‘Funder let us down’: BET Africa’s ‘Queendom’ faces production pause amid funding turbulence

Dawn Thandeka King and Samkelo Ndlovu star in ‘Queendom’ which airs on BET Africa. Picture: Supplied

Dawn Thandeka King and Samkelo Ndlovu star in ‘Queendom’ which airs on BET Africa. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 11, 2024


The future of BET Africa’s daily drama ‘Queendom’ hangs in the balance, as production has come to a complete halt, following two months of production house Clive Morris Productions being unable to pay salaries.

Clive Morris Productions, which has been in the South African entertainment industry for over 30 years, found themselves in this unfortunate and unpredictable situation after an investor dropped them at the very last minute.

Its CEO, Clive Morris explained to IOL that being dropped by their investor at the last minute, resulted in them being unable to secure the funds needed for their co-investment in the production.

‘Queendom’ is a co-production between broadcaster BET Africa and the production house. BET has confirmed to IOL that they have fulfilled their responsibilities of the co-investment.

“We had the funds ready to pay for our share, BET paid their share but our funder let us down at the very last moment. We are not sure why, we don’t know if something else came along but the funder at the very last moment, when they were supposed to deposit the funds, didn't.

“We have been trying to find another funder to come in and BET is also trying to assist in finding funding. I think there has been some really good progress, but that is the reason why people haven’t been paid at the moment. It’s a very unfortunate and unique circumstance as we as a producer are funding the percentage of a show.”

Morris explains that he and his partner Dom Gumede entered into such a partnership with the channel, starting with the production ‘Isono’ as a means to allow them to own their content and be able to earn revenue should the production be sold elsewhere.

However, Clive Morris Productions was unable to see the returns on ‘Isono’ which proved to be more expensive than expected as it was made during lockdown, they had to shut down production and encountered expenses that had not been foreseen.

Co-productions between channels and production houses are not practices one sees often in South Africa, as most productions, especially telenovelas and series are fully funded by the broadcaster who will own all rights to the production.

In 2021, Clive Morris Productions was in a similar situation when the cast and crew of ‘The Estate’ was unpaid. Morris said this is the only time in their long-running history of being around when they encountered such issues.

“It’s not like we are sitting on the money or we’ve spent it on something else. We just haven't because of the short period of time been able to raise the funds to pay for our percentage, once our funder had let us down.”

Samkelo Ndlovu, Nhlanhla Kunene, Linda Mtoba and Sindi Dlathu are part of BET Africa’s new daily drama, ‘Queendom’. Picture: Supplied

‘Queendom’ first aired on BET Africa on April 22, 2024, featuring an all-star cast, with top actors Linda Mtoba, Sindi Dlathu, Mduduzi Mabaso, Hamilton Dlamini, Jabulani ‘Sjava’ Hadebe and Dawn Thandeka King.

“It’s a very expensive show altogether but we had planned for it and budgeted for it. If the funds had been deposited as promised and the investment had gone through, there wouldn't have been a problem.

“The show was budgeted and planned for, we were well within our budget, there would have been no problem.”

Before the show’s screen debut, the cast and crew were paid late, but Morris explained that there was confusion with the cast and crew as to when the payment would be received.

“It was just over the Easter weekend and there was an expectation that people would be paid before the Easter weekend and that didn't happen unfortunately, it’s not that people were not paid.”

Regarding the current situation, Morris said they have been in communication with the cast and crew regarding the predicament, and understand their frustration, especially since they can’t give them the answer as to what date they will be paid.

“My heart breaks, we are talking about people who can’t pay for very serious things, it’s not we take it lightly or we don’t care. We care so much, we’ve taken some of our own money and paid for things for people because it is heartbreaking for us that people have gone without salaries.

“It’s the last thing we wanted. The whole purpose of doing this was so that we can earn more and pay our crews more because people feel underpaid. Our purpose was to go in and do something good, create more work, for producers to have more skin in the game and do good for our industry.”

Morris has emphasised they are working non-stop to get the needed funding that will pay the outstanding salaries and get production back up and running. He, however, was not able to give a definite date when they will have the funds.

Having not previously been in a situation where an investor has dumped them at the last minute, Morris and his team are navigating the situation as they go. Clive Morris Productions has faith that they will come to a solution and make it up to those affected by the situation.

Morris, declined to comment on the reports that Showmax has taken them off as producers of ‘Empini’, and asked we contact the streamer directly for comment.

Showmax confirmed to IOL that a new production house is in the process of being appointed, following engagement with Clive Morris Productions over the challenges it was facing.

“ ‘Empini’ is one of Showmax’s most-watched series at the moment. We place a high value on the welfare of cast and crew in all our productions.

“To ensure the continuation of Empini, especially given its huge popularity with our subscribers, a new production house is in the process of being appointed. We can confirm that all cast and crew have been paid.”

IOL Entertainment