More than 150 companies are registered as producers with the City of Cape Town film permit office.
However, the key players are pre- dominantly members of the Commercial Producers Association, the South Afri-can Association of Stills Producers, and the Independent Producers Associ-ation.
According to the Whole Lot Direc-tory, the African film industry’s bible, some 3 000 companies and individuals now advertise as providing a service to the film industry in the city, which makes production one of the most important market sectors in the region. With an estimated turnover of R2-billion a year, film is an industry that the City of Cape Town and the Province of the Western Cape take seriously. As a result, Cape Town has taken various steps to ensure that it remains one of the world’s top destinations. As the central agency responsible for promoting and developing the industry in the region, the CFC has been actively driving a programme of activities that together create a dynamic and positive enabling environment for all productions coming to the Cape. “The holistic strategy has meant focusing on a range of interrelated interventions – notably swift, efficient and knowledgeable turnaround from government departments as well as the promotion of a tolerant, welcoming and cost-conscious attitude from affected communities,” Cuff explains. As a result of these efforts, for the first time, the City of Cape Town has proposed to publicly acknowledge the importance of the film industry, and its commitment to it, in a far-reaching film policy proposal (April 2004) that states: “The City of Cape Town recognises the valuable contribution of filming to the economic and cultural environment of Cape Town, and aims to facilitate a film-friendly environment in all interactions with the industry.” Moreover, the city has recently committed to deliver a comprehensive training project for those city staffers involved in the permit process. The project involves placing city staff on a training course designed with commercial production in mind, and even includes placement of staff with unit and location managers working for productions. The goal is to ensure that the city is completely familiar with the workings of production and is therefore in a prime position to respond to production needs. This attitude of collaboration with film is most clearly visible in the monthly city-hosted film meetings, where departments find creative solutions to film-industry questions. Another positive development includes the introduction of a consistent process for the issuing of film permits that is applicable across the entire 3,2-million population of the city. Defined by a detailed operations manual, this process is also being developed as an online system that will include GIS mapping, locations information and reference photographs, as well as permit application forms, available to production 24-7.
This proactive stance has been matched by the commitment to grow- ing the base of skilled crew in the region. There has been an emphasis on training South Africans, not least by the Commercial Producers Association, which has created a number of relevant and important courses aimed at servicing commercial production needs. With technical courses for crew at at least four city higher-learning establishments, including the award-winning Afda film academy which opened in the city last year, the city’s commitment to ensuring a sustainable production environment is clear.
At the same time as it supports the international industry, the CFC has also been working strenuously to ensure that the role of previously-disadvantaged South Africans in the sector is considerably improved. Initiatives to support the sector include the following: the distribution of R300 000-worth of text and training books to libraries in the Western Cape, courtesy of the National Lottery Fund; the launch of a provincial film fund that will disburse an initial budget of R1,5-million to worthy projects; Destination Marketing Video is a joint city and provincial initiative conducted through the CFC to capture marketing video footage – a consortium of BEE companies will be appointed to deliver the project; and Sithengi, the South African International Film and Television Market, incorporating a glamorous world cinema film festival, takes place in Cape Town every November with strong city and province support.
“We are definitely not complacent. By continually addressing the needs of the international and local production community and by continually striving to be a forward-thinking, market-leading destination, we aim to ensure that production takes place in Cape Town and the Western Cape repeatedly, and well into the future,” Cuff states.
Finally, the Dreamworld Film Studio, completion of which is expected by early 2006, will provide a massive boost to the Western Cape and South African film industries.
Providing much-needed big-studio facilities, the development will create over 8 300 employment opportunities, and will, among other things, see the creation of eight sound stages, various high-tech pre- and post-production facilities, digital facilities and music recording facilities for soundtrack production.
Dreamworld will effectively tackle the lack of film-studio capacity neces-sary to enable the production of full- length feature films, and will further entice foreign investment in the West-ern Cape and South African film industry.