Monthly Archives: January 2010

The other side of the (C)Law.

This is a letter I received and I thought to be fair I should post it. All I have changed is to bold some parts that, for me, kind of stood out.

Hello Pat
I have only worked with you in a professional capacity and have huge respect for your work, but I am going to be quite candid here. I have worked with Colin for a long time and find this rather viscous and ongoing public attack quite distasteful. Just for the record there are a lot of people in the industry who are finding this extremely juvenile.
I think a business issue is one thing and unfortunately I think we all have them in this industry with various players, especially us as freelancers, but is it really necessary to mount such a personal and viscous attack on Colin. For whatever Colin’s faults are he is an independent producer who provides employment for a lot of people who work for him on a regular basis and he has done so for years.
I have seen some of the comments from people who i know are working or have recently worked for Colin and quite frankly I feel its very unprofessional to behave in this manner when you still will accept their money while slagging them off.
This whole issue brings our industry into disrepute and one thing i have learnt is that there are often 3 sides to a story.
I trust that you can understand where I am coming from.
Thanks

Bridget

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My reply:

Hi Bridget – No not really! This is a guy  has personally ripped me off and has also ripped off a lot of people I know in the industry. The latest is a director who is owed over R40,000 from about 7 months ago. He is banned from Artscape for money owing from 6 years ago (R200,000) and has a high court judgement against him for around R100,000. In 3 days when the FB group went up asking how much he owed anybody we got close to 130 members in the 3 days. If you think this kind of unethical behaviour is good for the entertainment industry then I don’t know. It has been going on for over 35 years!!! Maybe in Johannesburg it has not been to bad but in Cape Town he has been a disaster.

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More letters to the Argus

26/01/2010

Dear Sir

In the response to the article that appeared in the Sunday Argus Magazine about Colin Law and the Jacques Brel show:

Colin Law has been operating for over twenty years in a highly questionable fashion in an industry that is all about beauty and soul. He has been in and out of court many times. This cycle of dubious ethics must end. There are scores of artists who will have nothing to do with this man and want him out of the industry.

Are you aware that there is presently a valid and still-pending court order out on Colin Law (that relates to a production company) dating back to 1996 for an amount of R800 000. 00? Colin Law was ordered by the court to pay said company regular instalments – he paid one instalment and then reneged on the rest of the legal agreement. The interest on the accumulation of the debt he owes is somewhere in the region of R800 000. 00. People like the CEO of Artscape,  (who was disgusted to hear that he was involved in one of the Artscape’s recent productions, as his self-tarnished reputation has led him to operate under a pseudonym), and the head of the Ballet Company want nothing to do with him. An award-winning director in Cape Town is owed R46 000.00 for a recent broken agreement. The list goes on. I, myself, have been a victim of his “non-payment policy.” Colin Law’s indiscretions do not simply relate to a few individual artists – he has successfully succeeded in alienating most of the industry, CEO’s and the like.

There is no union to protect performers. If there were a union, artists would be protected from people like Colin Law. There are many performers in the industry who are being abused because there is no union. Why don’t you get one of your journalists to write an article about that?

Please take note of the number of members that Facebook Internet groups like, My Previous Employer Exploits Performing Artists, which relates to The Barnyard Theatre franchise – 330 members. Among these are respected artists who have been abused by said company, people with the backbone to put their names to this cause and, in so doing, forfeit their next contract and their income. That is a special achievement in this fight for performers’ rights. Facts like that and testimonies of past employees of that theatre franchise will be accompanying me as I take them to court this year.

Please look up The CLaw Project online, which relates to the many indiscretions of Colin Law.

Chris Luke.

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26/01/2010

Dear Sir

I was quite shocked to see the article on Colin Law, which sung his praises, in last Sunday’s Argus Magazine. This is a man who has been a producer in the performance industry for over twenty years and who has systematically broken contract after contract. He is an individual notorious for not paying his artists and has been exploiting actors, singers and musicians for over two decades. There is a list of artists who have stories about Colin Law and his unethical dealings in an industry, which, as it stands, is already a breeding ground for exploitation, lies and dubious business practices. Because there is no union, artists are at the whim of the producer and because work is so scarce artists will take on what is given to them, often out of desperation. Mr Law has taken advantage of this situation time and time again and I find it appalling that your paper has glorified him to such an extent. He is so well known for his illegal practices that he has been forced to work under a false name. I encourage you to do some research on this man and also on the lack of an artists’ union in this country. I doubt you would want your paper to be associated with such contention.

Ashleigh Harvey.

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Letter to the Argus

There was an article in Sunday Week-end Argus magazine (page 6) about Colin Law and the Jacques Brel show.

Copy of letter sent to the Argus.
Dear Sir,
Very sad to see the publicity your newspaper has afforded to Colin Law and his show Jacques Brel. Here is a man who, over the past 30 years or so, has ripped off entertainment industry people by non-payment for services rendered and in fact still has a valid high court order against him for monies owing to a well know PR for a show staged at the Baxter 14 years ago.(He still owes me and others money from the same shows. He is also banned from Artscape Theatre as he still owes them a great deal of money from years ago.

A Facebook group was started to see just how bad the problem was and in 4 days over 100 people joined the group and some horrifying stories were posted.

He was persona non grata  in Cape Town theatre for for many years but has now, somehow, managed to wangle his way back in via his company, Afro Asia Events, taking over the management of the New Space Theatre. (That is another story worth having a look at.)
Regards,
Pat Bromilow-Downing.

(I started a website to carry on the expose of the Facebook group, called – Colin Law how much does he owe You? – which you can have a look at. https://patrickbd.wordpress.com/about )

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Do SA artists take themselves seriously?

By kind permission of Thami aka Mbongo (Posted on http://www.artslink.co.za)
When there was a march against the SABC (4 June 2009) in Cape Town… a call was made to the artists of Cape Town, but very few responded to the call. Last weekend (21 November 2009), there was another call by the South African Guild of Actors for a meeting in Cape Town… the attendance was not that great to represent what Cape Town artists can offer. I wonder why?

South Africa is a freedom-fighting country – one can’t really believe that there are no unions for artists in this country. Artists have played a huge role in liberating our country.

Yet artists are still not respected and are not being taken seriously in this country.  One also needs to ask the question – are South African artists taking themselves seriously?

People believe that artists die poor… we have in South Africa so many great artists who have passed away bankrupt. As much as some of these artists needed to take full responsibility for their well-being and finances, there is so much that our government can do for the artists in this country.

If the government can change the police law in this country why can’t they just look at the needs of artists and the fact that artists need to be regarded as professionals, not just independent contractors. Our government knows well that artists are also taxpayers. Like the rest of professional workers, artists need access to medical benefits, retirement plans and other workers benefits.

Artists in this country have been badly exploited since the apartheid regime and still are up until this day. Artists need to be represented, so that they can get fair treatment, health benefits, pensions and decent working conditions. That’s why South Africa needs a union for artists that will protect artists against exploitation and mistreatment. The unions help protect unrecognised workers by providing them with the same benefits most employers would provide.

It is encouraging to know that the South African Guild of Actors saw that it is high time that South Africa had its own union for actors.

Actors who work in television, films, radio, theatre and elsewhere must also take a stand; not by feeling sorry for themselves and being victims who just complain and don’t do anything about the situation.

Have your say… take part in initiatives like South African Guild of Actors and make a difference.
Thami aka Mbongo
Performing Artist

Comments

Ismail Mahomed.

The reason the majority of actors unions have failed in South Africa is because of the issue of subscription — you can’t run a union on peanuts. Fulltime staff, office expenditure, etc, etc, etc … doesn’t fall like manna from heaven. Somebody is going to have to pay for it! And most actors only pay subscriptions when they are in deep shit and very few pay up front. If SAGA is planning to run an organisation with such a huge responsibility on that kind of minimalist subscription and love and fresh air, I’m wondering about how seriously you can take that Union? Or if I should just write the obituary now and pull it out of my drawer at a later date.

Let us mobilise for an Artists Equity now! I hope those artists that are getting government tenders for their arts projects, roles in city/town theatres,SABC soapies and dramas, and those priviledged enough to “have” emails , or respond to blogs, those “famous” celebrities, listen to this call.

Let’s hear your voice! Are you supportive of the Artists Equity? Speak up, make your voice heard!!!
Posted by Thando

The only way we can achieve this change in policy is through SOLIDARITY! Please keep spreading the word about SAGA and get people to join!!! There IS strength in numers. Our industry’s biggest downfall is the APATHY of its artists.
(Thanks for a great post.)
Posted by Jackie

I agree with Thami and Thando. In order to gain respect as artists and to avoid thorny problems such as the exploitation of artists; casting of international stars in our movies; pathetic performers payments; shabby treatment on the sets and sound representation from the casting agents and many others, we need to establish a tight ARTISTS organisation to represent us.
I searched on the net for relevant Artists organisations and I have found the British Artists Equity to be a better model that we can build our own from… their reference link is http://www.equity.org.uk/AboutUs/WhatIsEquity.aspx

And here is part of what I was impressed with, which I think can inspire ANYONE to join and Artists Equity in South Africa!

“Equity is the only Trade Union to represent artists from across the entire spectrum of arts and entertainment.
Equity quickly spread to encompass the whole range of professional entertainment so our membership includes actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, variety and circus artists, television and radio presenters, walk-on and supporting artists, stunt performers and directors and theatre fight directors.

Although we are a Trade Union, Equity is not politically affiliated and so does not make payments to any political party. This puts Equity in the strong position of being able to lobby with impunity governments of all political colours. We are however affiliated to the Trades Unions Congress and Equity delegates attend the annual TUC conference as a means of bringing performers’ issues to a wider audience.

The main function of Equity is to negotiate minimum terms and conditions of employment throughout the entire world of entertainment and to endeavour to ensure these take account of social and economic changes. We look to the future as well, negotiating agreements to embrace the new and emerging technologies which affect performers so satellite, digital television, new media and so on are all covered, as are the more traditional areas. We also work at national level by lobbying government and other bodies on issues of paramount importance to the membership. In addition we operate at an international level through the Federation of International Artists which Equity helped to establish, the International Committee for Artistic Freedom and through agreements with sister unions overseas.

In addition to these core activities, Equity strives to provide a wide range of services for members and so they are eligible for a whole host of benefits of membership which are continually being revised and developed.”
I am prepared to be part of any initiative along these lines.

Posted by Sabata Sesiu

I agree with you Thami. Fully. However, we should first affirm our own identity as “artists” before forming the union. we should unpack questions such as “what is an artist and what does it mean in South Africa? We need to find an “artistic meeting point” that relates to ideological, political and the business of being artists… I think it us far fetched to assume that the “artists” in the country think and even speak in one voice. In fact, they shouldn’t… but there needs to be a common ground where the needs are similar and the artistic identity is the same, as in the USA and the UK, where where “artists” are respected at all levels. We need an “artistic” Equity. Unions in our country are party political and I for one is an artist and not a politician and therefore favour an Equity. A follow up to your letter is crucial and we should now open an debate about it which will lead to a fully fledged artists Equity, which is by now, long overdue,
Posted by thando

Hi Thami,
I absolutely agree with you that artists need to take stand and be part of the solution to their problems, it cannot be correct that artists are bystanders in the resolution of their problems. However it is worth noting that one of the contributing factors is the survivalist nature (hand to mouth) of the industry. So artists must unite and push for development of their industry, few must sacrifice for the many passive hungry lot. It is amazing to note the development and progress made by the taxi industry over the years, albeit all the existing challenges, they are a key stakeholder in their industry, nothing about them without them. Please note though that there is a union, CWUSA (Creative Workers Union of SA), unfortunately is very weak. It needs to look at broader policy issues, issues of common interest to the broader industry, not gigs because that is the source of conflict and lack of growth. I am hopeful though that we will overcome, one day is one day. We do have a government that listens, so we should know exactly what we are asking, in terms of support from the government, not only complain and sound as if we are pushing for “poor artists” grants. Self-empowerment and developing/growing the industry is the key to moving forward. I am saying all the above fully aware that the industry’s challenges are complex and will need very thorough and well thought out intervention strategy.
Thanks
Posted by Willie Reetsang

What is Equity

Equity is the only Trade Union to represent artists from across the entire spectrum of arts and entertainment. Formed in 1930 by a group of West End of London performers, Equity quickly spread to encompass the whole range of professional entertainment so our membership includes actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, variety and circus artists, television and radio presenters, walk-on and supporting artists, stunt performers and directors and theatre fight directors.

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SA Guild of Actors

Had a look at the description given to the FB Group called SAGA and thought so much of this applies to the whole entertainment industry that I would repost it on this site. If you agree with what is said then please link through and join. >LINK<

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In 1933 actors in Hollywood worked on films with unrestricted working hours, no enforced turn-around and no required meal breaks. If they rebelled against the studios, they were in for a hard time, so it was better to quit while you were ahead.

In 1953 the Screen Actors Guild was able to win the rights for actors, through its first commercial contracts in 1953, residual payments for television reruns in 1952 and, in 1960, after a strike, residuals for films shown on television.

It’s almost 50 years later and notwithstanding that South Africa has some of the most progressive labour laws in the world, we are dealing with the same problems faced by actors more than 50 years ago. Nothing has changed.
It’s time that we as actors come together around the common cause of improving our working conditions and making the practice of our craft an economically viable and sustainable career. The only way to do it, is to establish a Trade Union for artists.

In the US they call it a guild, but the principle is the same. It is an organisation aimed at:
1) Negotiation and enforcement of collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits and working conditions for performers; and
2) Collection of compensation for exploitation of their recorded performances i.e collection of repeat fees.

These are just two of the most pressing issues facing our industry today and we have no doubt that as a member of the industry, you have lists and lists of other injustices which must be rectified and we want to know what they are.

This group has been created to afford you a platform to articulate your grievances and more importantly to propose solutions to our collective problems. It is, however necessary for us to meet to discuss and to fully understand what a trade union is, what the benefits of being a member of such a union will be (what can the union do for you) and how do we get started.

We need as many artists to join the cause if we’re going to make this work, so please invite anyone you may know in the industry. You’ll receive an invitation within the next month to attend our first workshop session.

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We CAN make a difference

I  joined the FB  group, created by Isabelle Karin, called “We can make a difference in this country” and was sent these posts put up on the group wall. So much of what is mentioned below applies to what should and needs to happen in the Entertainment Industry and of course in SA itself.

Hi Isabelle – I would like to repost your latest letter on the CLaw Project site and put in a link to your site if that is okay. Have a look at the site and let me know.

Hi Pat, I had a look. That would be amazing. Thank you!

Will do. May I put your name down on the members page please?

Yes you are welcome…

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Post by the FB group “ We can make a difference in this country”. < link

(This FB group has over 800 members as of today)

Isabelle Karin

Be the change you want to see in the world …… Gert Jacobus Redelinghuys

It is all about attitude -get that right and we are half there! …..Maureen Renette Beck

The first step to making a difference lies within ME – each of us ……Cecilia Knox

Great idea -let’s move forward – united and cross the divides! …….Ben Konnek

I can help to make a difference in our country, lets all make a small contribution to improving someones lives. i will do my bit by helping upcoming artists to display their crafts and artwork! John Belgrove

YES WE CAN!Thanks 4 da invite..! …….Tebogo M Mphahlele

We need to stand together as one, not have our own agendas ……….Jp Viljoen

The secret is to take the first step! ………..Willie Birkenstock

Yes, so true…..thanks Isabelle, it is the little things that count and by that I mean …….the please and the thank u’s !! Its true what JP said .We must stand together. ……..Michael Paul Sampson

About time for South Africans to come together as civilian society – corrupt politicians destroyed our trust and belief in each other. We have had enough – up to here and no further! …….Ben Konnek

One man or woman CAN make a difference…. Liesl-Anne Pienaar

HOW WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE:

We watch the media (TV & newspaper sites) and if something happens that influences a large number of people in a negative way or anything that is unjust we write a letter to the media (e.g the matric situation at the moment). We let you know of anything we do so you can attend it. This forces the government to pay attention to these things- and fix it.

“80% of success is showing up.” Woody Allen

If we all work together… we can make a difference! I really believe that… With this group we will show you how and where to get involved with things that are already planned… Something amazing is going to happen! I can feel it!

Please invite your 100 or 200 friends to this group. It WILL definitely make the difference. The more faces that show up at these actions, the bigger the success and the bigger the impact on the issues. There IS power in numbers.

Isabelle Karin

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Stand Together!

By Chris Luke:

I just saw Top Billing (Thursday 7th Jan on SABC 3) celebrating Felicia M-S’s restaurant ‘Back of the Moon’ at Gold Reef City Casino. I personally know musicians who refuse to play there and have walked out of that gig insulted by Back of the Moon’s main manager A. That man is toxic. I know a musician who claims he had him up against the wall by his throat because he was so upset at the treatment he got. That manager treats the staff and the musicians disgustingly. I know many musicians who refuse to work there – myself included. I tried to suggest, very politely one day, how they could make the stage set up work better; he insulted me in as many ways as he knew how, trying to make out as if I knew nothing about anything – this all happened in front of his other managers.

He stands there with a grin on Top Billing telling the interviewer that his secret is passion and loyalty… the man is rude, obnoxious, self centred and filled with ego. He has no patience and he is not interested in listening to anyone – he is a dictator. He has some die hard musicians that work for him – that will tell you under the table what they think of him but because they are too scared to lose the income, they continue to put up with his tyranny.

We need to be out spoken about these issues as musicians, performers etc – there is no union to protect us, so employers are getting away with bad treatment, no contracts, low payment, no payment, no forum for grievances, no COD insurance – the list goes on. If there was a union to protect musicians, this man Aureo would get investigated. Because there is no organization to shut people like CL down I suggest we publicize his and anyone else’s injustice on the net – yes it’s called defamation of character or libel but not if there is no character to defame – in another words if it’s true it’s not defamation. They can send you a legal warning but to get you into court they actually have to prove that they are in the right, they have to have a case – that they actually have a flawless record. Let CL and the BY end up in court – I will be the first to testify for any of you who end up in that situation. Moreover, I know there are people in the process of making cases against these people. I was also subject to CL’s non-payment and to BY exploitation. Take them to court please – I’ll personally stand in the witness box and give my testimony. Let these people be scared to take us to court in case the truth comes out. These people make a mockery of the beauty we strive to create every time we are on a stage, a mockery of the commitment to a craft that doesn’t lend it self to the ringing of a cash register but rather to truth and beauty. If we all stand up against these people then they cannot operate. Boycott them – it’s a simple as that. Don’t work for them on principle. You are never going to rise to the top with them anyway because their motives and principles aren’t pure – aren’t supporting your incentives as an artist.

I will be taking the BY to court this year. They are in breach of so many of the L.R.A. (Labour Relations Act) principles. Read the books people, read the Labour Relations Act – you think you don’t have a leg to stand on – don’t let anyone tell you that: There are so many rights you do have whether you have a contract or not. I will be attempting to set a precedent with this – and I know they are going to get nasty because I know what they have done and are doing through their lawyers to others. But they are going to get the attention nonetheless.

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