Exploitation and abuse are not new accusations in the film industry, but very few people are bold enough to speak out about it. But Phil Mphela, entertainment commentator has taken on the challenge fearlessly, and the results are mind boggling to social media users.
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In a conversation he started on Twitter, the blogger asked his followers whether they had ever been extras on any production, and to share their experiences if they had.
In the responses, Phil was shocked to find out that many background actors were being paid peanuts after working long hours, while others were not getting their pay at all. On average, the actors reported receiving between R150 and R350 per day, which according to the commentator, is shameless exploitation.
To the horror of many soapie fans, their favourite shows were named and shamed as top exploiters. The most notorious culprit was the show Generations, where both the original show and the spin-off, Generations: The Legacy, were accused.
The show has been named as one of the lowest payers for their extras, and many have further complained that they wound up not receiving any pay at all. If this is to be considered any indication of how the show treats its cast, then it’s no surprise that it is constantly haemorrhaging actors.
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The most shocking part of the accusations is perhaps that the rates the actors were naming, are supposedly the same rates that the industry offered to background actors in 2021. In 20 years, the industry has not updated their salaries, while the price of living has gone up multiple times.
Phil also revealed that he had been talking to film industry executives on the issue of extras remuneration for years, but they were not willing to listen to him. Apparently, they shun all discussions surrounding money, which according to Mphela, is why abuse thrives in the industry.
Many of our favourite production companies have been accused of financial abuse before. Even Ferguson Films, as beloved as it is, has been accused of exploitation multiple times. The company has had to come out and defend itself, especially when it was alleged that The Queen was losing too many actors because they hire and fire at will, and especially when there are contractual disagreements.
In a nasty battle that almost went legal, actress Vatiswa Ndara posted a 6-page letter to Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Twitter, detailing all the mistreatment she had endured under Ferguson Films, including not being paid fairly. In the letter, she asked the minister to intervene and help fix the issue with the whole industry, not just Ferguson Films.
But it seems that nothing much has changed since then. It really has us thinking about all our favourite film stars, and wondering whether they have had to go through the same thing. I mean, many stars start out as background actors, and here we are being told that the conditions have been unfair for over 20 years.
We hope, just as Phil hoped when he started the conversation, that being exposed will finally shame these production companies and agents into treating their talent better. Neither of the shows implicated has responded yet.