Soapie parts ways with cast mem­bers

Lesotho Times - - Entertainment - Mo­halenyane Phakela

LO­CAL soapie, Our Times, has parted ways with 26 of its 50 cast mem­bers over a salary dis­agree­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the soapie’s pro­ducer, Motheea Mpharoane, the 26 cast mem­bers’ one-year con­tracts were ter­mi­nated af­ter he failed to meet their ex­pec­ta­tions. Some of the de­part­ing cast mem­bers told the Week­ender on con­di­tion of anonymity they had con­tin­ued to re­ceive “pal­try” salaries de­spite be­ing promised their re­mu­ner­a­tion would im­prove.

Our Times is a pro­duc­tion of Mpharoane’s Thet­sane-based Land­locked En­ter­tain­ment and delves on the themes of be­trayal, tragedy, ro­mance and tra­di­tion among others.

The soapie was aired on South African broad­caster etv’s con­ti­nen­tal ser­vice e-africa in Jan­uary this year un­til March. Mpharoane also inked a one-year deal with the Le­sotho Na­tional Broad­cast­ing Ser­vices (LNBS) in Fe­bru­ary to pro­vide 260 episodes, with 120 episodes al­ready com­pleted.

Mpharoane said he had failed to de­liver the lofty heights en­vi­sioned at the be­gin­ning of the project, hence the de­ci­sion by some cast mem­bers to jump ship.

“Be­fore I be­gan shoot­ing Our Times in 2013, I re­searched about soapies in South Africa and found out they made ap­prox­i­mately M300 000 per episode. I was very ex­cited about the amount, and would al­ways share it with the cast mem­bers to mo­ti­vate them,” he said.

“We were very am­bi­tious as a team and set high goals for our­selves. How­ever, when things didn’t go ac­cord­ing to plan, I couldn’t face the team. Some of them came to terms with the re­al­ity, but others could not be­lieve it and ac­cused me of keep­ing the money for my­self.”

Mpharoane said claims the soapie was mak­ing a lot of money were base­less.

“We first sold Our Times episodes in Jan­uary this year to ETV, but they paid a very small amount which I can­not men­tion. All I can say is the amount was not even five per­cent of what I ex­pected,” he said.

“We won a ten­der to sup­ply con­tent to the LNBS in Fe­bru­ary this year un­til March next year and given close to M2 mil­lion.”

He said the cast mem­bers started get­ting salaries in March this year, al­though they were much lower than what they had ex­pected.

“I blame my­self for mak­ing them be­lieve they would be driv­ing their own lux­ury cars by now. But the rev­enue we are gen­er­at­ing does not al­low us to pay them be­tween M20 000 and M30 000 as they had ex­pected,” said Mpharoane.

“I promised them the sit­u­a­tion would im­prove with time as we would get more money next year when the LNBS con­tract is re­newed. Some un­der­stood, but others could not ac­cept what I said, hence we came to a mu­tual agree­ment to ter­mi­nate the con­tracts of the lat­ter group and set­tle the nine months left of their con­tracts.”

He in­di­cated the soapie was yet to be broad­cast on LNBS adding the de­lay had con­trib­uted to the “chaos”.

“When we were awarded the LNBS con­tract in Jan­uary, we were told Our Times would be aired start­ing from Fe­bru­ary, but that has not hap­pened. We were then told the soapie would be broad­cast once dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion has been ef­fected,” Mpharoane said.

Dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion in­volves shift­ing broad­cast­ers from ana­logue to dig­i­tal sig­nals, and the process is key for open­ing up more fre­quen­cies and faster mo­bile broad­band ser­vices. The dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy af­fords coun­tries such as Le­sotho, with a fre­quency spec­trum for only one chan­nel un­der ana­logue, to ac­com­mo­date 20 tele­vi­sion chan­nels.

Le­sotho is now wait­ing for South Africa, which is still be­hind in dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion, to also com­plete the process to pre­vent sig­nal clashes be­tween ana­logue and dig­i­tal.

“I be­lieve this de­lay has shat­tered the hopes of our cast mem­bers as we had hoped to in­crease their salaries with the money from the re­newal of the LNBS con­tract in March ev­ery year,” he said.

“But since it has not yet been aired, they didn’t see the salary in­creases hap­pen­ing. I have also lost hope.”

Mpharoane said the sil­ver lin­ing to the de­par­tures was the re­duc­tion in the num­ber of cast mem­bers, adding they would con­tinue with those left be­hind.

“If you were to com­pare our cast mem­bers with other pop­u­lar soapies, it be­comes ap­par­ent we had too many peo­ple. I am happy now that I am left with a man­age­able num­ber, which means we can pay them more money,” he said.

“I want to as­sure Ba­sotho that they shouldn’t be wor­ried about us clos­ing down. We will con­tinue to pro­duce Our Times as promised, al­though we would need to tweak the script which is some­thing we are al­ready work­ing on.”

Our TIMES PRO­DUCER MOTHEEA MPHAROANE (BOT­TOM CEN­TRE) AND SOME OF THE SOAPIE’S CAST MEM­BERS IN THI file PIC­TURE.

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