A convicted felon who I had the pleasure of chatting with one afternoon confirmed for me what I had long suspected. Every type of manipulative story used scam me out of payment in the film industry was a story he had heard before, from his fellow inmates in prison. These scams are old and predictable, and crop up in any situation where anyone needs to get paid, not least the film industry which is akin to the Californian gold-rush in its non-unionised, winner-takes-all thuggery.
In the chaotic theatre of local film shoots, the robber barons are the owners of production companies.
Having said this, the Cape Town film industry is small and production companies need to keep their noses cleanish if they are going to keep finding experienced crews. For me, this has meant that I do get paid. Some of my colleagues who have higher bills, for example in set design, have been less fortunate.
My advice is: engage with that ethos of "honour among thieves" and rest assured that no apologies for your invoice are necessary. Invoice them fast and furiously, and don't cheat. They're in it for the money, and so are you. However, myriad scams are still attempted, some behind one's back and some straight to one's face. Here's a list of some of my all-time favourites.
1. Charging such a huge mark-up that the foreign ad agency would rather use a storyboarder from the Ukraine.
This is the principle way in which local producers have ensured that the local film industry is dying: sheer greed.
Much like Cecil John Rhodes and other imperialist highwaymen, producers are milking the scene to death so they're alright, Jack, with an attitude of "après moi, le déluge" just like Marie Antoinette.