KARACHI: In Pakistan’s entertainment industry, actors have perhaps been the most exploited independent contractors. They get caught up in legal jargon which, most of the time, they don’t have any idea about. It’s interesting to note that despite having a long tradition of theater and television, Pakistan did not have an actors’ union, which could protect their rights. Granted our revived film industry is only less than a decade old, it is still not too soon for a guild to protect each artist’s rights.
Theattr actor and director Omair Rana has taken the first step in systemisation of the industry, which is currently trying to find order in its self-induced chaos. Earlier this year, he established Actors Collective Trust (ACT) in order to offer Pakistani actors a voice and support.
Speaking with The Express Tribune, Rana said, “We have been in the process of establishing ACT for the past seven to eight years. I thought we needed equity for actors. ACT is a just, neutral professional organisation serving the actors fraternity in Pakistan.” He said they already have a number of actors on board, and more who have applied for the membership.
Talking about how ACT intends to represent the actors, Rana said the organisation is trying to standardise the actors’ contracts in the entertainment industry. “We will create a standard template for the contracts that all parties will go back-and-forth on and agree upon.”
When asked whether ACT faced any resistance from the actors or producers, Rana responded in the negative. “I’ve always said that it’s not actors versus producers. This will eventually help all parties. Producers are not the enemy. Sure, there have been some people, but I’d call them skeptics, not pessimists. No one is against ACT. They are just doubtful because it hasn’t been done before.”
“ACT will need to prove its credibility otherwise, we will become flabby and that’s not what we want,” he added.
Interestingly, at FocusPK16 – a two-day Production and Entertainment conference held last week, United Producers’ Association (UPA) chairman Satish Anand publicly invited ACT to come discuss its agenda with the association to further the standardisation of contracts.
Regarding the invitation, Rana said he was glad about UPA’s cooperation and will definitely see to it soon. He said, “However, I am sure it’s going to be all flowery and a diplomatic discussion. We are going to go back and forth on it and we are going to propose ideas. Overall, it is definitely going to be a healthy relationship for the betterment of the industry.”
ACT may be in its initial stage right now, but Rana would like to take it further in the future. Asked where he sees the guild in the next five years or so, he said, “By the time ACT completes five elections, we will have established the ACT awards. I also think it should eventually specialise into separate departments for theatre, television and film actors.”
He added that after ACT, he would like a guild for representing junior artists. “I would like to establish a Supporting Artists Trust down the line. We surely need a guild for the junior artists in our country because I think they are the least represented ones. We really need to get our act together!”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2016.
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