Dramatic productions a seasonal lifestyle
Ahmed Al-Mamari, an actor, complained that "actors suffer from poor salaries; the main character is given only YR 15,000 for one episode."
However, he anticipated a rise in salaries at the channel Yemen TV. Following the appointment of Abdulrahman Dalak as director of the channel, salaries are expected to increase to YR 25,000 or YR 30,000 per episode.
“Some companies pay quite handsomely; others don’t,” he said.
Al-Mamari also noted the seasonality of dramatic work.
“Work starts to increase two months before Ramadan,” he said. “The actor is required to film thirty episodes in a very short period of time. It’s exhausting.”
Actor Fuad Al-Kuhali agreed. He said the actors’ salaries have worsened and that "the Yemeni actor is confronted by a multitude of difficulties, such as inadequate pay and insufficient time to film episodes.”
Al-Kuhali said that this year, some actors have started preparing episodes a month and a half before Ramadan. By contrast, actors last year began preparing episodes three months in advance.
"The low salaries and the inadequate time negatively impact the quality of drama in Yemen. The actors cannot achieve quality work while pressed for time."
Al-Kuhali said private companies and their channels are worse in these respects than those owned by the government, though the actors had hoped they would pay better.
Abdullah Yahiya Ibrahim, a young actor, said the increase of TV channels and drama production companies has improved salaries, yet they remain inadequate.
"Only Yemeni actors suffer from such a problem,” Ibrahim said. “Actors in the Arab world receive twice the salary compared to us."
He said increasing salaries encourages actors to work harder and to produce higher quality work.
However, not everyone agrees with this overview. Mohammed Al-Hubaishi, director and writer, said the problem is not simply low salaries; instead, the issue lies with recognizing quality.
"There are no assessment reports,” he said. “The actors are evaluated so that their talents would be discovered. The salary will be in accordance with the quality."
According to Al-Hubaishi, there is little appreciation for drama in Yemen. He said he hoped the government would play a role in improving drama in the country through encouraging and buying the works of private companies.
Dr. Ibrahim Mutahar, professor of Context Analysis at the College of Mass Communication at Sana'a University and the head of Tawasul Corporation for Media and Art Production, said drama in Yemen faces two significant problems. The government represented by the Media Ministry's role is still limited, which restricts the quality of Yemeni drama. Moreover, the state has institutionalised the view of drama as a seasonal luxury, which is only permitted in Ramadan.
This should be reconsidered, according to Mutahar, who concluded that the Yemeni actor’s sole focus is on material gain, at the expensive of creativity and quality drama.