SAASP and CPA resign from Cape Film Commission


March 1st 2011

Dear Colleagues,

We would like to inform you of the decision taken last week by the CPA and SAASP to resign our membership and board participation of the Cape Film Commission with immediate effect and also of the mass resignation of our members from the CFC.

This decision was taken as a direct result of the actions of the Film Commission which actively undermines the Industry’s ability to attract work to Cape Town.  In addition to all the other challenges which currently face us – the recession, the strong Rand, the cost of production, competitive territories – our increasing inability to access Cape Town’s much sought after locations is perhaps the biggest threat yet to our industry.  Already the word is spreading amongst international clients that Cape Town has become so film un-friendly that they will be taking their business elsewhere.  Unfortunately many of our clients have experience the problem first hand and this has compromised Cape Town’s reputation as the World’s service destination of choice.

The CPA and SAASP have, over several years, rigorously communicated our concerns regarding this situation with the Cape Film Commission through representation on their Board of Directors.  We have repeatedly asked the CFC to raise this issue with the City & Province and convince them of the severity of the situation.  Unfortunately the CPA and SAASP were prevented from doing this ourselves as communications between the Industry and City/Province had to be directed through the Commission.

Unfortunately the CFC chose to deny this problem and instead concentrated its resources and extensive budget on the easily achievable “nice to haves” – costly award ceremonies and sponsorships, glossy advertising, international marketing trips, elaborate parties and functions.  The location issue was not the only casualty of these ill-advised decisions – the CFC’s self proclaimed “marketing successes” are questionable, the CFC’s corporate governance suffered as did its mandate to drive transformation and training and develop an indigenous film industry within the province.  In addition, the CFC’s indifference continues to pose a threat to the estimated 6000 jobs created by the industry, 70% of which are generated by CPA & SAASP members and their direct suppliers and also the commercial and still’s sector significant contribution to tourism in Cape Town which has been calculated at an additional R150Million per annum.  Ironically these figures were presented in 2006 by the same Film Commission which now chooses to dismiss our concerns.

Another disturbing practice of the CFC is that it appears intent on taking credit for the accomplishments of an Industry in which it has had no involvement in building.  The CFC has used the success of the Industry’s private sector to motivate ever increasing budgets from its funders – the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Province – which it then spends irresponsibly in the industry’s name and ostensibly “in the industry’s best interests”.

The CFC ignores the advice of industry representatives on its Board and obstructs the industry’s requirements but then jumps up to claim credit wherever possible.  A good and recent example of this is the positive spin on the location problem put out on Friday by the CFC’s new CEO, Denis Lillie in his newsletter.  Mr Lillie claims full credit for the progress made while, in reality, he has ignored the recommendations of the CFC’s own “Location Sub-Committee”, decided not to renew the short-term contract of a qualified and experienced unit manager appointed to assist production companies with location problems (at the direct request of the CPA and SAASP) and offered up a “3 to 5 year plan” in favour of more urgent solutions.

Positive progress has been made on the location situation in recent weeks thanks to the tireless efforts of the CPA and SAASP representatives on the Board (Skip Margetts, Damon MacDonald, Gavin Levy and CPA Chairperson Peter Carr) who have had to intervene to assist many production companies to obtain permits usually at the 11th hour and who met urgently with Mansoor Mohamed, (the City’s Executive Director of Economic, Social Development and Tourism) the Sunday before last to try to put in place urgent interim measures  – including the reappointment of a unit manager to  troubleshoot location issues.  While all this was taking place, the new CEO was in Berlin & London on yet another marketing trip!  The question this raises is: what is the point of marketing something which you cannot deliver to your clients?

A further misleading claim in the CEO’s newsletter which requires a rebuttal infers that the CPA and SAASP were not entitled to hold their Board seats and will be “replaced” by the Documentary Film Makers.  While we have nothing but respect for our colleagues who produce documentaries, it is completely disingenuous to compare the economic contribution of documentaries with that of commercials and stills in the Western Cape.  It is a verified fact that our two sectors comprise at least 70% of industry turnover in the Province.  Furthermore, the issue of the CPA and SAASP’s seats on the Board of the CFC have never before been questioned – this is simply the interpretation of the new CEO who, it appears, has taken over the decision making function of the CFC’s Board.  This accusation is also rather ironic considering that the CFC’s corporate governance is in a shambles with several queries outstanding and a forensic audit underway.

The CFC boasts a “membership” of 500 (according to its 2010 AGM report), however we have to ask what this membership actually means given that it has no criteria and is free of charge with many who have never applied for membership finding themselves on the list. The real measure of an organization is its relevance and value to its constituents.  The CFC membership is simply a ruse to convince its funders that a) it is representative of the industry and b) its R10 Million per annum operating budget is justified. We believe that membership of the CFC provides the Commission with legitimacy and credibility it does not deserve!

Aside from these issues, the CPA and SAASP’s ultimate decision to resign from the CFC was incited by instructions from the CFC that its representatives were not able to participate in discussions concerning locations (apparently due to a “conflict of interest”), they were not able to report back to their constituents – the industry – on developments at the CFC or on location issues, they were prevented from lobbying independently due to “protocols” and their suggestions and recommendations were ignored at the discretion of a CEO who has been in the industry all of 3 months.

Following our “vote of no confidence” in the CFC, we now call on the CEO and the Board of the Commission to do the honourable thing and resign with immediate effect.  No one person or organization can put its interests ahead of the interests of the Industry and the negative effect created by the denial and arrogant indifference of the CFC is placing the industry’s sustainability in jeopardy.  We also call on the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Province to recognize that the CFC is institutionally flawed and must be urgently reviewed and overhauled if the Commission is to continue and become a valued partner to industry in the future.

We thank you for taking the time to read this statement and for your continued support.