Fair pay is a major problem for artists in Mzansi, says top talent manager

09 October 2019 - 07:00 By Masego Seemela
Actress Vatiswa Ndara has sparked a big debate with her open letter to the minister of arts and culture detailing alleged "bullying and exploitation" of artists.
Actress Vatiswa Ndara has sparked a big debate with her open letter to the minister of arts and culture detailing alleged "bullying and exploitation" of artists.
Image: Via Instagram

As a debate around Vatiswa Ndara's open letter about the alleged mistreatment of talent in South Africa rages rages on, artist manager Wesley Mark has claimed the industry is structured to exploit talent.

Vatiswa cast the spotlight on alleged "bullying and exploitation" of actors through an open letter which she addressed to arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa on Monday.

Her letter went viral on social media and topped the trends list as users shared their opinions on the matter.

Wesley, who works with some of the top talent in South Africa at Moonyeenn Lee Associates, said fair pay is a big problem for all the actors and actresses because there was no proper structure in the industry that pays talent well.

"As a talent management company, we try our best to make sure our talent gets paid accordingly but there is no standard because each project is different and each talent is skilled differently.”

Wesley said the issue of fair pay was a layered conversation and there should be standard rates that artists are paid.

“I don't think there is respect for artists in the country, and there's the problem.” 

He said sometimes actors are hired for their looks instead of their acting skills and ability, whereas the same cannot be said about  an engineer or a lawyer.

“Acting is an art form and I think that's the problem. Not everyone understands and respects the art form, and that's why actors can be paid peanuts.” 

Wesley said it was unfair to blame one production company as it was a problem in the industry at large. 

He slammed those who were not in the industry but felt they were authorities on the issue.

"What's sad is we have other people who are not in the industry giving their opinions."

In her six-page open letter, Vatiswa revealed she would not be returning to season three of iGazi, and then detailed some of the alleged conditions of the contract offered to her by the company.

“Ferguson Films is officially starting iGazi 3 and we would like to offer Vatiswa a global contract for iGazi 3 at R110,000 (before tax) for the duration of the shoot (five weeks). No limit to calls, first call exclusive to us,” read a quote, allegedly from an e-mail by Ferguson Films.

Vatiswa then listed why these conditions were problematic, including how actors were not able to seek further employment until the contract was completed and were allegedly not compensated for work-related activities, including wardrobe fittings, make-up, public relations and media interviews.

She also claimed the contract allowed for limitless calls, which could see her on set from Monday to Saturday, sometimes for up to 12 hours a day, with no additional compensation.

Mthethwa acknowledged on social media that he had received the letter and his ministerial spokesperson, Asanda Magaqa, told Sowetan he was considering the contents.