According to the head of the IDC’s media and motion pictures unit, Sonja Loggenberg, it is primarily a lack of big studios, coupled with crew and location capacity problems that are holding the industry back.
However, the good news is that these obstacles do not appear to be insurmountable.
“The big Dreamworld studios that will be built in Cape Town should benefit the industry tremendously,” Loggenberg contends, referring to the forthcoming construction of the R490-million Dreamworld Film City in Cape Town’s Faure district. With construction due to begin by no later than January 2005, Dreamworld will see the creation of eight sound stages, various high-tech pre- and post-production facilities, digital facilities and music recording facilities for soundtrack production.
Among a host of additional features, the development will also house standing sets on which backdrops of famous cities will be built.
It is therefore expected that the Dreamworld project, which is due for completion by mid-2006, will help to provide the local film industry with the large studios it has lacked until now.
Solving crew and location capacity problems will further enable the industry to capitalise on its many considerable – and inherent – strengths.
“South Africa boasts an abundance of diverse locations, with practically any conceivable backdrop to be found somewhere in the country. We have experienced technical crews, it is cheaper for foreign productions to come here and to employ South Africans, and our time zone is beneficial, especially for European productions,” Loggenberg points out.
Thus, South Africa undoubtedly offers value to foreign producers – a fact that the industry aims to exploit.
As an increasing number of foreign producers come to South Africa, so the IDC will also ensure that black economic empowerment (BEE) in the industry also benefits. While the organisation has adopted a clear BEE policy, details of which are available on its Website, the IDC has been careful not to dictate terms to foreign producers.
“Rather, we ask foreign producers to take black or female producers on board when filming in South Africa in order to facilitate skills transfer and to enable local professionals to gain much-needed experience,” she explains.
IDC media and motion pictures unit senior account manager Basil Ford informs that 50% of the 16 films that the unit has funded to date have had significant BEE representation, with that figure set to grow with every new production.
As regards the future of South Africa’s film industry, Loggenberg believes that ever more foreign films will be shot locally, but that the industry requires far more commercial funding to supplement the efforts of the IDC and the National Film and Video Foundation.
“Rand Merchant Bank is the only commercial funding concern in the industry so far, and they are only testing the water at this point. There needs to be others bringing money into the industry to develop it further,” she maintains.