Williams, Chair, Writers Guild of Great Britain
Seconded by Lowell Peterson, Executive Director, Writers Guild of America East
BACK IN SOUTH AFRICA
On 1 November 2013 we had our annual year end function, mainly sponsored by our landlord, Steven White. Thanks, Steven, for making this such a memorable evening and feeding all the starving writers.
Our next big function is the WGSA MUSE AWARDS. At this point, we are in the first round judging process, where the nominees in the 6 categories will be selected. Our judges are:
Feature Film: Clive Morris, Helena Spring, Richard Nosworthy, Sam Shale, Thandi Brewer, Pulane Boesak
TV Drama: Ayanda Halimana, Larry Brody, Vanessa Jansen
TV Comedy: Dr. Eubulus Timothy, Sir Liam J Stratton, Marvin Mathibe
Documentary: David Forbes, Harriet Meier, Peter Michael Goldsmid
Stage Play: Clinton Marius, Julie Hall, Sam Phillips
Afrikaans Scripts: Harriet Meier, Leon van Nierop, Nicci Bothma
(The first round of adjudication will be concluded on 31 December 2013.)
Janet van Eeden
Larry Brody (International – USA)
Thomas McLaughlin (International – Ireland)
This round will conclude on 28 February and the winners will be announced during the WGSA MUSE AWARD
The Ceremony will take place on 15 March 2014. So get your fancy dresses and bow ties out, this is going to be a very “grand affair” – en soos ons in Afrikaans sê, gaan polish die skoene vir die grênd affêre!
I had some anxious enquiries about our website – why is it down?
The answer is: We are – at last - working on the development of a brand new site! Not just a little upgrade, but a full new cyberspace home for WGSA.
What you can expect from the website:
- All membership applications will be done online – even the payment of your annual fees. Your membership cycle will run from the date you make payment for 365 days.
- All events will be posted on the site, and you can make your bookings and payments online.
- An online script registry
- An online marketing site for writers – market your services and market your spec scripts online via the WGSA site
- Updates on all WGSA information and industry news
- Entries to the Annual WGSA Muse AWARDS and Great Idea Competition
- An interactive blog
- Writing tips and articles
- And much, much more...
When? We hope to launch in late January, but the official launch will coincide with the WGSA Muse Awards. We cannot party twice – so we have to do this all in one!
Please note that our offices will be closed from 13 December 2013 to 6 January 2014.
All the best for a very happy and peaceful festive season and may, 2014 bring you loads of work with loads of money!