Anxiety over the possibility of job losses is rife in the South African film industry as a result of the lockdown. A film and events company in Johannesburg has told its employees it is shutting its doors, while independent filmmakers have lost out on lucrative projects.
The break as a result of the lockdown has already impacted negatively on the industry. Sifiso Khanyile is an independent filmmaker from Anaphora Films. He had to cancel three international gigs because of the lockdown.
“Crews were going to come and I was going to be the local producer on their productions. All three were cancelled and this was work that was going to bring in foreign currency. But it also slowed down work that I was already involved in. I’m working on a documentary right now and a short film. There are still scenes missing in the short film. We couldn’t shoot up until now.”
Khanyile says there is a rising fear of job losses, and whether the public will still have an appetite for new content when the lockdown is lifted.
“There’s a lot of anxiety for a lot of people on job security. Our industry is made up of mostly independent production companies and they hire freelancers. A lot of freelancers feel that there isn’t going to be much work when this is done. They are not sure when the next meal is going to come from. If you are making feature films, you don’t anticipate that a lot of people will rush back to the cinemas. A lot of production companies need to think about restructuring because there is a threat to their survival.”
Music video producer, Monde Dube says it has been an uphill battle to stay afloat. He says now that they can resume production, but getting the ideal location and props, has not been easy.
“When we came back, we found out a lot of our suppliers, and studio facilities and people who rent out equipment, have shut down. They have to pay salaries to staff, unlike us, who are mainly freelancers. When we get back into the normal day-to-day life, a lot of those suppliers would literally have to start from scratch.”
One such company is Propstars in Johannesburg, a film and events company that also rents out equipment. They sent out messages to their employees, which read: “Attention all staff: Our funding application was unsuccessful, we require each member to apply for UIF … we have no choice but to close the business and are looking into voluntary liquidation.”
About 31 employees have been affected by this. Lenard Mdaka is one of them.
“The company sent us the message that we must come to collect the forms about our retrenchments and when we looked to those forms, even when you have 10 years, 5 years, 15 years, it’s still the same money that we got. So, we have a problem. For the past two years, we have had a problem with getting paid. At this moment, we are out of the building; we don’t have jobs, and we don’t have money.”
The company is yet to respond to our request for comment.