A couple of weeks ago, on quite a dreary day, I was tinkering with my dial and as I was flipping, a very familiar voice on a dial piqued my interest.
The voice was a popular one but it was not the familiarity with that voice that got me fixated; it was what the fellow was talking about that got me hooked.
It was the agitated voice of award-winning actor, Agya Koo, the highly revered actor who is also the recipient of the Order of the Volta award. That’s how influential he is!
His agitation was simple; for years, he’s heard about some form of royalties for actors but in his lifetime as a seasoned actor, he’s yet to be given any form of revenue tagged as royalty and to his utter dismay, not once has the Actors Guild branch in Ashanti Region ever addressed the issue.
Agya Koo’s protest is shared by many actors and it is an issue that has not been thoroughly dealt with in the Ghanaian movie industry.
No Royalty System
A royalty is a form of payment that is usually a percent of the revenue made on the use or sale of a copyrighted work of art, like a song, play or novel.
It’s common for authors to earn royalties on books they write and it is appropriate for musicians and music right owners to earn such payments for songs produced but actors typically don't get paid royalties for movies or TV shows they work on.
In Ghana, whatever royalty due the actor is that amount of money he’s paid to star in a movie after negotiations. In essence, that one-time payment is his royalty.
So, unlike the musician or record producer, who gets to enjoy some form of royalties’ years after that production, the actor has nothing and they also get zilch for the many TV commercials they feature in.
There might not be what we call royalty for actors but there’s residual – another form of payment which refers to the money actors receive when there’s a broadcast and re-broadcast of films, TV shows, and TV commercials.
In other effective industries where residuals work, the actual amount an actor makes in residuals is the result of a combination of factors, including how long production lasted, the actor's contract, and the medium -- DVD sales; cable TV, film and regular television all pay different percentages of the licensing fees.
There’s no form of the residual system in Ghana because of obvious reasons; the industry is in a total mess, with no effective system which has been manned by ineffectual leaders over the years.
No Screen Actors Guild
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 unauthorised 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.
Capacity Building For What?
On the ever-contentious blank levy given to right owners by the Government of Ghana, actors are said to have some stake in that money but that form of mechanical rights, given to the Actors Guild are used for capacity building.
Building capacity for the actors is not a silly idea, but when and how such ‘buildings’ are done confounds us all. Where that money goes is another issue for discussion.
Who needs capacity building when he/she has no funds to even board a car to such meetings or workshops, engagements that are not even organized anyway?
Residuals Must Work; The Guild Must Work
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!
If the residual system works in other industries, why can’t they work here? Why can’t our ailing and aging actors also get checks in their mailbox periodically? Why should our actors always wail in the media for help?
If the actors and movie stakeholders in Ghana will not check out a good blueprint of how a Screen Actors’ Guild work to form one, then they must unite and build the existing Actors’ Guild in order to empower it to come out with effective regulations that will ensure that the acting profession is one to envy.
Source: Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo/ Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ArnoldBaidoo
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