The future of Cape Collective Assist

 In BLOG, news

As the 2017/18 season draws nearer, CCA will be making some changes to its operation practices, please read below regarding the following changes that we will be implementing from 1 September 2017:

Cape Collective Assist as a Platform

As a photographic collective, CCA was intended to act as a platform for aspiring photographers to launch their careers from. The company has always followed a socialistic approach in the way it does business; drawing traction from individuals within its network to push forward the network as a whole to create mutual benefit. CCA’s direct network consists of a collective of young up-and-coming creatives with the common goal of pursuing a career in photography.

As the collective, CCA has worked more than 4000 days on stills sets over the last three and a half years of operation. Collectively, we have booked nearly 100 individuals and placed them on set to work with and learn from local and international crews. In season, the collective of assistants on set for CCA is approximately 60 individuals per month. A group of young, up-and-coming creatives that rely on assisting to earn what is often the majority of their income, a large portion of which is needed to invest in the development of their own photographic careers.

CCA was started as a platform for assistants to market themselves on in order to work with a wide range of photographers during their assisting careers. Over the last 4 seasons, we have experienced numerous setbacks, challenges and barriers as a result of the way in which the industry operates. We feel there is a need to implement some change in order to ensure the future of the CCA platform and a sustainable industry going forward.

Crew and Skill Level

At CCA, we’ve never represented assistants – the collective is not exclusive, it is open to anyone willing to commit to becoming a photographic assistant. Our only requirements are that assistants follow the CCA Way & Code of Conduct, have a basic technical understanding of the industry, lighting and/or camera systems, and are committed to upskilling themselves by taking advantage of the training opportunities we provide as well as learning experiences on set.

Our onboarding process is systematic. CCA vets crew over a probation period. Initially, new online signups are invited to an interview to discuss their goals and assess their current skill level. CCA then does its best to create training opportunities to upskill the newcomers and put them onto assisting jobs as freelance assistants in order to obtain feedback from clients during their probation period, which spans for a minimum of 3 months. Wherever possible, we try and put the newcomers on larger jobs alongside established CCA Core assistants to act as mentors.

Once an assistant has proven their skill and commitment during the probation period, they are pulled into the CORE assisting team of CCA. We encourage newcomers to begin their onboarding process during the off-season months, when we facilitate a series of crew development and training workshops.

We have found that there exists a large gap between the level of practical knowledge required to work on set and the technical skills taught at educational institutions. Paradoxically, for assistants to work on set they need experience, but to gain experience they need to work on set. A photographic degree alone does not suffice. This technical skills gap is the first barrier to entry into the industry for young photographic professionals.

Working Conditions, Rates and Regulations

The stills industry in South Africa is volatile. The lack of regulation and structure makes it difficult to manage on both a business and personal level. The inconsistency of rates and the lack of protection for crew around working conditions and bookings pose a threat to the sustainability of the local assisting industry. 

When it comes down to crew working conditions, the most concerning aspect of working on set is the neglect with regards to the crew member’s safety and well-being, as a result of long hours, multiple job roles, lack of sleep and proper meals, as well and the fickle nature of bookings. Due to a complete lack of protection for crew, the industry has arrived at a point where crew members have barely any control over their own career as an assistant, when they work, what they earn, when they get paid and their working hours.

The industry’s shortfall in creating a fair and standardised working environment is the second barrier to entry for a photographic assistant. If there is no security and no value in assisting, the supply of assistants will dwindle and the industry will suffer the consequences. On a crew level, we need to formalise our business to provide a professional environment for South Africa’s assistants to work in. This is aimed to set a precedent for the future of photography in South Africa. Today’s assistants will become the photographers and producers that will drive the industry forward in a few years, and as such it is important that this new generation is nurtured properly.

The Future of CCA and The Collective

Since its inception, CCA has always been open to advice and guidance from key players in the industry, and over the seasons, we have adapted and changed our business to best suit the needs of our crew in various ways. We are improving and refining our model everyday.

We always have the best interest of the crew at heart because we are a part of that crew. The owners of CCA work on set as part of the collective, and we are fighting for the future of our own careers as well as the careers of everyone in the collective and in the industry.

Throughout CCA’s development, the focus of the company has morphed from a simple crew collective to a career development platform, which is tailored to assist young creatives in the development of their photographic careers by creating a platform from which to establish themselves.

The platform guides aspiring photographers through a career development pathway from education into CCA’s funnel: practical training programs, creative & inspirational talks, photographic exhibitions, test sessions and studio memberships, working on set as crew members, then finally pushing them out of CCA into the industry to become photographers in their own right. This is the vision of CCA and the role it intends to play in the growth of the industry.

Let’s do it right

As a collective we wish to put forward a set of working terms, a new booking model and rate guidelines to our clients for the 2017/18 production season.

Working Terms

We have summarised our booking terms below. These terms apply to all clients booking crew members through CCA from 1 September 2017. These terms are intended to set a basic
standard for crew in the stills industry for clients to keep in mind. We are aware that this change won’t take place overnight, but we would like to start working towards a more controlled industry
on a crew level. The full set of working terms is available in our working agreement.

  • Standard Day: 12 hour working day consisting of pre-production-, shoot-, and or post-production activities with a minimum turnaround time of 10 hours.
  • Gear Check/Travel Day: Charged at 50% of the assistant’s day rate.
  • Confirmations: All 1st options to be confirmed at a minimum of 72 hours before the first shoot day. 1st options not confirmed within this prescribed timeframe may be moved onto other confirmed jobs, and we will replace the optioned slot with another assistant wherever possible.
  • Overtime: Charged where deemed reasonable on jobs with repeated extended working hours. 10% of assistant’s fee to be charged per hour worked over the standard day of 12 hours.
  • Cancellations: Confirmed jobs cancelled within the minimum timeframe of 4 days before the first shoot day will be charged at 100% of the assistant’s day rate for all days cancelled.
  • Personal Vehicles: Will be billed per km at AA rates (based on assistant’s vehicle type) on jobs that are further than 15km from Cape Town CBD. Vehicles that carry crew, props, gear and/or craft will be rented at a rate specified by the assistant and will be charged at a AA per km rate on top of the vehicle per day rental rate.
  • Meals: Breakfast to be provided on all sets starting before 9am. Lunch to be provided on all sets. Dinner to be provided on all sets exceeding 8pm. Sufficient water and snacks to be provided on all sets.
  • Payment: Payment for crew must be made within 20 working days of the submission of an invoice.

Booking Model

Based on the financial data of CCA and its individual crew members, we are altering our booking model to be more in favour of the crew member and to ensure the sustainability of CCA. Currently the business is taking too much strain under the weight of an unregulated industry. For CCA to be sustainable we need to adapt our booking model and diversify our focus.

We are moving away from our current model of charging our crew members a 12.5% administrative fee. Going forward into the new 2017/18 season we are looking to level the playing field in order to create more value for the individual crew member. From the 1st of September all crew members booked through CCA will be charged a 7.5% administrative fee. This agency fee covers all administrative activities and financial processing, and covers crew training sessions and benefits within the collective’s network.

We are looking to relieve strain off individual crew members, hence the drop in their administrative free. In order for us to do this, and in order for CCA to be sustainable, we will be incorporating a 10% booking fee on top of the final invoice billed to clients. We advise producers to keep this new fee in mind when quoting and budgeting for upcoming shoots. For the client, this booking fee ensures access to high quality crew and our management services before, during and after the job.

Rates Card

We have developed a new rates card for international productions as a guideline for producers to keep in mind when booking crew. These rates are based on average rates across the board for all international productions in South Africa over the past 18 months. Our rates card is intended to provide a guideline to clients on the standard day rate for assistants across multiple disciplines and at various skill levels. CCA consists of a team made up of senior, mid-level and developing assistants, with respectively different day-rates.

Conclusion

These changes are all geared towards uplifting the industry from the ground up; by empowering the next generation, enabling careers, and nurturing a space for creative growth to take place among the youth. Our goal is to see a professional and structured assisting industry take shape whilst supporting the rapid growth of the production industry in Cape Town and South Africa as a whole.

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