By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
It’s been an eventful week, fraught with a rare case of Ghanaian actors and producers making the headlines after quite a long time. For a moment, we almost forgot we had a fraternity of actors, producers and everybody else in what we call a film industry in Ghana.
Thanks to the legendary actor Kofi Adjorlolo and his genuine outburst, the film industry is on the discussion menu.
The banter has interestingly shifted from the refusal of some producers to pay actors for job done to how actors should do extra jobs aside acting as proposed by another actor, Elikem Kumordzi.
In the ensuing chatter, one critical element has not been touched on, and I will try, for the umpteenth time in this column, to address it.
Lack of Unity
The disunity among actors is nothing new and that claim was cemented by happenings over the last week, unfortunately.
Firstly, these actors exhibited such divergence in the matter relating to some producers and their failure to pay actors over acting gigs. They, as expected, couldn’t present a united front on the matter. While majority supported Kofi Adjorlolo and the call for actors to be duly paid by producers, a few had other opinion.
Secondly, the issue of actors getting extra jobs emanated from the first matter and again, these actors could not present a united front – with some scowling at Elikem Kumordzi’s call while some others espoused his idea.
Ghanaian actors have never been seen to unite on anything. Some will call for protestation over lack of governmental support for the industry, and you’d have others kick against it. Some will call for legislation and control of the sector but some others within the same fraternity will thwart it. They never speak with one voice!
Ghana Actors Guild Is Lost
Right after Kofi Adjorlolo’s legitimate rant, the Film Producers Association of Ghana (FIPAG), issued a lousy press statement, directing the veteran actor to apologize to the group within 14 days or face the necessary actions.
The crux of the matter with regard to that release is not how sloppy it was but how united the producers were in protecting their own, their terrain and their cause.
The Ghana Actors Guild is supposed to be some form of a labour or trade union that represents actors and other major players within the film and TV industries in Ghana.
It is also supposed to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits, and working conditions for its members. If the Guild is well-structured, it must be able to collect compensation for exploitation of recorded performances by its members, and provide protection against unauthorized use of those performances; and preserve and expand work opportunities for its members.
Over the years, the Guild has not lived up to its mandate, shamefully!
Under the ideal circumstance, the Actors Guild is supposed to ‘fight’ for the veteran actor and all other actors who are not properly treated within the industry but quite irritatingly, these vibrant actors have, over the years, decided not play any part in the proceedings of the Guild.
These guys do not realize the kind of power the group wields; a group that is in a ramshackle mode and is filled with a bunch of disgruntled and disunited adults who have no focus, no direction and no ideas.
Nothing Is Working But Actors Don’t Care
Presently, there’s no relevant and effective activity going on at the Guild, in fact, nothing has ever worked effectively for years; except for some selfish, confused and power-hungry folks who are willing to relegate the betterment of the Guild to the background just for their self-conceited interests.
The Guild, after so many years of existence, still choose to steer affairs in a stone age, refusing to align itself with the new, modern and technology-driven trends of the industry. It has no website or any social media platform. Which corporate entity or donor would take such a group seriously?
Its welfare system is higgledy-piggledy with floundering long-serving members seen begging all over the place.
This Guild has zero influence to the extent that, when political parties are putting out manifestos on the creative arts, they have no zest to even suggest, agree or disagree with policies that affects them.
Elections Still Pending Over Court Case
As of November 2018, the Guild was in court over election-related matters.
That democratic and well-accepted process is in ruins because, the constitution, no wait, something like a constitution was not adhered to in preparations for the elections and of course; some persons who are not due-paying members of the group – persons who have not attended a single meeting at the Guild have disrupted the elections.
The Guild is now characterized by stagnancy and dormancy; there’s no progress – because all energies are being exerted into trying to solve problems relating to the elections. These problems, which shouldn’t have arisen in the first place, are the ones militating against the growth of the group.
No Residuals, No Reforms
Kofi Adjorlolo, at his glorious age, is fighting over unpaid dues or allowances, at a time when he should be enjoying his labour with his grandkids.
Also, with the seeming perpetuity of ailing actors begging for funds in the media, something ought to be done to curb this repugnant phenomenon. These legendary actors deserve way better!
Elsewhere, especially in the US, residuals work because there’s a well-structured Screen Actors Guild that ensures that the acting profession is one to relish, one that pays and one that is highly protected.
It is interesting to note that the Screen Actors’ Guild negotiates and enforces collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits, and working conditions for its performers; collects compensation for exploitation of recorded performances by its members, and provides protection against unauthorized use of those performances; preserves and expands work opportunities for its members. If you are an actor and you belong to such a guild, you have little to mull over; you are safe!
However, in Ghana, there’s no Screen Actors Guild and the next thing that attempts to look like it, is the Actors Guild of Ghana, and the status of some of its members galloping in the media for aid is what one gets as a member.
The Tomfoolery Must Stop Now!
To state it bluntly and be a little brusque, the folks scuffling over power at the Actors Guild are adults, highly accomplished individuals who are also learned. They should stop the infantile maneuvering and start acting right.
These young and vivacious actors should stop staying on the fence, acting all nonchalant and get actively involved.
No person or Ministry can solve their matter better than themselves. This is their craft; for most of them, this is their livelihood and the lives and future of many film practitioners depend on them. They must sit up and act right!
They must be put their selfish interests somewhere and think about the progress of the Guild and its members.