In a three page memo, Shona and Connie Ferguson of Ferguson Films who produce “The Queen” reached out to the cast and crew to outline the challenges faced by the production house in the time of the national lockdown and a way forward in shooting season four.
At the start of the lockdown, there were enough episodes of “The Queen” for fans to enjoy until May 8.
However, since the president’s call to extend the lockdown by another two week, Ferguson Films’s ability to produce more episodes have been abruptly interrupted – now the fate of the popular show hangs in the balance.
“The decision from our President on Thursday 9th April 2020 to extend the 21-day lockdown by a further two weeks until the end of April (30 April 2020) has, as with many industries and businesses, altered the plans and displaced the position that Ferguson Films had in place.
“Our priority is to inform and update all our valued Cast and Crew of the situation and position that Ferguson Films finds itself in as a result of the extension, and the effects that the extended lockdown has had not only on our productions but on the company as a whole,” read a part of the memo that was released to cast and crew.
It went on to say that shooting and completing season four by the end of May has become unrealistic and no longer financially viable with the budget remaining.
“There is no alternative but to extend the shoot by an additional four weeks (one month) taking us into June 2020 with the goal of completion by 30 June 2020. We hope you will all complete this unexpected journey with us and we can finish what has been the hardest, most challenging and by far the most eventful season of ‘The Queen’, with the same family, old and new family members alike,” it read.
It further described the ways in which payment will be made to the cast and crew saying that “contractually there are only two months left of the contract and two months budget available”. Ferguson Films said, originally they planned on paying their staff their full salaries, however, that is no longer possible.
They said they reviewed whether April be an entirely unpaid month or that cast and crew work “for free” in June.
After much consideration, they decided that the remaining two months salaries will be divided and split across three months.
“While we cannot accommodate three months of fully paid salaries, and equally do not want to instill any period of no work, no pay; the only possible outcome was to take the remaining two months of budget and split it across three months.
“While this is not our preferred course of action, it is our only available course of action if we are to maintain consistent payments for the next three months,” read the statement.
“We are forced to make this work with what we have available to us. While the possibility of this lockdown being extended beyond April cannot be disregarded, this is the tentative solution for the current socioeconomic circumstances.
“Should anything change between now and then, naturally we will review and address the new position and update accordingly. We ask you all for your understanding, cooperation and more importantly your support,” it said.
Yolisa Phahle, MultiChoice Group CEO for General Entertainment said last month MultiChoice set aside R80 million to ensure cast and crew are paid in full, however would not disclose whether this will apply to the cast and crew of “The Queen”.
“Given our history and position in the industry, we have deep-rooted partnerships and long-standing commitments that have grown the industry for the benefit of many, both in front and behind the camera. They are the people who bring Africa’s most-loved stories to life.
“As such, last month MultiChoice Group set aside R80 million to ensure that current productions are able to pay full salaries of cast, crew, and creatives for the months of March and April. We believe this to be critical for the industry and in our view, simply the right thing to do.
“We are unfortunately not able to discuss any contract details in the media, as they are by nature confidential,” said Phahle.
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