There’s nothing interesting about getting old in Ghana’s creative arts industry. Aging in the creative space is characterised by poverty, depression, rejection and dejection. It is painful, and those bearing the brunt of this the most are the actors.
Our aged and aging actors are really suffering; it is a sad situation that needs urgent attention. It is amazing and upsetting to realize that the actors who graced our TV screens and enthralled us on shows like the TV Theatre series, Akan Drama, Taxi Driver, Showcase In Ga, Things We Do For Love among others and the many who starred in all the best movies in the past are struggling. Some cannot even afford three square meals in a day. Pathetic!
Many are sick and can’t afford to pay their medical bills, depending on the benevolence of friends for support.
What is confounding is the fact that, some of these aging actors are fit, with their talent intact, but there are no roles for them to play.
Last week, veteran actor, Fred Amugi, in a TV interview, stated that the agitation by stakeholders in the movie industry about lack of jobs in the acting space could be reconsidered if the days of old are revisited.
According to him, many years ago, actors and actresses were engaged in educative and lucrative television and radio theatre that made the industry thrive but unfortunately that has been scrapped.
According to Mr. Amugi, television and radio theatre and stage drama are the key elements that prepare every actor to take up challenging roles in movies.
What Else Is There?
The likes of Fred Amugi dedicated half of their lifetime to acting; they schooled for it, trained for it, and worked. They are professional actors and regardless of what they may have done and still do on the side, acting is what gave them critical acclaim and was supposed to give them financial liberation.
These veterans, unlike the new generation of actors who lack even the basic rudiments for acting, had the passion for the job and ‘killed’ themselves for the job – all without any proper remuneration. Acting, at the time, was not lucrative but these veterans were more enthusiastic about the job than the money.
At the point when acting, filmmaking and television in Ghana became worthwhile, it was expected that these hardworking actors would finally get what they deserve for all the years of hard work, but unfortunately, it is not so.
These veterans have been cut out of their job, the same craft they trained for, perfected and through which they garnered experience.
The Young Taking Over Roles For The Old
The phenomenon of young actors being disguised and made to play old men and women has gained grounds in our filmmaking and stakeholders are divided over the matter with some for and against it.
My take is this; the young should play the role of the young and leave the role of the old to the veterans who are proficient to do the work. Putting make-up on these young actors to play the role of old people makes little sense.
If the role is a progressive role, where the story depicts a person growing from childhood to adulthood and growing older, then it makes sense to disguise the actor for that role. This makes the storyline believable and professionally made.
Elsewhere, old actors like Robert DeNiro, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, James Earl Jones, Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Betty White and many other old actors are getting quality roles everyday and getting paid.
In a well-structured film and TV industry, no actor will be made up to play a role that can easily be played by a Michael Douglas, Geoffrey Rush or Anthony Hopkins.
No Roles, No Residuals – Where’s The Saving Grace?
With the possibility of ailing actors begging for funds in the media seeming endless, something ought to be done to arrest this situation. These legendary actors deserve way better!
Elsewhere, especially in the US, residuals work because there’s a well-structured Screen Actors Guild that ensures that the acting profession is one that pays and one that is highly protected.
It is interesting to note that the Screen Actors Guild negotiates and enforces Collective Bargaining Agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits, and working conditions for its performers; collects compensation for exploitation of recorded performances by its members, and provides protection against unauthorized use of those performances; preserves and expands work opportunities for its members.
If you are an actor and you belong to such a guild, you have little to worry about; you are safe!
However, in Ghana, there’s no Screen Actors Guild. The next thing that attempts to look like it, is the Actors Guild of Ghana and the status of some of its members running to the media for aid is what one gets as a member. Such a shame!
Listen To The Cries and Help Fix The Problem
In suggesting solutions to the problem, Fred Amugi called on the current Chief Director General of GBC, Dr. Kwame Akuffo Annoff-Ntow, who was the producer and director of TV and Radio theatre series at the time – to bring it back. The veteran actor believes such a move would not only get the actors busy but paid as well.
The revival of the Radio and TV Theatres will also provide quality, educative and informative content in an era where the inundation of telenovelas is killing our system.
When these actors get engaged on Radio and TV frequently, their relevance would parlay into them getting roles in films – and this would somehow solve the disturbing issues of poverty, dejection and depression our aging actors have been plunged into.