For those who have any insight into or experience of the film and television production industry, it is easy to grasp the magnitude of the challenges that these industry professionals face daily. From negotiating onerous location requirements to working with SARS to better understand how industry freelancers should be taxed, the world of production is rife with the unexpected and sometimes, the seemingly insurmountable. For this reason, it is critical that industry professionals have a robust network of support and guidance behind them.
In 1984, just a few years after television advertising began in earnest in South Africa, the Commercial Producers Association (CPA) was established with the clear aim of creating such a network – as well as to professionalise the fast-growing industry and represent the interests of its members.
Today, the CPA has 60 member production companies, all of which specialise in the production of television commercials for the South African and the international market. Our members range from SMEs and middle-sized enterprises to the largest companies in the industry.
Since inception, the CPA’s role has evolved and changed along with the industry. At the outset, our primary mission was to create an element of self-regulation within a sector that was essentially unregulated. To this end, the CPA actively develops and negotiates contracts and other key agreements to enable member companies to operate efficiently and with fewer risks. As many of the issues that the CPA deals with are legislative, the association draws on the advice of specialist attorneys and consultants.
In addition to the administrative and legislative function, the CPA is also committed to promoting best practices – acting as a conduit for key insights and information shared amongst our network of international counterparts and local members. Notably, the CPA conducts an annual survey to determine the state of the industry and to identify key opportunities and challenges on the horizon.
Over the years, our commitment to creating a production-friendly and efficient environment for members has resulted in several important wins for the industry at large.
For example, the CPA reversed burdensome location requirements and a proposed bylaw to rezone properties in Cape Town for film use. Without this reversal, legal filming in Cape Town would have been impossible – and a major industry asset would have been rendered non-existent.
The Association was also instrumental in opposing a high court judgment in the Constitutional Court that sought to make it impossible for animal handlers to obtain the licenses needed to work with animals on set. Again, without this legal turnaround, it would have been near impossible to incorporate any animal into a television commercial, TV program or feature film!
More recently, the CPA led a fundraising drive to lobby the Department of Home Affairs to temper new immigration legislation. This legislation made it virtually unworkable for international clients to bring their business to South Africa – a situation which would have had dire consequences for the entire South African service sector (which turns over R5 billion every year and is critical to providing resources to the local production industry).
Additionally, the CPA and its industry partners were the first in the country to enter into a formal arrangement with Home Affairs to facilitate the issue of visas to clients and their teams. Notably, the formation of the Film Industry Visa Assistance Program or “FIVA” has seen over 15,000 skilled industry professionals entering the country under this system over the last two years!
Apart from these legal challenges, the CPA has helped to ease member companies into an era largely dominated by new technology and driven by digital platforms. We developed a Digital Production Protocol for the industry to highlight the changes (and potential risks) that new technology brings to the production process.
Looking ahead, with the inherent risks and challenges brought about by globalisation and widespread economic malaise, industry bodies such as the CPA are more important than ever if the production industry wishes to retain its independence and stature.
Bobby Amm is the Executive Officer of the Commercial Producers Association of South Africa, the “CPA”.
After a brief stint in journalism, Bobby began her career in the industry at the Consultative Committee for the Entertainment Industry in the early 1990s. She first joined the CPA in 1997 but left three years later to join a production company. After finding that she missed the big-picture perspective of the CPA and the interesting issues which continuously perplex the production industry, Bobby made the decision to return to the CPA in 2003.
Bobby has a BA in Psychology and Journalism and Media Studies from Rhodes University. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband and daughter.
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