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THE MEDIA APRIL 2018

TV DRAMA Soaps 2015 2016 2017 2018 Junior Actor: R25 000 per month Junior Actor: R27 500 per month Intermediate Actor: R30 000 per month Intermediate Actor: R33 000 per month Senior Actor: R40 000 per month Senior Actor: R44 000 per month Note: These rates were agreed upon for a 12-hour day and a 60-hour week. Source: Payscale offerings. “What invariably happens is that other types of shows outside soapies and dramas are the ones that suffer, in my view. Media buyers and planners in South Africa tend to go after numbers as opposed to fully interrogating the universe, environments and communities – there are certain audiences on any number of productions to whom brands could be appealing to directly. But advertisers don’t get to them because they take a look at the numbers, then discard shows that aren’t pulling large audiences even though those audiences are perfect for the client.” The moneymakers So who are the real winners: actors who make the leap from obscurity to become household names; production companies who squeeze every last drop from a budget that ranges from R12 000 to R15 000 per screen minute to make a profit, or broadcasters who name their price on ad slots that can range from R70 00 to R200 000+ on a 30-minute insert? No one’s telling, but the figures, though dismal to some, add up to a winning recipe. Broadcasters can add to their tally with sponsorships (Rhythm City, for instance, is sponsored by Assupol), and product placements, but these, according to most producers, are not really a feature in local productions. Salaries are a hotly contested issue, with agents like Belinda Kruger of FigJam Agency claiming that only about 10% of producers operating today pay their cast a fair rate. “Fees in the 1990s were more than the fees paid today; everybody is pleading poverty and claiming to be on a low production budget, yet someone is making money,” she asserts. Pay rates obviously vary, from R4 000 to R5 000 per call for an entry-level actor – “I’m battling to get that now for senior actors, which Junior Actor: R30 250 per month Junior Actor: R33 275 per month Intermediate Actor: R36 300 per month Intermediate Actor: R39 930 per month Senior Actor: R48 400 per month Senior Actor: R53 240 per month means something is very wrong” – to R120 000 per month for big ticket stars, confirms Kruger. “That obviously depends on the actor, and those who earn that would have paid their dues – up and coming actors cannot expect that kind of fee,” she says. Yet stories abound of young stars pricing themselves out of the market. “It happens all the time, mostly with younger actors, that won’t listen to the voice of reason and realise they’ve got to be realistic about budget on the table,” says Kruger. Residuals, which broadcasters pay producers and actors for repeat programming, after a certain number of repeats, is another contested issue. While the SABC and e.tv pay residuals, M-Net doesn’t. “They’re a law unto themselves,” claims Kruger. Generations creator Mfundi Vundla is still embroiled in a fight for this with 16 actors fired from the original series after demanding a salary increase. Rumour has it that Khumalo quit after salary negotiations with Uzalo producers failed. But the actress says she was offered an opportunity she couldn’t turn down. “It’s a risk, in this industry – most of the time you don’t know if a project you sign on to will fail or succeed. But I wanted to try producing because I want to change things a little bit, to use my frustrations as an actor as an advantage. As a producer, I feel I can listen to actors and the crew, and make sure they’re happy. Then, they deliver.” She’s already discovered though, that “you cannot think as an actor while you are producing”. That the industry is tough goes without saying. Six-day weeks, 12-hour shifts and 4am calls are de rigueur, and job insecurity is a feature. But soapies, confirms Pokane, are infinitely more profitable than other TV genres. “They’re more profitable based on volume: the number of minutes you produce – with greater volume your margins are less.” • Lucinda Jordaan is an independent writer, researcher and editor with extensive experience in all media, covering various fields from academia and finance to education and lifestyle. Her articles have appeared in several awardwinning publications, locally and internationally, and she has contributed to various books and online sites, including The Media Online. The Media | wagthedog.co.za P 17


THE MEDIA APRIL 2018
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