Plans for a Durban film studio complex aimed at both international and local film productions are coming together, more films and television series are being shot in KZN and the city’s big movers have spotted an opportunity to put KwaZulu-Natal on the cinema world map.
But, as with many potentially glamorous endeavours, the film industry is as much about bucks as it is about glamour – which is why professional services firm Deloitte, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Film Commission and the Durban Chamber of Commerce rolled out the red carpet for potential investors this week.
Modeled on a similar event at the Cannes Film festival, a “lights, camera, action” evening at Deloitte’s Umhlanga office was intended to launch the KZN film industry to a whole new group of movie fans – funders.
Durban’s Durban International Film Festival which just happens to be South Africa’s largest film industry networking event and is attended by high profile local and international producers and stakeholders, provided the perfect opportunity, said Guy Brazier, who heads up the Deloitte office in KZN.
The guest list on the evening included well known film and television producer and member of the KZN Film Commission board, Paul Raleigh, who received an Oscar for Tsotsi in 2006. South African film guru, Gray Hofmeyr who has won more awards for directing and screen writing than any other director in the country, would also be in attendance. Gray created television soapie Isidingo and has directed eight feature movies including the first Jock of the Bushveld and four Leon Schuster movies.
Although South Africa is regarded as an emerging market in the film sector, he said achievements to date – which include the Oscar winning Tsotsi, Blood Diamond, Lord of War and Invictus which starred Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and chronicled South Africa’s 1995 World Cup victory – indicate that the local film industry has come of age and is producing world-class quality products.
Closer to home, he noted success stories that include the shooting of segments of Long Walk to Freedom in KZN and the three Spud movies which starred British comedy star, John Cleese.
The most recent feather in the local industry’s cap is Uzalo which has taken over from Generations as South Africa’s number one television soapie. Flighted on SABC 1, it is currently being filmed in an industrial building in Riverhorse Valley and has resulted in an injection of R60 million in direct production costs.
“Film in KZN has a history of more than 100 years but has been on the periphery. Now it is starting to take off. We will see another 20 productions begin in KZN over the next 18 months which has a significant multiplier effect for small companies,” said KZN Film Commission CEO, Carol Coetzee.
Opportunities identified by the KZN Film Commission include documentaries, television, shorts, animation and features as well as big budget Bollywood productions.
But what’s in it for investors? The market for ﬁlmed entertainment in South Africa generated revenues of R2.2 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow by seven percent over the next ﬁve years to reach R3.1 billion by 2017.
“KwaZulu-Natal wants a bigger slice of this pie. With our mild climate and huge variety of locations, this province has immense potential. You can shoot anywhere in the world by selecting the right location in KZN – Umhlanga looks like any modern city, our beaches could represent any coastline and the KZN Midlands and the Drakensberg could be a mountainous setting from anywhere in the world,” said Dumile Cele, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce.
What’s most enticing for film producers is the low production costs and favourable exchange rate that makes it between 20 and 40 percent cheaper to make a film in KZN than in America or Europe.
Partner and Regional Corporate Finance Leader at Deloitte, André Pottas, said that film is more labour intensive than tourism and has created more than 35 000 jobs across South Africa over the past three years.“ Job opportunities can be created both in front of and behind the camera as well as via support services such as catering and transport.