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Local Entertainment Industry Hit Hard by Pandemic Lockdown


In these tricky times, where film productions have ground to a halt, theatres have had to close their doors, it seems that the entertainment industry's taking a big knock. While we try to figure it out one day at a time as businesses adjust, national lockdown is forcing them to comply with drastic measures to curtail the spread of the virus by forcing people to stay at home only allowing for essential services. While this is necessary to stem the pandemic, preventing the virus from impeding business for months on end, it's obviously having a major impact on businesses that rely on ticket sales.

Independent cinemas like the Labia Theatre are asking patrons to pre-book tickets in advance for when it reopens. This will hopefully ensure a good cash flow, some damage control and ensure there are able to stay afloat. While exhibitors and supporting marketing and PR wings will be feeling the direct effects of a lockdown, cessation of new releases and zero ticket sales, this is not the only part of the entertainment industry that's taking a knock.

freelancer cast and crew

Consider all the actors and crew, essentially freelancers, who built their solid careers landing one job at a time. Not having any immediate work, foreseeable work or live shows makes it almost impossible to plan or account for future earnings. Already a competitive industry, restrained by inefficient regulations and an apparent lack of funding, these freelancers will be feeling the hardest effects of the lockdown.

While there's plenty of panic and fear in the air, there's some hope. Some have taken a page from celebrated actors like Anthony Hopkins who are turning the self-quarantine period into a publicity campaign. Posting short videos of him playing piano for his cat, walking among his artworks... he's generating some great publicity from people amused or moved by his stay at home antics. Some actors have taken to reading children's books as storytellers for kids. Then, there are others like director Tim Greene, who is actually leveraging the pandemic situation to create a movie. He's casting actors to join his lockdown movie project in which actors will shoot scenes on their phones and upload them for him to edit together. Local actor, photographer and poet, Gerard Rudolf, is taking to reading a poem every day as part of his 21 for 21 series for the lockdown.

Countries like Germany are creating funds to help keep their entertainment industry alive, realising its intrinsic value and scale of economy. Unfortunately, right now in South Africa as much as some efforts are being made to appeal to government organs, there's not much hope that anything will be done to remedy the situation. Having already had to fight for their rights when it comes to residuals, the notion of being a struggling actor is fast becoming a lifestyle choice rather than a career risk. Unable to garner the residuals that other actors in other countries are able to it's become a game of survival, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Our cast and crew are talented and have what it takes to be successful but are thwarted by a lack of opportunities, unfair remuneration policies and the diminishing rate of international productions coming to our shores. The coronavirus outbreak, now declared a pandemic, has caused shock waves across the world, but these are being experienced head-on by our community freelancers who while already disadvantaged will now be feeling the brunt of financial hardship with a hazy and unclear future ahead.

Let's hope that this dire situation will serve as a shakeup for the entertainment industry. Hitting the reset button will hopefully enable the right stakeholders to be appealed to in order to make things right and encourage growth in the sector. Our film industry can be one of the best in the world, but will need the right leadership and preconditions in order to leverage our geographic and human resources in a way that is fair, sustainable and conducive to growth.

If you're an actor, producer, director, technical crew or freelance worker and you've lost income due to a cancellation of a production, you can claim compensation from Department of Arts and Culture: http://www.dac.gov.za/content/z-relief-plan-department-sports-arts-and-culture-dsac

Alternatively, if you're in a position to help, please consider providing some financial relief to local entertainment artists who depend on events and shows for their income. Here's a fund that has been set up to do just that: https://gogetfunding.com/the-south-african-entertainment-industry-relief-fund/