Monday, March 4, 2019

Writers' Guild of South Africa (WGSA) plans to join boycott of the South African Film and Television Awards after the NFVF's shocking move to shift all writing categories to the non-televised 'technical' awards division.

Following apparently disgraceful treatment, South Africa's Writers' Guild of South Africa (WGSA) is planning to join the growing number of producers and production companies already boycotting the badly-organised South African Film and Television Awards after the shocking decision from the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) to suddenly move all writing categories to the so-called "technical" awards division.

Funded by the department of arts and culture, the NFVF with acting CEO Shadrack Bokaba, responsible for organising the South African Film and Television Awards abruptly decided to dump all writing categories from the so-called "main" awards ceremony that is broadcast on television, to the "secondary" technical awards ceremony.

In the past the technical awards took place 2-days earlier, is never televised nor streamed and can't be watched by the public or the industry. This year the NFVF decided to suddenly move it to the Saturday morning at 10:00 on the same day of the main televised Saftas awards that was broadcast on SABC2 on Saturday night.

Besides the writing categories being moved to the technical awards on Saturday moring, numerous upset and angry South African producers said that they were not told nor informed by the NFVF or Safta organisers that their category was suddenly moved from the main awards ceremony at Sun City to the "technical" awards, and also saying that their category has nothing to do with being "technical".

"Our company had 3 nominations but was not informed that our categories would be on at 10:00 even though nominations were not for technical awards but for non-scripted. A shambles," said one.

By Monday evening Shadrack Bokaba, NFVF communications coordinator Neo Moretlwe and the Instinctif PR agency paid to communicate with the media about the Saftas, failed to respond to questions in a media enquiry, made multiple times since Saturday afternoon to the NFVF, seeking comment, answers and an explanation for what is going on and why the decision was made to move writing categories to the Saftas technical awards.

On Monday afternoon at 12:00 Tshene Wedi, senior consultant at Instinctif, told TVwithThinus in an emailed response that "we are just getting confirmation from the NFVF and will revert with feedback shortly".

On Saturday Dr Eubulus Timothy, vice chairperson of the Writers' Guild of South Africa (WGSA), was in Sun City where the NFVF told him at a networking meeting - despite his strongest objections - that all writing awards are being moved to the non-broadcasting technical awards part of the Saftas.

"Writing is a creative genre and not a technical one. We don't operate cameras, build and dress sets or do hair and make-up. We create story, which becomes the basis of the work for all our esteemed colleagues," says Harriet Meier, chairperson of the WGSA council.

"We've had this fight before with NFVF, and to now see how writers are once again denigrated and belittled is the straw that breaks the camel's back."

"Without the writer - the story - there would be no film and TV industry and no need for a NFVF."

"There would be nothing for actors to act in, producers to produce or audience to watch. So we are not important enough to warrant some recognition and respect?"

Several production companies are part of a growing list of professionals working in South Africa's TV and film industry who are fed-up with the NFVF and the allegedly non-transparent, amateurish and hopscotch way the Saftas are organised and run, and are actively boycotting it.

Meanwhile Safta organisers admit that they've done nothing the past year to specifically reach out to upset producers and have meetings, listening or mediation sessions.

Generations on SABC1 produced by Mfundi Vundla's Morula Pictures, Muvhango on SABC2 produced by Duma Ndlovu's Word of Mouth Productions, and 7de Laan on SABC2 produced by Danie Odendaal Productions all deliberately snubbed the NFVF and the 13th Saftas again and refused to enter.

Also joining them is Ferguson Films producing shows like The Queen and The Throne on M-Net's Mzansi Magic (DStv 161).

Luring millions of viewers daily, combined, on SABC1, SABC2 and Mzansi Magic on MultiChoice, it means that a very large and growing part of what viewers actually watch on South African television are excluded and not seen at the NFVF's Saftas.

That makes the awards show increasingly unrepresentative of what South Africa's TV industry actually is and Safta award wins hollow victories.