NFVF explains why it dumped writers’ categories from televised Safta awards

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) that abruptly dumped writers and all writers’ categories to the non-televised, so-called “technical awards” for the 13th Saftas now says writing isn’t creative but “technical expertise” and was therefore removed.

The NFVF with acting CEO Shadrack Bokaba that organises the South African Film and Television Awards finally responded, just short of two weeks after the 13th Saftas took place at Sun City on 2 March and where writers and nominees in the various writers’ categories discovered – to their shock – that they’ve been dumped.

Writers’ categories were shunted from the main awards ceremony broadcast on SABC2 and bumped to the afternoon awards.Writers, the Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA), and even nominees in writing categories were not told that their creative categories have been removed after numerous telenovela categories were added for the first time this year to the main awards.

Nominees who showed up on the Saturday had to hear that Golden Horn awards for their categories already got handed out during the afternoon.While scrapping the writers’ categories and dismissing it as “technical expertise” the NFVF and producers Clive Morris Productions responsible for the bloated Saturday night awards show broadcast, kept best directing categories that were not considered “technical”.

The NFVF, funded by the department of arts and culture, finally responded on Thursday evening – almost two weeks after Safta organisers were asked in multiple media enquiries made since 2 March – why the writers’ categories were scuppered from the main awards ceremony.The NFVF, in a statement from Instinctif, the PR company now used by the film funding body, on Thursday evening told Channel24 that script writing – although a creative art – is now seen as “technical expertise”.”

The quality of our scriptwriters is the backbone of our industry and should be recognised for the technical expertise these key categories represent,” the NFVF said.”In acknowledgement of this, the Saftas sub-committee, which is made up of members from the various industry bodies – and also sit as judges – made the decision to move the writing categories to the technical section of the award ceremony.”

“We are currently working on a 4-month workshop where we are relooking the Saftas categories and criteria required, with the Saftas sub-committee. Once we have commenced with this process we will first send through the categories and criteria to all industry organisation chairs and their boards for their preparation.

“The NFVF was asked multiple times when the decision was taken but the NFVF and Instinctif didn’t answer this question. The NFVF was also asked for its comment and explanation about writers and nominees who say they were not informed about the move but declined to answer this.The NFVF was asked if it has a message for South Africa’s TV industry about writers’ categories and what its response is to the Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA) saying it will boycott the Saftas moving forward unless the writers’ categories are restored to the main awards ceremony, but the NFVF chose not to answer these questions either.

Meetings with writers abruptly cancelled.

According to insiders, an initial meeting between the WGSA and the NFVF CEO was abruptly cancelled by the NFVF.A possible new meeting between the WGSA and NFVF will likely be with Makhosazana Khanyile, known as Khosi Khanyile in the industry, who is taking over as new NFVF CEO from 1 April.

On Tuesday, according to insiders, the NFVF also cancelled a Saftas debriefing and new programmes session that was scheduled for 29 March, without any reasons given, and no new date set. According to insiders, there was also no meeting where either the move of writing categories or the short documentary category – also mired in another scandal of its own – were approved to be moved to the technical awards.

The WGSA told Channel24 earlier this week that it is “shocked and taken aback” by the removal of writers’ categories from the Saftas main awards and demands the reinstatement of the writers’ awards in the main broadcast of the Saftas.”We will also demand input in and full oversight of the judging and categories of writers awards.

And we are seriously looking at lobbying for an Independent Motion Picture and Television Academy to take over the running of the Saftas.”On Friday the WGSA told Channel24 that “writers are creatives and writing is not a technical skill but a creative one. The only thing technical about what we do is using a computer”.

“Secondly, WGSA was not invited to be part of the Safta sub-committees, nor did we provide judges for the screenwriting categories. If writers were part of either, they were chosen by NFVF and were not representatives of the mandated industry organisation.””We only heard about the move of the writing categories to the ‘technical awards’ at the networking session on the morning of the Safta awards. There was no consultation and WGSA was not officially informed of the change. If our vice chairperson Eubulus Timothy had not been at Sun City, we would have found out about this during the actual awards show, said Harriet Meier, WGSA chairperson.”Further as to the cancellation of the debrief of the Saftas, we have still not been advised of any reasons, nor have we been informed of a new date. We have also not heard anything further from the acting CEO since his acknowledgement of receipt of our letter and promise to revert.”

“And finally, we are not part of the ‘sub-committee’ which is allegedly relooking the Safta categories and criteria – and I have no idea what they mean by sending categories and criteria to industry organisation chairs for their ‘preparation’,” said Harriet Meier.

Channel 24