|The host of Adom FM’s Drive Programme, Ofiekwanso, Mikki Osei-Berko aka Master Richard, has called on executives of the Ghana Actors Guild to initiate strategies to restore the Guild to its former glory describing the state of the union now as horrible, disjointed, unattractive and uninspiring.
Contributing to a discussion on why various associations in the creative industry are not functioning effectively with the exception of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) on Adom FM’s weekend entertainment show Adom Billboard, Mikki said “I believe the problem with the Actors Guild is beyond Mr. Odoi Mensah.
Actors don’t have time to help build the Guild or the Union to move it forward. I think that it is of major concern. This is because most actors don’t recognize, first of all, the importance of a union. So if you should ask me if we have Actors Guild in Ghana I will say no. There is nothing like Actors Guild at the moment.”
“I will rather classify it as a group of self-seeking individuals who are taking for granted the welfare of the good people in the acting fraternity. There is no Guild. What is the essence of a Guild or Union? It is to protect its members or people who are in that kind of industry. Give them something to hold on to.
Give them some protection for their works. Give them some welfare and training. That is what a Guild or Union is for. Are these things evident? Do we see them? Of course if you don’t see these things how do you say there is a Guild? We don’t have access to legal aid and protection under any intellectual property right. It is not for the actor to be chasing lawyers as individuals, that is why we have unions to fight on our behalf”
Mikki Osei Berko, who is also an actor and played the lead in the popular Taxi Driver and Dada Boat television series said he thinks the Actors Guild is bigger than MUSIGA because its membership is derived from various players in the industry such as choreographers, Dancers, Models, Singers, Stage Managers, Story Tellers, Stand up Performers and Co-ordinators among others adding that the body should be more effective than it is now.
“There should be a strong Guild to give protection to these people I just mentioned but is that what we see? If we don’t see that, for me, it means there is no Actors Guild. This is because an organization such us Actors Guild should be communicating with people whether they come forward as members or not. There are a lot of things they can do to protect its members like negotiate and lobby governments to pull out pragmatic policies in the interest of the organization. First of all it should be a Trade Union to fight and negotiate for minimum wages for its members,” he said.
He lamented on how his Taxi Driver production has sold all over the world but all that he got out of it was just GHC2000 a situation he blamed on producers who due to ignorance in the system have taken advantage to cheat or take actors for a ride.
“As if we don’t know our right or we don’t know what we deserve. Look at the way telenovela has taken over our television stations. These stations pay for it and the money goes into the pockets of actors in Mexico yet we stand on platforms to propagate buy made in Ghana goods. How much do comedians earn here? We have devalued our works to the extent that people think it is a hobby.”
Also commenting on copyright, Mikki condemned television stations which don’t seek permission from producers before airing their works saying he believed that a copyright certificate should be signed by the owner of a movie before the TV station airs it. He said television stations are flouting the copyright laws because they don’t work. “What is the union doing for us? You see the man in-charge of the union is someone I respect, he is a senior colleague but I think people around him are not helping him to be a quality president. There is the need to find ways to break through Nigeria market else we shall be struggling with our small investment”.
“We have ignored our heroes. If you should see the situation in which Mac Jordan Amartey finds himself today… Super OD is a national icon yet nobody cares for him. What happened to Araba Stamp, Agya Ntow…they died as paupers. I think my people should emulate the example of MUSIGA where they did feasibility studies and impact assessment on what music does to the economy and the people’s psyche and all that and present it to the government…the union can follow suit by communicating with government with what they have under their sleeves”.
According to him, there should be a national policy to compel TV stations in the country to redesign their policies so they can air more local content than foreign ones. He said if they respect the profession and the right policies are affected and the TV stations are charged to air about 10% of foreign programmes whiles advertisements that are shown on local TVs stations is about 10% foreign and the rest are in local content, the TV stations will be forced to sell well to pay Ghanaian locals to perform. This he believes will create job opportunities for the actors.
He said the Ghana Actors Guild is a creative organization, which should find creative measures to bring members on board adding that the structures are not there and there is opportunity for those who are there to make amends.
“They should go for the people than to think that the people will willingly come themselves. They need to convince people of what benefit they will derive if they should join the union. They should have a Council in the Guild, they should have a legal staff and employ technocrats and open branches. There is the need to sell the Guild to them so that they will rush for it otherwise they should take the initiative to walk to them in order to convince them to be part of the action that is supposed to come,” he revealed.