Thursday, 9 April 2020

Lights, camera, lockdown: The daily wagers of Pakistan's showbiz

10:02 By Lollywood Online


From freelance assistant directors, editors, gaffers to daily wage workers including the light and camera crew, spot boys and people behind the props and sets, everyone has one thing to say: “There’s no work and no hope of even getting paid for the work we started doing before the lockdown began.” Falling like dominos on top of one another, production for many films halted in front of our very eyes. Even producers that managed to wrap up their shoots before the pandemic were not successful in releasing their films since most of them were waiting for Eidul Fitr. Uncertainty and freelancers Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ayaz Akbar, a freelance assistant director, editor and colour-grade artist said, “I was working on a project and it was in its pre-production phase but after the lockdown, producers backed off. They said they didn’t need it anymore because it’s a luxury at a time when people are focused on fulfilling their basic needs like keeping themselves alive.”

From freelance assistant directors, editors, gaffers to daily wage workers including the light and camera crew, spot boys and people behind the props and sets, everyone has one thing to say: “There’s no work and no hope of even getting paid for the work we started doing before the lockdown began.” Falling like dominos on top of one another, production for many films halted in front of our very eyes. Even producers that managed to wrap up their shoots before the pandemic were not successful in releasing their films since most of them were waiting for Eidul Fitr. Uncertainty and freelancers Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ayaz Akbar, a freelance assistant director, editor and colour-grade artist said, “I was working on a project and it was in its pre-production phase but after the lockdown, producers backed off. They said they didn’t need it anymore because it’s a luxury at a time when people are focused on fulfilling their basic needs like keeping themselves alive.”

Hira Mansoor, a freelance art director also said that her payments were stuck, although she mentioned that art directors get some advance payment with the full payments arriving after a month. “But because of this lockdown our payments are delayed for another 3-4 months while our labour, that earned Rs1000 in a day, has no reserves.” Ahad Ahmed Khan, a freelance assistant director who worked in Money Back Gaurantee also said that the daily wagers were the ones really suffering, but nothing can be done even if directors resumed shooting.

“There is no work and even if shoots resume, pulling them off isn’t logistically possible right now. As an AD there is a problem in gathering the crew, equipment, props and several people can’t make it because of there being no transport or allowance from the authorities.” He further added that even after the lockdown ends, producers would only hire the crème de la crème because there would be no room for bigger crews and lesser productivity. “This would lead to lesser jobs, of course, but the daily wagers would even be willing to work in lower amounts since they’ve been unemployed for so long.” Debts and daily wagers Amanullah, a light and camera person agrees. Living in a rented apartment, he is the only breadwinner of his family of nine. “I’ve been sitting at home since fifteen days now. Do you know what that means? It means no food with another month’s rent on my Shoulders.

He explained how he’d make ends meet by somehow earning Rs1,500 in a day, be it from a 12-hour shift or a 24-hour one. “But since March 21, I have earned nothing. I bought a week’s worth of grocery from my last savings and even that has finished. I’ve just received a ration bag out of sympathy from a friend, but it’s embarrassing because no matter how little, I’ve always earned my own money.” Like Amanullah, every other daily wager was more concerned about dying of hunger before corona even hit them. Muhammad Jaan, another ‘light boy’ mentioned being jobless. “There are five people in this house and I have to give Rs15,000 for this apartment we live in. We have no savings and our only hope is God.”

Jaan said he was borrowing money from people in the hopes to return them whenever shooting resumes. But sadly, he hasn’t received wages for 19 days of work on a television project he was recently doing. “My boss hasn’t paid me yet and he tells me every day that he’s going to give me the money but he doesn’t.” Spot boy Mohammad Shahbaz Ramzan reiterated Khan’s thoughts on the logistical issues surrounding his work. “The problem is that a crew is too big and usually filled with men – if more than three stags gather in a field these days the police will take them away. Not to mention our shifts are for 12-18 hours.” He further added that more than films, he works on commercials but even brands have stopped making them.

Arbab Ali Khosa, a set and props manager along with his cousin Ishrat Ali Khosa expressed similar sentiments. Whereas Nabeel Amdani, an occasional production manager and usually a line producer, said that there are days he even earns Rs10, 000 for managing, but all of that goes into his rent. “My daily wages are everything me and my family survive on. It is a good thing that my apartment’s owner is willing to wait for me to start earning again before I pay him – But what about the ones who are not?”

Adeel Yousuf, another spot boy who mentioned working in Parey Hut Love, Dobara Phir Se, says that he was working on commercials and about to get a film but the lockdown happened. “No matter how little I earned I could at least manage our rent, but now I can’t even do that. Not to mention, there are 17 people in my family including children, my brother and parents.” He ended up saying that all of them don’t care about the virus – “We don’t care about it, we can’t let our family die of hunger.”

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