After 8 years of lobbying, the Writers' Guild of South Africa (WGSA) has finally secured its seat at the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG).
On the 9th October 2017 at the 31st Annual General Meeting (AGM) hosted by the Writers Guild of America West in Los Angeles, USA, WGSA signed the MoU of Incorporation into this prestigious and powerful world body. For the WGSA, this is by far the biggest milestone, but for the writers of South Africa and the country itself, it is historical!
"This is a proud and historical moment for the Guild and for South African screenwriters," says Khobi Ledwaba, the current chairperson of WGSA, "because not only does it afford our writers protection when taking on international projects, but knowing that our Guild has the support of the IAWG and all its members also bolsters our efforts in fighting for the rights of our writers locally. I mean, this is really big for us, and it certainly should inspire us to say that things can't just continue to be business as usual," she added. "We're now on a world stage and we need to do better."
The IAWG was established in 1986 to address the globalization of the entertainment industry and improve the working conditions of professional film and television writers worldwide through collective action, mutual support and common representation internationally. Its member guilds work on behalf of 50,000 writers throughout the world in the areas of collective bargaining, standard contracts, credit disputes, government lobbying, and the promotion of the essential role of the writer as first creator in the filmmaking process.
To date, the IAWG includes the Film Writers Association (Mumbai), La Guilde Francaise des Scenaristes (France), the New Zealand Writers Guild, the Scriptwriters Guild of Israel, the Societe des auteurs de radio, television et cinema (Quebec), the Writers Guild of America, East, the Writers Guild of America, West, the Writers Guild of Canada, the Writers Guild of Great Britain, Verband Deutscher Drehbuchautoren (the Writers Guild of Germany), the Writers Guild of Ireland and the Writers' Guild of South Africa. Associate members include Seccion de Autores y Adaptadores de Trabajadores de la Produccion Cinematografica (Mexico), while the Writers Guild of Australia was present at the AGM as an observer. Membership of the IAWG is not open to individual screenwriters, but writers are represented at the affiliation by their home guilds.
"The first approach to IAWG was already made by the South African Script Writers' Association (SASWA), but at that stage South Africa did not meet the stringent membership criteria to join the Affiliation," says Harriet Meier, a previous chair of the WGSA. "It's taken many years and the blood, sweat and tears of numerous Guild chairs, council members and executive officers like Thea Aboud and Nonkosi Slatsha to make this happen. When we were notified that the MoU was signed, there was hardly a dry eye in the room."
For members of WGSA, incorporation into the IAWG carries numerous benefits. If a member of one Guild emigrates to another country, or their movie, TV series or play is exported, member Guilds automatically recognize their membership through reciprocal agreements. This means that writers from member Guilds are now able to legally work in any country that is affiliated with IAWG. All it takes is timeous notification of IAWG by their home Guild.
WGSA can look forward to hosting WGA West early in the new year to assist with lobbying and negotiations with local broadcasters to ensure that our writers are paid fair rates, rebroadcast fees and royalties, and to structure a Collection Agency that is on par with the best in the world. WGA West has also offered their support in guiding WGSA through the minefield that encompasses writing for Digital and New Media productions.
WGSA was also selected to host the 2019 IAWG AGM in South Africa. Not only will this bring some of the most powerful writers and writers' unions to our shores, but it is the first time in its 31 year history that IAWG will be coming to our continent. As the AGM will run in conjunction with the WGSA Writers Festival, this will not only cement the international credibility of WGSA, but also offer a previously unheard of opportunity for writers from the whole of Africa to learn from their international counterparts, and for us to introduce our talent to the rest of the world.
"It's a huge achievement for the WGSA and an incredible moment for South African screenwriters - to be part of the international family of writers," agrees Thandi Brewer, the first chair of WGSA who also headed the WGSA's initial observer trip to the New York AGM in 2011 and pleaded the case for WGSA's admission. "I'd like to acknowledge the amazing work of previous WGSA councils and chairs such as Cati Weinek and Henrietta Gryffenberg, Harriet Meier, Theoline Maphutha, Jacqui Pickering, Katleho Ramaphakela and Sihle Hlophe, who have all worked so hard to achieve this for WGSA members. For me, personally, it's an 8 year dream come true ... to finally be able to work internationally under the protection of the international guilds ."
ABOUT THE WRITERS' GUILD OF SOUTH AFRICA
The WGSA opened its doors in May 2009 to advance screenwriting in South Africa and to fill the gap left by the defunct South African Script Writers' Association (SASWA). The WGSA remains the only official industry organization mandated to protect, empower and develop performance writers in the local film, television, radio, stage, animation and new media industries.
For more information on WGSA, please log on to: www.writersguildsa.org, or join us on Facebook.
Issued by the WGSA Communications
Media Queries: Ms. Trish Malone
Dr Nonkosi Slatsha
Writers' Guild of South Africa
Office: 011 912 7831
Fax: 086 654 1972