THE CPA

The Commercial Producers Association of South Africa (CPA) is a professional trade association of film companies specializing in the production of television commercials.

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Latest Articles

Motion picture’s digital revolution – and how it impacts the commercial production industry

By Glen Bosman, executive producer at Catapult Commercials

Marklives, 23 June 2017

Today, filmmaking has little to do with film. Digital technology has advanced so much that we can shoot quality video on our phones and share it on social media in seconds. Cameras the size of our hands can capture night scenes with almost eyesight clarity; technology that’s decreased our dependence on analogue processes, but dramatically increased our data usage and necessitated the adoption of complex and often laborious data management systems.

Here we’ll explore how the digital evolution has changed the way production companies manage footage, the procedures they should adopt to keep data secure, and where this new era of data management is taking the industry.

Evolving from film to digital

The progression from film to digital has changed, among other things, the way production companies approach, cost, and finish a shoot. Previously, when shooting on film, they’d choose the appropriate stock and send it to the lab for processing. But when shooting digitally, the decision of stock is largely covered by the choice of camera and its settings, like resolution, aspect ratio, bit depth, bit ratio and compression.

Digital technology also changes the workflow. With faster turnaround times, production can save time and money by delivering part of the post-production on set, like the offline edit, and even part of the grade. This means that high volumes of data are being loaded directly onto the camera’s SD cards; a process that necessitates stringent data management procedures just to secure the raw footage.

Data management methodology

Throughout production, a strict process must be followed to ensure that data is safe and insurable. To encourage industry industry-wide commercial-production protocol in this area, the Commercial Producers Association’s Executive Committee member, Glen Bosman, compiled a Digital Production Manual on the Association’s behalf, to cover data management workflow in detail.

In the Manual, he lists a comprehensive methodology that covers everything from setup and gear testing, to shooting, safety protocols, the return of data to the workstation, and transcoding. It’s a rich and invaluable guide in this relatively new and complex space.

Despite its scope, Glen emphasises that the booklet is ‘a guideline and should be used as such’. At the rate that the digital world is changing, the role of production companies and professionals is changing all the time – into an environment that requires constant skill development and the habit of keeping one’s ear to the ground.

New expertise requirements

Processes aren’t the only thing that have changed. Since the onset of the digital revolution, two key professionals have emerged: Data Wranglers (DWs) and Digital Imaging Technicians (DITs). While there may be some overlap in these roles, their responsibilities are quite different.

DWs, for instance, have detailed knowledge of how footage is stored, coded, and processed, and they’re responsible for collecting, duplicating, and managing the data between cameras, SD cards, and hard drives.

A DIT on the other hand, is a DW who understands how the data, camera, and footage work together, which is specialised expertise that also supports the camera crew in capturing the most effective shots. On big productions, a DIT may also supervise and be responsible for several DWs.

As cameras become more automated, the services needed from these specialists continue to change. The traditional DIT role is evolving away from button pushing and exposure checking to luxury quality control. The responsibilities of DWs on the other hand, are increasing as the demand for storage increases. Who knows what their roles will be five years from now?

The future of data management

A single day on set can easily generate four to eight terabytes of footage between two cameras. But the ability to move this data is limited by existing technologies and their affordability. Anyone who’s worked in a production space knows how much time is consumed by managing storage devices, transferring data, and rendering footage.

Soon, we’ll be managing volumes higher than this, and the costs and pressures will increase with it. Already we’re seeing, on reality shows and studio productions, how teams of DWs work in 24-hour cycles, swapping out and picking up where others have left off. This mirrors through to commercial sets, where the available technology can’t process the material fast enough.

Manpower, electricity and security is required non-stop, either through mobile data labs, or by securely transporting footage to off-set facilities. DITs and gear houses managing big data like this supply equipment costing well over US$2000/day; a factor that is spurring new business models, skill requirements, and technological advancements to the industry.

A constantly evolving industry

Motion picture production has come a long way in the last decade and it’s not stopping or even slowing down. Roles are changing, technology is developing, and new skills are needed every day. That’s why, sometimes, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come… And look with excitement at just how far we’re yet to go.

The CPA sponsors Cannes Young Directors’ Award 2017

Biz-community, 08 June 2017

The Commercial Producers Association, South Africa (CPA) is pleased to announce that it is one of the sponsors of the Young Directors’ Award at the 2017 Cannes Lions Festival. A platform for young filmmakers to be noticed by top industry professionals, the award is among the most attended Cannes Fringe events, attracting over 400 entries from around the world.

The Young Directors’ Award is aimed specifically at emerging directors; the only Cannes category to recognise beginners rather than established professionals. And this is one of the key reasons for the CPA’s 2017 sponsorship: because developing and recognising new directors is essential to the future of the production industry.

With the explosion of digital, the production market is saturated with up-and-coming creatives who need to be more and more talented to succeed. The Young Directors’ Award provides a platform to raise these directors, fast-tracking opportunities that would otherwise take years to realise. Recent South African winners include Sam Coleman, Wim Steyler, Pieter Hugo, Michael Cleary, Ryan Isted, and Dan Mace, among others.

The CPA also believes that the fundamentals of commercial production (and the values on which they were developed) are in the process of been lost, as these previously niche and critical skills are increasingly absorbed by large corporates.

Through the Young Directors’ Award, the CPA hopes to assist in the revitalisation of these values, shifting production companies from perceived advertising industry service providers to professional creative partners who are inherent to the process.

Although the Young Directors’ Award is international, the CPA notes that the production industry is not limited by geography. Bobby Amm, CPA executive officer says, “South African producers are part of a global market that needs to work together, share resources, and ensure that events like this continue to feed the industry. With the changing advertising and filmmaking landscapes, producers play an integral role in growing, nurturing, developing and mentoring emerging talent from South Africa and across the globe.”

 

Bid Rigging and commercial production - a call to action 

Marklives - 5 June 2017

Bid-rigging isn’t just a concern in the US advertising and film production community; it’s a global issue with the potential to deeply affect South African independent production houses — not just by the threat of their own closure but also by the knock-on effects that inhibit the industry’s ability to employ and develop new talent, while providing competitive services.

In December 2016, the US Department of Justice began investigating allegations of advertising agency bid-rigging. In these cases, several agencies with in-house production teams were accused of structuring bids to their own tenders using the intellectual property presented in the bids from independent production houses. 

An inherently unavoidable bias

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) has advised agencies to ensure that they don’t use information disclosed to them by production companies to enhance their own bids. But South Africa’s Commercial Producers Association (CPA) and related international bodies believe that this is simply not possible in practice — even with the best, most-honourable intentions.

Treatments presented in a bid contain hard-earned creative ideas and project methodology; information that can’t be unknown when an agency develops its own bid. Costs are also disclosed, so an agency would need to deliberately charge more than competitors for any work to be awarded to them — an unlikely act in a competitive environment.

While many agencies can and do emphasise that those who bid and those who receive bids aren’t connected, the risk for bias is too significant. A system is needed to ensure a fair and competitive bidding process, one that equally protects all those involved.

Universal rules of engagement 

To address the need for transparency, and to protect the integrity of the industry, the CPA and its members agreed, as of February 2017, they would no longer pitch against in-house production companies. This trend has also been adopted across North America and Europe.

CPA members are implementing the commercial industry’s Universal Rules of Engagement: 

“To keep focused on [their] core areas [namely, improving the creative product, finding efficient solutions and keeping the talent pool fresh and strong], business issues should be as standardised and predictable as possible… The topics discussed [in these principles of contracting a production company to produce a commercial] ensure that advertisers and agencies receive the highest quality product possible, and that production companies are treated fairly in the execution of each project.”

Further, the rules state that:

“There should be a maximum of three production companies invited to bid for a commercial project. These entities should be advised of others they are bidding against, as it helps shape the expectation of the desired outcome. In situations where there are more than three bidding companies on the same project, all participants should be notified in advance (or as this situation arises) so that companies can better assess whether they would like to participate in the bidding pool.”

What this means for agencies

While potentially disruptive to the way agencies have worked in the past, these adjustments contain the means to promote fairness and, ultimately, a thriving production industry for all.

As such, agencies may expect CPA members to:

  • Request upfront declaration of whether an in-house production company will be pitching for the same work, or if there is a chance of their doing so during the process;
  • Include a paragraph in their pitches stating that they are submitting their bid on the basis that no entity in the bidding pool, directly or indirectly, is a parent or subsidiary of, connected to, or is any holding company of the agency soliciting the bid; and
  • Request a list of the companies they are pitching against, so they may plan resources and then decide if they are best-positioned to answer the brief.

The bottom line? Agencies have two options for commercial work: to produce their own material or to call for bids to outsource. Not both. Sound fair?


Beating bid rigging in the advertising and film industry

Financial Mail - 3 May 2017

 The advertising and film industry is in the grips of a global struggle against bid rigging.  In December 2016, the global advertising and film production community watched with keen interest as the US Department of Justice stepped into the midst of a long-brewing conflict between adverting agencies and independent production houses.  This came after the Department's antitrust division was tasked with investigating whether ad agencies were intentionally rigging pitches for production work to favour their in-house divisions.

The US scenario is reflective of the state of affairs in other major advertising markets, most notably those of the UK, Europe and SA. To date, only the US has made the foray into legal waters, but the situation around the world is rapidly becoming more contentious as ad agencies appear to be scooping up production work and taking it in-house to bolster diminishing profit margins.

In the UK and France, independent production companies have responded by presenting a unified front, calling for stricter guidelines to protect the integrity of production houses and the infrastructure that surrounds them.

In a strongly-worded open letter addressed to advertising professionals in February, French producers reaffirmed their opposition to “a system wherein agencies become both judge and jury about certain competitions and, as such, lose the impartiality required for our sector to function effectively”.

The letter went to on say: “We wholeheartedly call upon all advertising sector players to reach an agreement whereby agencies undertake not to propose, either directly or indirectly, their in-house production when the advertiser initiates a call for tender.”

As a body that represents the interests of SA’s independent production houses and film professionals, the Commercial Producers Association of SA is deeply concerned by the impact of bid rigging locally. It has created an atmosphere of uncertainty and widespread insecurity, as production houses seek to remain in business in a sector where the new rules of engagement seem both unclear and unjust.

An alarming number of suppliers and independent companies are facing potential closure as local ad agencies take an ever-increasing slice of post-production work in-house, while also establishing their own recording studios and facilities.

If the sector continues on its current trajectory, we can expect to see more agencies starting in-house production departments. This could lead to the closure of production companies that are already feeling the pressure of economic slow-down and the negative effects of globalisation. It could also severely inhibit the industry’s ability to bring in new talent, nurture up-and-coming directors, and generally provide clients with the original and compelling filmmaking that they have benefited from in previous years.

In our view – one that is echoed by our UK and European peers – the only answer to this worsening state of affairs is transparency and clear communication. Critically, given that bidding for work is an expensive and time-consuming task, independent production companies should know if they are competing against in-house entities so that they are able to make an informed choice.

It is clearly time for every stakeholder to take responsibility and assist in setting clear and fair guidelines that pave the way forward. Without this, the integrity and credibility of advertising and production in SA will quickly be eroded.

The big take-out: The Commercial Producers Association of SA says the local advertising and film industry is in a struggle against bid rigging, which favours ad agencies’ in-house production facilities.

  

Creating a unified voice and strong foundation for an industry in flux 

Bizcommunity & Mark Lives - 5 April 2017 

For those who have any insight into or experience of the film and television production industry, it is easy to grasp the magnitude of the challenges that these industry professionals face daily. From negotiating onerous location requirements to working with SARS to better understand how industry freelancers should be taxed, the world of production is rife with the unexpected and sometimes, the seemingly insurmountable. For this reason, it is critical that industry professionals have a robust network of support and guidance behind them.

In 1984, just a few years after television advertising began in earnest in South Africa, the Commercial Producers Association (CPA) was established with the clear aim of creating such a network – as well as to professionalise the fast-growing industry and represent the interests of its members.

Today, the CPA has 60 member production companies, all of which specialise in the production of television commercials for the South African and the international market. Our members range from SMEs and middle-sized enterprises to the largest companies in the industry.

Since inception, the CPA’s role has evolved and changed along with the industry. At the outset, our primary mission was to create an element of self-regulation within a sector that was essentially unregulated. To this end, the CPA actively develops and negotiates contracts and other key agreements to enable member companies to operate efficiently and with fewer risks. As many of the issues that the CPA deals with are legislative, the association draws on the advice of specialist attorneys and consultants.  In addition to the administrative and legislative function, the CPA is also committed to promoting best practices – acting as a conduit for key insights and information shared amongst our network of international counterparts and local members. Notably, the CPA conducts an annual survey to determine the state of the industry and to identify key opportunities and challenges on the horizon.

Over the years, our commitment to creating a production-friendly and efficient environment for members has resulted in several important wins for the industry at large. For example, the CPA reversed burdensome location requirements and a proposed bylaw to rezone properties in Cape Town for film use. Without this reversal, legal filming in Cape Town would have been impossible – and a major industry asset would have been rendered non-existent.

The Association was also instrumental in opposing a high court judgment in the Constitutional Court that sought to make it impossible for animal handlers to obtain the licenses needed to work with animals on set. Again, without this legal turnaround, it would have been near impossible to incorporate any animal into a television commercial, TV program or feature film! More recently, the CPA led a fundraising drive to lobby the Department of Home Affairs to temper new immigration legislation. This legislation made it virtually unworkable for international clients to bring their business to South Africa – a situation which would have had dire consequences for the entire South African service sector (which turns over R5 billion every year and is critical to providing resources to the local production industry).

Additionally, the CPA and its industry partners were the first in the country to enter into a formal arrangement with Home Affairs to facilitate the issue of visas to clients and their teams. Notably, the formation of the Film Industry Visa Assistance Program or “FIVA” has seen over 15,000 skilled industry professionals entering the country under this system over the last two years!

Apart from these legal challenges, the CPA has helped to ease member companies into an era largely dominated by new technology and driven by digital platforms. We developed a Digital Production Protocol for the industry to highlight the changes (and potential risks) that new technology brings to the production process.    Looking ahead, with the inherent risks and challenges brought about by globalisation and widespread economic malaise, industry bodies such as the CPA are more important than ever if the production industry wishes to retain its independence and stature.

 

 

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