WGSA NEWSLETTER SECOND EDITION 2019

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WGSA new partnerships and other great news.

WGSA NEWSLETTER FIRST EDITION 2019
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Guilds Ahoy!
 
In this edition, we’ll be making a big fuss about guilds. But why are we making a fuss about guilds?
 
FAS (short for the Federation of African Screenwriters) is something your guild is very passionate about, because it’s going to change the future of screenwriting across Africa. It’s also very exciting because the two day FAS Conference and Festival will be held in conjunction with the WGSA Muse Awards in November this year. As those who have entered will know, the guild has an extra category this year which is open to writers across Africa. Entries are also accepted in all official South African languages for the first time, which is wonderful news for indigenous writers. And for the first time, the international community will be part of this historic awards ceremony, festival and conference.
 
The WGSA is extremely grateful for the amazing support of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG), which we are proudly affiliated with, South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) and the South African Department of Tourism.
 
We’re also gossiping a little about the happenings on the other side of the big pond where in America the war between the Writers’ Guild of America (which is also a screenwriters’ union) and agencies is still raging. They are now back at the negotiation tables, but we will have to wait and see what the long term effects will be. It also gives you an idea of how agencies should and should not function, which is in line with some of the workshops and panel discussions that FAS is bringing to Africa (have a look at the FAS page on our website for the line-up). Read all about it in our Articles section.
 
Equally exciting is the new partnership we’ve formed with WeFilmGood of France, and the Durban Film Mart’s Creative Corner. You simply must read all about it in our WGSA News segment! These partnerships are adding incredible benefits for all our members!
 
Also please mark June 22 as busy in your diary. We are expecting as many members as possible at the Guild’s Annual General Meeting this year. If you want to be part of the decision making process or just find out what is happening behind the scenes at your guild, this is the day to do it. It’s also the day when members in good standing can become a part of the council which runs WGSA, so look out in your inbox for what you need to submit and then get campaigning for members to vote you onto council.
 
If you want to become a member and join the AGM, there is still time. Just click here and you’ll be taken straight to our membership page where you can join online from the comfort of your home or office. Even attending the AGM can be done electronically. You will receive the agenda and proxy forms, etc. via email. Just note that only full members can vote, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t attend the meeting. It’s important that you know what is happening in your guild. In fact, the AGM is like a war room, and your chance to contribute constructively.
 
This is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’, so make sure you digest all the news and articles we have for you in this edition. Also check out the toolbox, where we list guild member specials.
 
Winter may be coming, but our guild “ship” is strong and ready to move-and-shake some icebergs. Keep warm and creative, and join us on this trip around the globe; literally.
 
Yours sincerely,
Yolanda Lindeque-Strauss
The Editor
 

 

CONTENTS

GUILD NEWS

  • WGSA Muse Awards Are Back! And That’s Not All!
  • WGSA Report On DAC Film And TV Summit
  • WGSA Collaborates With GFC On Skills Lab

 ARTICLES

  • WGSA Member Of The Month
  • CTIAF – As Experienced By A WGSA Member
  • Copyright Discussions – A WGSA Member’s Impression
  • War On Agencies In The US

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EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS

  • WGSA 2019 Annual General Meeting

TOOLBOX: USEFUL RESOURCES

  • WGSA Members Discount On Final Draft
  • WGSA Special On The Black List
  • WGSA Script Registry

 

GUILD NEWS

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WGSA And FAS

By Thea Aboud

The Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA) is the only professional organisation in South Africa mandated to protect, empower and develop writers who write for performances in the local film, television, radio, stage, animation and new media (internet, mobile, digital distribution and gaming) industries. WGSA developed its first business implementation framework (BIF) or strategic plan in 2010 and, flowing from an analysis of the current reality, the “Africa Initiative Project” was born.

This project was created to unify and protect screenwriters on the African continent, and to provide a safe environment for writers to collaborate to get the stories of Africa to the screen.

While WGSA managed to connect with writers in neighbouring countries, it soon became very clear that much more was needed than an email exchange. In 2012, WGSA approached the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) and the organisations discussed the possibility of launching a Federation of African Screenwriters (FAS), similar to the Federation of Screenwriters of Europe (FSE), and for WGSA to spearhead this initiative. With WGSA inundated with requests for assistance from other African countries to form their own Writers’ Guilds or to join the WGSA, the need was obvious and plan for FAS began to mature. 

The Federation of African Screenwriters

After 5 years in development, IAWG approved its support of FAS in 2018, allowing WGSA to launch the final thrust to make the Conference and Festival happen. The WGSA will host the inaugural FAS Conference and Festival on 2 and 3 November 2019 in Johannesburg. 

The main thrust of the Conference is to assist African countries to unify and launch their own Guilds, and to improve the business skills of writers and content creators. The Festival, which is happening in conjunction with the Conference, is intended as a networking opportunity for professional as well as aspiring writers, to share ideas and develop writing skills, uncover talent and lay the groundwork for development treaties specifically designed for Performance Writers throughout the continent. 

It will feature workshops by writers, showrunners, producers and network executives from around the world, as well as panel discussions on various topics of interest to African screenwriters.

We intend to bring screenwriting legends from across the globe to SA, to share their experiences in creating African content which is successful throughout the world. There will also be two pitching sessions where writers can pitch their product to producers and TV network executives, and a screening room where WGSA Muse Award submissions and other movies relevant to the festival will be shown free of charge. The FAS Conference and Festival will conclude with the prestigious WGSA Muse Awards, which this time will also include a category for motion pictures scripts by writers outside of South Africa. 

The groundwork for FAS is underway and firm partnerships are already in place, with the IAWG and the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) committed to this event, and the University of Johannesburg assisting on the IT side. The Department of Arts and Culture, NFVF, Tourism and the South African broadcasters have also been approached and negotiations are proceeding. But an event of this magnitude, which has the potential to put South Africa firmly on the map of the international creative and production community and strengthen Pan-African collaboration, needs support not only from government, but also from private organisations and stakeholders in the entertainment industry. 

WGSA, as a non-profit and public benefit organisation, would like to take this opportunity to invite you to become part of the inaugural FAS Conference and Festival, and to share in the glamour of the WGSA Muse Awards. All help is welcome, be it financial or in kind, in venue or in manpower. If you can give any help, please contact our office at admin@writersguildsa.org

For more information about the conference, the festival line-up and the passes available, please go to: http://writersguildsa.org/fas-conference/

 

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WGSA Interns

By: Thea Aboud

As anyone who is involved with non-profit organisations knows it’s hard work with little or no pay. Whatever funding such an organisation can get, it treasures.

Guilds are no exception…

WGSA we would like to thank the NFVF for the funding they awarded to secure the services of four interns for the next twelve months. 
 
WGSA will be sharing the services of these interns with the rest of the industry affiliated under SASFED.
 
We’d like to welcome the interns to the team:

Slindile Zuma,
Cecilia Pholo,
Thabiso Setwaba, and
Zawazi Zulu.
 
And to the interns we say: welcome to the team; a team that is supporting our industry and aligning our vision and aim of bettering the industry. The future’s foundation is laid by people like you and we will do our best to equip you with the skills and experience you need.

 

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WGSA’s New Partnerships

By: Sean Drummond

The Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA) is actively pursuing new partnerships in 2019, in an effort to increase benefits and opportunities for our members.

In addition to the WGSA’s IMDb Pro partnership (see article), the Guild is proud to announce a new partnership with online script and producers’ hub WeFilmGood and a new collaborative project with Durban Film Mart, to be held at DFM 2019’s inaugural Creative Corner.

WeFilmGood

Based in France, WeFilmGood is an online film initiative that was established by the Maison des Scénaristes in order to connect scripts and writers with producers around the world. It selects short and feature films, drama series, documentaries, animation and VR / 360 ° projects from around the world andfacilitates writer-producers meetings at international markets and festivals such as Cannes.  Selected projects are able to list a profile including a logline, synopsis and video pitch, and writers may provide full scripts to producers on request.

Since 2012, WeFilmGood has seen more than 500 scripts listed from over 4000 submissions, more than 100 deals completed and a number of feature films and shorts produced. The platform operates in 135 countries and partners include the Writers’ Guild of America.

Initially a platform to connect writers and producers, it is now open to directors, composers and actors as well, and help projects to spring to life and to reach the greatest number of potential partners.

WeFilmGood operates on a philosophy of mutual support and believes that in a challenging market environment for writers, cross-pollinating networks and creative powers will result in launching more universal and interesting scripts into the market place.

Actively seeking out South African and African scripts, WeFilmGood is building a local presence and WGSA has committed to a collaboration that will see nominees and recipients of the WGSA Muse Awards for Best Unproduced Screenplay listed and promoted on the platform each year. The collaboration was first announced at Cannes 2019, with unproduced WGSA Muse Awards nominees from all previous five years of the competition going up onto the site as a launch of the collaboration.
Future opportunities will include paid script reader positions for WGSA members, evaluating South African and African scripts for inclusion on the platform.

For more information, please contact the WGSA at admin@writersguildsa.org or head to www.wefilmgood.com.

Thanks must go to WeFilmGood’s International Coordinator Paco Wiser and co-founder Sarah Gurevick for their enthusiasm and support for South African screenwriters and for African Cinema.

Creative Corner at Durban FilmMart

Durban Film Mart has long been the leading market hub for South African filmmakers, and the WGSA is proud to announce a collaborative script-read programme to run at the inaugural Creative Corner initiative at DFM 2019.

The programme will see up to 12 feature film projects in development featured on the Creative Corner stage over the DFM weekend, with a short presentation, a script excerpt live-read featuring leading local actors and a Q&A and feedback session offered to each selected project.

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The potential audience includes producers, sales agents, distributors, filmmakers and other DFM delegates from around the country, the continent and the world.

Full details and a call for submissions is set to go out in early June. This opportunity is offered specifically to WGSA members.

Thanks to DFM for their continued partnership with the WGSA, and congratulations to them on their milestone 10th edition.

Please keep an eye on WGSA mailers for submission information.  You don’t need to be a member to get the mailers. Just send us an email requesting that you be added to our database. But remember that you have to be a member to be eligible for this great opportunity.

For more information on DFM, www.durbanfilmmart.com

To join the WGSA, go to: http://writersguildsa.org/membership/

 

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WGSA Members Discount On IMDb Pro

By: Yolanda Lindeque-Strauss

It’s so nice to know that you can get a discount on something, and getting a huge discount on IMDb Pro is one of the best. So what makes IMDb so special?

Well, this is THE database for all industry professionals.

If you have worked professionally in this industry in any capacity, IMDb Pro will probably know about it and have your name on record. This is also the place where the pros get the contact details to find writers, actors, directors and producers. It’s all there.

If you’re somebody and want to make sure that the world knows about it, you can: 

  • Create a website for yourself (even if it’s just one static page with your experience, skills, favourite genres to write and contact details) – remember the pretty but professional picture – and keep it up to date
  • Put all your credits with links to the productions you worked on or sold concepts to, online
  • Put loglines of your spec scripts or concepts that are for sale online
  • Research which producers specialize in producing the type of screenplays you write
  • Follow what those producers are currently busy with
  • Email and phone those producers
  • Search for calls for screenwriters
  • Connect people through social media

Now, calculate how many hours these tasks would take and how much data you will need to search through thousands of pages (and still not be guaranteed that you will be up to date with the latest who’s who of the industry). Daunting, isn’t it?

Or you can use IMDb Pro.
 
Even just the basic IMDb is an amazing world of information unequalled by any other website or app in the world at the moment. To many people you are nobody if you don’t have credits on IMDb. In fact, some screenwriters insist that a clause be included in their contracts when they are commissioned by producers which states that the producer will ensure credits for the screenwriter on IMDb after the production is completed!
 
With the normal, free IMDb account you have access to an overwhelming number of loglines and synopses of films and TV series, which is not only interesting, but can guide you when you have to do your own. You can also group your likings together, like you do with your favorites on YouTube and Vimeo. And search for your favorite directors and producers to see what titles they have worked on and in which capacity (some are writers and/or actors too, etc.) and their bios.
 
While you can see your favorite producers, directors, actors, writers as a free user, but you cannot see their contact details. You can even see the films and TV series you’ve worked on but you cannot update your profile or link your credits to the films. In other words, you are only a spectator.
 
But with an IMDb Pro account you:

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The rand/dollar exchange is always heavy on the wallet of South Africans, but with a 25% discount it certainly becomes easier to spend money to make money. So, if you are a paid up WGSA member, all you have to do is email us and we’ll send you the promotional code.

And voila! You can create your very own profile! And in one swoop you get all the functions that we listed at the top of this article!
 
A few words of advice when using IMDb Pro:

  • Once you have put something on it, it cannot be deleted so make sure you only put the best of the best of your credits and pictures on.
  • The process to create your profile is quite tedious and time consuming, but that’s because of the importance of getting things right. Do not despair though. There is plenty of help available from the IMDb website and community.
  • Make sure you don’t have any disruptions or distractions while you are busy with your profile. Dedicate time to do it properly. It’s worth it a million times over!

If you’re not a WGSA member yet, it’s very easy to join us and we have several categories including one for writers who don’t have credits yet. All you have to do is go to our website and click on the “Join” button on the Membership page. And yes, you can create your IMDb profile even if you don’t have credits yet.
 
A good example of someone using IMDb Pro effectively is our member Cilla Lowen. Click here to have a look at what she has created (note that the posters are of screenplays she has written and is shopping around to sell).

 

WGSA Script Registry New Process

By: Yolanda Lindeque-Strauss and Thea Aboud

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The WGSA is the only acknowledged and approved script registration service in South Africa which is also affordable for writers. CIPC has an IP registry for finished works (music, films, series, games, books, etc.), but not for screenplays.

Government is also developing an IP registration process, but with all the controversy around the Copyright Amendment Bill we would be pleasantly surprised if the government register is put in place any time soon.

In the meantime the WGSA streamlined our service, and we believe it is now the best it’s ever been.
 
Some of you might still doubt whether registration is really necessary. If you do, then ask yourself why all the guilds around the world have a script registry. It’s all about proof – proving that you are the owner of the written piece and when you created and wrote it. This proof needs to be strong enough to hold up in court if there is a dispute where somebody else claims your intellectual property.
 
It’s basically the same process as having a registration number for your car, so if it gets stolen, the other person can’t claim that it has been his/her car all along. While people may have seen you driving it and thought of it as your car, in a court of law it needs more than that to prove that you are the legal owner. The registration number is concrete proof of your ownership, and will save not only your car, but it will also save you all a lot of time and effort to sort it all out.
 
With WGSA Script Registry, we have created a system whereby we are trusted with the responsibility and approved as the keepers of your script registration. Here’s how it all works:
 
First of all, never pitch or send out your script to a third party before you have protected it by registering it with the WGSA Script Registry. Some people may tell you that a Non-Disclosure Agreement is all you need, but that only stops people from talking publicly about your project and does not protect your intellectual property at all.
 
Once you have filed your work with the WGSA Script Registry, no-one will gain access to your screenplay, and it will be date and time stamped to secure your copyright. But do remember that an idea alone cannot be copyrighted. You have to work out the idea and write it up as a synopsis at the very least, with character names and as much detail as you can muster. Here really the more you can put to paper, the stronger your claim will be.
 
Should a legal issue arise and you need proof that you are the creator of the work, you may request a copy of your work by writing to admin@writersguildsa.org. Your written request must be accompanied by the registration number of the project as well as a certified copy of your identity document or passport.
 
Script registration is open to members and non-members from anywhere in the world, but remember that copyright law different from country to country [read all about it in our article about the proposed amendment to the copyright law of South Africa].
 
Before registering your script, you have to make payment online and you will need to get proof of payment from you bank in pdf format, because you need to upload your proof of payment on the online form as part of the process.
 
So, when you begin, make sure you have:

  1. A copy of your ID/Passport scanned to your computer
  2. Your script ready for upload as a single pdf file
  3. A pdf proof of payment from your bank.

Once you have made the payment, do not leave the site. You must stay online because Payfast will send you confirmation of your payment, and you need to upload that as well.
 
Now for those crucial little details which can make this a happy or frustrating experience. Let’s start with how to name your actual script.
 
You MUST submit the name of the document as follows:  the title of your script, SPACE, the version (also referred to as draft) number, UNDERSCORE, your name. So if your film or TV series is titled “Killer Tomcat”, it’s the first draft and your name is Adam Smith, you would name it as: killertomcat vs1_adamsmith
 
Some scriptwriters write under their company’s name. If that is the case you need to:

  1. Upload your company registration certificate
  2. Upload the ID of one of the named members on the company registration certificate and fill in the name of the person on the form
  3. Have your script ready for upload as a single pdf file
  4. Have pdf proof of payment from your bank 

Again, once you have made the payment, do not leave the site. You must stay online because Payfast will send you a confirmation of your payment and you need to upload that as well.
 
Easy isn’t it?
 
Please note that only pdf format files may be uploaded. Not jpg, gif, docx or anything else. Only pdf. And please don’t upload every page separately if it’s part of the same document. One page for your ID/Passport is great. 90 Separate pages of your script is bad. We want that script all in one document, otherwise it cannot be registered. Yes, Adobe has a function to combine files, but we simply do not have the time to do your logistics for you.
 
Note that only 1 script registration can be done at a time, so you have to register every different script individually. In other words, if you are Adam Smith and have two screenplays, “Killer Tomcat” and “A Trip to Heaven” (each with different stories and characters), each one must have a separate form and must be paid for individually.
 
If you make substantial changes to the first version of a work you have registered, you can update your work free of charge. You do this online as well. Just follow the prompts and remember to use the same name, but to update the version number, i.e. killertomcat vs2_adamsmith. The good news is that there are four free updates (versions/drafts) for every script you registered. If you need more than four updates, that can be done for an additional fee.
 
Your script registration is valid for 3 years, after which you need to re-register or it will be deleted from the database. Don’t worry about forgetting. We will send you a reminder when renewal is due.
 
Now for the fees:
 
Members: R200 per script
Non-Members: R400 per script
 
Additional Updates for members (from version 5 to 9): R100
Additional Updates for non-members (from version 5 to 9): R200
 
At present we limit the service to 9 updates maximum, so please make sure that you only send an update when your script is in fact a rewrite and not just another draft (25% or less changes to the story and/or characters).
 
Once you have submitted your registration online, you will receive a registration confirmation with your WGSA Script Registration Number. It is recommended that you insert the registration details on the cover page of your script and not on every page, as that is seen as amateurish by international buyers.
 
And there you have it. More peace of mind, more time to write instead of worry.
 
If you would like to register something right now, click here and you’ll be taken straight to the online application page.
 
If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at admin@writersguildsa.org

 

ARTICLES

WGSA Member Of The Month: Sthembiso Brian​

By: Yolanda Lindeque-Strauss

Our member of the month for May is Sthembiso Brian who crossed paths with us during the recent WGSA Skills Lab that took place in the Vaal area in March.
To give you an idea about the Skills Lab and why this young, aspiring writer caught our attention, let’s give you some background on the initiative.

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WGSA sent out a call for applications to aspiring writers to attend the ‘Introduction to Script Writing’ workshop in February 2019.  Although it was short notice, we received a large number of applications (64) from across South Africa, as well as from China!  We can state with confidence that this course is definitely something our candidate members are very interested in and the fact that it was also sponsored made it even more attractive.
 
To be considered for the course we asked all applicants to motivate why they should be chosen. We evaluated their answers, and those who showed initiative and a bit of writing talent went through to the next round.  We then looked at their current status – whether they have access to other opportunities and where they were residing.  If for example they were already attending a film school or college or university or from outside the greater VAAL area they were eliminated.  Although we applied for funding for a group of 30, we selected 40. 
 
Producer-Director-Writer Richard Nosworthy was the trainer for the workshop.  We chose him because he has shot, directed, produced and/or written more than one thousand hours of programming for both South African and international broadcast television.  His experience in genre is diverse and includes Drama, Comedy, Documentary, Variety, Sport, Travel, soft News and Magazine publishing, as well as Children’s Programming.  He’s also worked extensively in Feature Films and on stage.  His work has been nominated for, and won, awards both locally and internationally.  Richard has achieved two WGSA Awards, and provides legal guidance to both the WGSA Council and WGSA members. When not presenting workshops, Richard is a consultant to production companies and individuals. His latest project is ‘The Scribe Writers Room’, a performance writer’s incubator project, where he works with both aspirant and experienced writers.
 
As for the workshop, as an outcomes-based course, the most important deliverable each attendee had to complete by the end of the course was a short film script.
 
The scripts were then evaluated by some of SA’s best and experienced screenwriters: Ms Harriet Meier, Ms Theoline Maphutha, Ms Marina Bekker, Mr Richard Nosworthy and Mr Francois le Pere.  The writer of the best script was awarded the title of Top Student.
 
Clearly, the process was tough and competition high, which is why we decided to select the winner as our Member of the Month.
 
As per our custom, we sent Sthembiso a Q & A to find out more about him and his aspirations. Here’s what he had to say:
 
How did you find out you wanted to be a scriptwriter?
I have always been a creative artist writing stories through the art of rhythm and poetry.  All my stories are inspired by my hopes, dreams and desires, everything and anything between time and space.
 
Why not an author?
I like that prospect, but it requires a different train of thought, and I am yet to master scriptwriting first.
 
How did you hear about the Skills Lab?
I received an email informing me about the programme as a candidate member of the Writers’ Guild of South Africa. [Have a look on our website about the different categories of our membership and what Candidate Membership is. If you click here you will be taken directly to it.]  
What made you think it was worth applying? 
I wanted to extend and solidify my knowledge and skills of scriptwriting and learn something new.
 
Did you think you would be selected?
Yes, because my motivational letter was compelling.
 
What was in your motivational letter?
“I want to travel the world through my artwork, tell unique stories and bring a fresh perspective”.
 
What did you find the most difficult aspect of the course?
The only challenge is understanding the business side of scriptwriting.
 
What was the most exciting thing for you that happened during the course?
We were grouped into teams of four and we had to come up with a premise and develop a story from there on.
 
What would you say is the most important thing you are taking away from your experience?
My notes, working with other creatives, sharing ideas and knowledge and networking with directors and producers.
 
Can you give us a logline for your script?
The story takes place in the West side of Johannesburg and is about two average Joe’s who plot to rob the local drug dealer due to their circumstance. Their plan goes astray when one of them meets a beautiful woman.
 
What do you plan on doing next with your script, or with the knowledge you gained from the course?
I’m planning on producing the film script, and applying the knowledge and skills gained on my next script I call ‘Blood is thicker than water, but Oil is thicker than Blood’.
 
What advice do you have for aspiring screenwriters?
Write what you feel, trust yourself, trust the process and watch it manifest.
 
Do you have any warnings you’d like to share with aspiring scriptwriters?
Procrastination is a thief of time so stop wasting time and just do it!  Love what you do.
 
What did you learn about yourself during the course?
Invest your time, space and money on your craft.

A little bit about Sthembiso:

“I am currently studying BA Communication with the University of South Africa majoring in Public Administration and Communication and live in Roodepoort with my beautiful mother and sister. I aspire to gain skills within the film and television industry and eventually aim to become the best director/producer of best-selling international movies.”
 
We look forward to see you reach your all your goals, Sthembiso!

The WGSA would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Gauteng Provincial Government who made this Skills Lab possible.

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And our heartfelt thanks goes out to the Emfuleni Local Municipality who generously offered us their venue.

We hope that we will all be able to nurture this new partnership and work together again on future projects.

 

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CTIAF – As Experienced By A WGSA Member

By: Cilla Lowen

The 2019 Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF) was held 8 to 10 March at the River Club, Observatory, Cape Town, and was bursting at the seams with content, Techno Whizz Kids and a few writers.

Organized by Animation South Africa under the capable management of Dianne Makings as Festival Director and her team, the festival was an undoubted success and seems to be growing in popularity by the year.

A challenging workshop task, superbly orchestrated by Cecile Blondel from the Gobelins School of Animation in France, was where she took seventy aspiring writers, broke them into teams and helped them develop a short story for animation.  Her advice was to firstly decide on the ‘denouement’ (the final part of the narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved) which she provided, and then build your story to illustrate the denouement.  All the teams grasped the concept well and created great stories.

Another interesting approach of Blondel’s is to simplify stories into three directions: vertical stories are tragedies, horizontal stories talk about place in society and internal stories are those within you; a feeling that something is missing or a need.  “Sometimes all three happen at the same time,” she said.

In another workshop, Matthew Kalil spoke about his newly published book ‘The Three Wells of Screenwriting’. He helped his audience delve deep into their sources of creativity.  Assurance of time-value is always a given in Kalil’s classes.  His techniques leave audiences with the comfort that they’ll never suffer writer’s block again and what they write will be authentically theirs.

The Road to Annecy Pitching Competition was also an interesting experience for writers in that it exposed the great need for future collaboration between professional writers and animators.  Whereas animators pitched potentially great stories presented with technical visual excellence, judges on the panel identified various story elements (e.g. character arcs, structure) as being weak.

In another slot, writers, too, were given an opportunity to pitch, but this ultimately didn’t turn out to be a Pitch Session as Triggerfish was the only company represented and they were there to share advice on the story presented.  Still valuable though.
Most content at the festival was of greatest value for those in the technical fields of animation, and it is clear that as a writer it’s useful to do a crossover to understand the skill behind the technical creativity. 

The keynote speaker, Peter Ramsey, Director of ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, shared stories from the production, telling how the team strived to achieved a ‘comic book’ look to the images.  Ramsey, an unassuming, approachable man, readily answered questions on and off the stage.  He was a great asset to the success of the festival.

CTIAF and companies such as Triggerfish make a huge effort and investment to growing South Africa as a credible global player in the animation industry.  From the attendance and the vibe at 2019 CTIAF, this success is likely to increase.
 
[We look forward to seeing more technicians and scriptwriters collaborating on animation projects in South Africa – The Ed]  

 

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Copyright Discussions – A WGSA Member’s Impression

By: Yolanda Lindeque-Strauss and Ross van Leeve

At first the actors and other performers sang the praises of the amendments that our South African government proposes for our copyright law and then a dark side emerged it seems.

And as a script writer, your contracts will refer to a specific copyright act but not expand on its definition (it usually only refers to the Act in the “Definitions” clause). It is your job to know what that Act encapsulates. Not knowing the Act is like going into the dark, blind and helpless.
 
So, debates and discussions became alive again and all writers were encouraged to attend as many as possible because there is so much to understand and everyone’s petition is required if we want government to amend some of their proposed amendments. The final proposal was presented to his Excellency the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, for assent at the end of March, so all we can really do is be informed. [PMG keeps updates of the progress of the process and you can follow it by clicking here.]  
You see the invites but usually just scroll past because what is it really like at these debates and discussions anyway? We asked screenwriter, Ross van Leeve, to attend a discussion panel hosted by Re-Create and co-hosted by Wikimedia ZA in Cape Town.
 
Here is what Ross reported:
 
It’s nearly 18:30. The atmosphere was tense. I was not really sure what to expect in the panel discussion or why I came. Maybe a part of me wanted to know in lay man’s terms what the future will hold for our Film and TV industry. The panel discussion was about the amendment to the copyright bill in South Africa.
 
I surveyed the room. Not a lot of filmmakers attended and it silently concerned me about how alone we really are in this uncharted territory that is being forced upon us whether we are prepared for it or not.
 
I sat down and wondered where all the recognizable and well known Film and TV producers, directors and screenwriters were this evening. Did the memo not get out to those who proverbially rule the roost in the South African Film and TV industry? Were the established filmmakers not concerned about how the amendment to the copyright bill would affect their productions and livelihoods; past, present and future?
 
Indistinct murmurs filled the room. I sat down at the back row but decided against it, in case I couldn’t hear what the panellists had to say to us. After all, the future of our IPs were at stake and my concern was where would I stand in this matter. Will my hard work get stolen by someone claiming that ‘fair use’ allowed them the privilege to create work based on my original content and not financially compensate me? What if the well established companies or broadcasters closed shop to original content pitches by producers, directors and screenwriters because the amended copyright bill would make everyone tread on egg shells? On the flip side of that coin, what stops everyone else from abusing ‘fair use’ and stealing work from established companies or broadcasters to create new work and sell it, without giving recognition or financial compensation to the original creators of IPs?

But as I studied the faces in the room around me I recalled from my research that it’s not only the South African Film and TV industry that will be forever altered and affected. There sum of everyone’s fears in the room represented most sectors in South Africa, and to name a few: included software programming, technical creations like architectural drawings, the Artificial Intelligence industry, literature publishing, music compositions, etc. but the other industries were not even properly represented as there were just too few people in this room to ask questions about the unknown future called ‘Fair Use’.
 
What is ‘Fair Use’? How does it affect me?
 
As I pondered these thoughts, a microphone commanded our attention and everyone listened to a young woman who introduced herself and the rest of the panel with a charm that made me feel like we were being greeted warmly by long lost friends.
 
Except no one was smiling back at panellists.
 
Tensions were high and everyone in the room, except for the panellists, felt uneasy. “Fear” might be too strong a word to describe the emotions but it would be an accurate one.
 
The panel discussion kicked off with a series of introductions by each panellist. Experts in their relevant fields of expertise and highly regarded as stated in their biographies. But as I listened to the panellists who, one after the other, explained at great lengths and with excitement how ‘Fair Use’ would create an opportunity to stimulate the economy and open up the copyright barriers that made it impossible for new content creators to ‘use’ existing materials in a ‘mashup’ of new work, as long as it wasn’t directly competing financially with the original content, I realized that it could lead to ‘stealing’ inspiration from others’ work and this was a red flag for me.
 
What happens if someone wanted to take inspiration from one of the most popular SA television shows right now, and repackage it in order to put it on say, a steaming service like YouTube where the amount of likes and subscribers amounts to huge amounts of financial compensation paid by advertisers? How is that not competing with the original content creator’s ability to make an income?
 
It easy to paint a beautiful image when it doesn’t affect your livelihood. I listened, attentively as possible but an hour was literally too little time to ask all the questions that was on everyone’s faces about how their careers were going to change without their permission.
 
One of the opening introductory speeches was by a University of Cape Town student who expressed how expensive university text books are and how her lecturers have already pirated some of these texts books for classwork and that the way forward is for prescribed ‘text book chapters’ to be made ‘digitally free’ to copy via ‘fair use’ because the actual costs of the printed text books are too expensive and oppressive. I shook my head in shame. I lived through Apartheid. I was born into it and I can tell you one thing, there is nothing oppressive about paying for a text book that will help you pass your subjects at university.
 
I wondered in that moment how many students visit bars and pubs, in Rondebosch, Claremont and Long Street every weekend but claim that texts books are too expensive? Well, alcohol is expensive too. Maybe ‘Fair use’ will drive the prices down in that sector because it’s oppressive too?
 
One panellist after the other, from various sectors – mostly university professors – spoke about how the economy will open up as new work will be created that was previously hindered by copyright. I frowned at the claims and listened as some people in the audience asked their respective questions and got answers that were so long it felt like the actual answer was drowned in obscurity. I jotted a quick note in my book, “why are we here? What do we need to know about ‘fair use’?”
 
All that I had heard so far was professors and experts who sound excited about ‘legally’ being able to exploit someone’s original work because they had a personal interest in it that directly benefited them in some way or another, as in the case of a video games professor who wants to use images of Winnie Mandela for his video game, and therefore pushed for the ‘fair use’ in the amendment to the Copyright bill because without ‘fair use’, he cannot make his video game without actually paying Winnie for her images.
 
A screenwriter asked a question about copyright work that one had sealed, placed into an envelope and mailed to oneself. This screenwriter wanted to know if this method actually protected their work and one of the panellists replied you cannot copyright an idea but rather an expression of that idea and therefore that particular expression of that screenwriter’s work was protected but not the idea as it could be envisioned differently by someone else.
 
I thought about what I just heard and it sounded like the reply to the screenwriter was, “your particular idea is safe but if someone else gets your work out before you in a different vision, then there’s nothing you can do about it” as you cannot, according to the panellist, copyright the expression of an idea. Well, I don’t think that makes any sense, because if someone wanted to ‘steal’ The Avenger franchise idea the whole world would call it ‘plagiarism’.
 
I asked whether ‘fair use’ can be exploited to create twin works of projects that were registered by the WGSA (Writer’s Guild of South Africa), such as registered screenplays, and I surprisingly got a one worded answer: “No”, followed by a soft reply that it would be piracy. (But the official WGSA response is that ‘its not piracy but plagiarism.’)
 
It’s going to be interesting to see how the new amendment to the Copyright Bill affects us all.
 
Now you have an idea of how important these discussions are but also that you need to go in there informed on the “Fair Use” versus “Fair Deal” (which was not even mentioned) copyright.
 
I was fortunate enough to, as a freelance producer, have attended a talk about copyright issues two years ago at an IPO (Independent Producers’ Organisation) meeting and heard there about the difference between “Fair Use” and “Fair Deal” copyrights. I also learned in subsequent years that the UK used “Fair Deal” copyrights and as an agent for screenwriters had to familiarize myself with their contracts where I found that the UK had very writer-friendly contracts. The United States on the other hand uses “Fair Use” and has some of the most technical contracts imaginable where the writer constantly has to cover their wickets (if I may be so rudimentary as to use a cricket term).
 
Back to business. Understanding the terminology.
 
Fair Use:
Attorney Richard Stim explains it very well that “Copyright law bestows certain exclusive rights on creators. For example … copyright holders have the exclusive right to reproduce their work, create derivative works, and perform the work publicly. But these exclusive rights are not absolute. The doctrine of fair use creates important exceptions.” He then explains the pros and cons and the rules that govern them (read his article by clicking here before you go any further with this article).
 
Fair Dealing:
This is broadly what the current South African Copyright Act aligns to. The University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg explains it quite clearly as follows:
 
Section 12 of the Copyright Act [at the moment] allows certain acts of reproduction to be done, without permission. ‘Fair Dealing’ in Section 12(1) allows reproduction for the following purposes:-

  1. Research or private study
  2. Personal or private use
  3. Criticism or review
  4. Reporting current events (e.g. in a newspaper or broadcast)
  5. Judicial proceedings or a report of judicial proceedings

Section 12 (2-4) allow the following without permission:

  1. Quotation (a fair portion)
  2. ‘By way of illustration’ for teaching purposes (e.g. in a PowerPoint presentation).   However, if you want to circulate the PPT slides to students, you will need to clear copyright for those copyright works used in the PPT, or exclude them before circulating the slides.

N.B. ‘Fair dealing’ is NOT the same as ‘Fair use’ in the US Copyright law. It is more restrictive and reproduction of copyright works is only allowed in the above circumstances, and not for multiple copies.
 
Fair Dealing is not defined in the law but the generally accepted amounts that one can copy for educational and research purposes, are as follows:-

  1. 10% of a book or one chapter (whichever is the greater)
  2. 1 article from a journal issue
  3. A full case study or full law report

Copying just one page may not always be fair, if it is the essence of the work. One has to use one’s discretion when copying other people’s works.”
 
The latter is echoed by the British Library:
 
A statutory definition for fair dealing does not exist; it will always be a matter of fact, degree and interpretation in every fair use case. Nor is there a percentage or quantitative measure to determine fair dealing. The Intellectual Property Office lists the key factors used to determine the validity of whether a particular dealing with a work is fair as follows:

  • Has the use of the work impacted negatively on the market for the original work? If the creator or owner has lost potential revenue through the re-use of their work, it is not likely to be fair.
  • Was it reasonable and necessary to use the amount of work that was taken?

Hopefully by now your brain isn’t swimming in a sea of facts yet and you still have some energy left to learn further but we do not expect you to absorb everything in one go. We leave the explanations of copyright and how law can influence your earnings and your royalties for our next edition. There is definitely a mix of benefits and detriments that you need to know of.
 
In the meantime know this: the WGSA is part of the Coalition fighting against the implementation of the Copyright Amendment Bill (CAB) as it stands at the moment. As per an earlier article in the Mail & Guardian, ReCreate (as mentioned in the opinion piece) finally admitted that they are funded by Google, which has a lot to gain from the present implementation of Fair Use.
 
We shall inform you in more detail about our reasons in our next edition.
 
[From the Editor: please note that Ross’ report is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of WGSA and its staff.]

 

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War On Agencies In The US

By: Yolanda Lindeque-Strauss

In South Africa the concept of an agency for scriptwriters is still a new one (for scriptwriters and producers alike), but as usual the US has been using them for eons.

The Writers Guild of America (East and West) is the largest guild of its kind in the world, and our guild has been learning a lot from their leadership.
 
When you see all the press releases of the battles that WGA is fighting, it might seem that South Africa is just dragging behind again. You may be wondering why this war is important to us if we’re not even at the same juncture, but this is, in fact, a blessing in disguise. Why? Because, as our guild and agencies are still developing, we can make a new mold based on their trials and errors (avoiding the latter of course). We can learn from their mistakes.
 
And we look up to them because of the wars they have won. May no screenwriter ever forget the screenwriters’ strike of 2007/8 that changed the future of screenwriters around the world!
 
Another clash with studios, broadcasters and channels was about rates for new media scriptwriting. This now affects us with Fox Africa, Showmax and Netflix opening up for South African productions. For more information on that, click here. In short, the WGA prevailed and reciprocal rates were established and integrated into the standard guild agreements. We are now prepared for the new wave of Video On Demand and other platforms.
 
The latest is that the WGA and the US agencies have returned to the negotiating table.
 
This is not the first time agencies have come under scrutiny. The fact that most of the “big” producers will only look at screenplays sent to them by specific agents have given those agencies tremendous power and taken the power out of the hands of scriptwriters.
 
It is understandable that producers don’t want to be inundated with low quality scripts and law suits when screenwriters think they stole their ideas, so agencies are a good institution. It also makes sense that a production house prefers certain agencies when they feel they have a connection with them and the agency ‘gets them’. But, as with all things in life, the good becomes the bad when greed and power become the main vision.
 
The current war on agencies is about what is referred to as “packaging” for studios and broadcasters. Packaging means bundling talent represented by the agency, and these clients are then paid a “packaging fee” instead of negotiated rates; “essentially the money collected by agencies for bundling talent to bring a project together”.
 
Originally this was good, because when an A-list actress or actor likes the script, it is very likely to be greenlit by powerful producers with a big payday for all. But then agencies started to neglect the rights of their talent and it became all about putting together the package and earning as much money as possible for the agency rather than for the client.
 
All hell broke loose when the WGA instructed their members to fire their agents, which most screenwriters – the famous and the not so famous – did. Since then, WGA and the agencies have returned to the negotiation table, and slowly but surely agreements are put in place which will allow agencies to once again represent members for writing services.”
 
You should read this wonderful and wondrous agreement by clicking here to prepare yourself for the new South African Screenwriters’ era!

 

WORKSHOPS AND EVENTS

WGSA 2019 Annual General Meeting

The WGSA’s next AGM is scheduled for Saturday, 22 June at 10am in Johannesburg and Cape Town. 

WGSA members from outside these centres will be able to attend via ZOOM (which is also an app on Google Play). 

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The official notice was sent out on 1 June 2019, but if you join the guild between now and 15 June, all documents and the complete agenda will be emailed to you.

The agenda includes changes to the WGSA current Constitution as well as the election of a new WGSA Council. 
 
Members interested in serving on the 2019/2020 WGSA Council may self-nominate here.
 
Serving on a council of any Non-Profit Organisation is a selfless and unappreciated job, but imperative for the continuation and proper functioning of the organisation. 

We need fixers (not like The Fixer, though), problem solvers and movers-and-shakers at the steer of the guild, and call upon all our members to rise to the occasion and nominate themselves for service as soon as possible so that we can vote for you at the AGM.

​But only nominate yourself if you are prepared and committed to put in the hours necessary, and know that you can make a contribution to the running of the guild. It’s nice to be idealistic, but pragmatism and experience are also necessary.
 
And with that in mind, we look forward to receiving your nominations.

 

TOOLBOX: USEFUL RESOURCES

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Guild Members Discount On Final Draft

WGSA members get 40% off. Send an email, quote your membership number (if you’re a paid up member),  and we will give you a code. Then, when you buy the software online the discount will appear at the end of your checkout. 

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Guild Members Special On The Black List

Full and Candidate members can list scripts on the Black List database for free as well as receive a discount on hosting and evaluation services.

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Script Registry

To ensure that your work is protected, never pitch or send out your script to a third party before you have protected it by registering it with the WGSA Script Registry.

No-one will gain access to your script once you have filed it with the WGSA Script Registry.

Should a legal issue arise, and you need proof that the work belongs to you, you may request a copy of your work by writing to: admin@writersguildsa.org

Your written request must be accompanied by the registration number of the project as well as a certified copy of your identity document or passport.

It is easy for you to register and you do not have to be a WGSA member or even be from South Africa. Just click here and use the link where you will also find the costs related and steps to be taken.

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IMDb Pro WGSA Members’ Discount

Paid up WGSA members of any category get a 25% discount on IMDb Pro.

All you have to do is email us and we’ll send you the promotional code.

Note: The code is confidential and may not be shared with anyone other than the intended member receiving it.

 

“I feel that one of the fields that I need to learn a lot is screenwriting. I used to write my own screenplays, but it’s just that I remember that at that time, I was saying to myself, ‘I wish one day I will meet a screenwriter that will help me because I feel that I need to learn.'” Denis Villeneuve, Canadian Director​

 

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