The South African film industry is one of the oldest and most advanced, becoming one of the first countries in the world to see and hear sound motion pictures in 1895. With international filmmakers honing in on some of South Africa’s most breathtaking locations, low production costs and government tax rebates, the local industry grapples to hold the reins. 

With that said, this sector holds great potential in contributing to the local economy in the form of employment, skills development, cash flow and tourism.

Let's get right into the industries threats and opportunities:

1. Stumbling blocks in the industry

International filmmakers eye South African locations because they're distinct, beautiful and have lower production costs as compared to the United States and Europe. For creative filmmaking, big international productions like Safe House have plenty of scenes showcasing Cape Town like Table Mountain, the Langa informal settlement and city centre. 

Also, My Octopus Teacher, filmed in False Bay near Cape Town, has recently made it onto the Oscars' shortlist. The documentary even uses local talent to tell an African story as documentary filmmaker Craig Foster is the main character.

The government also supports international filmmakers by providing efficient licensing facilities and tax rebates. The Department of Trade and Industry encourages large budget cinema and production to grow the country's profile. 

For example, when shooting in South Africa, the incentive will be calculated at 25% with a cap of R50-million. An additional incentive of 5% is provided for shooting and post-production. This will continue to attract foreign filmmakers because there are more benefits.

SA and Indonesia held a virtual dialogue in 2020 for their film collaboration that had a similar consensus. Again, bringing more international players to take center stage will damage local production companies.

2. Industry player predictions and assistance for growth

The South African Film Industry Economic Baseline Study Report predicts that a direct impact of R4.4-billion on economic production in 2017 could lead to a rise in total production in the economy roughly to R12.2-billion.

SA's big industry players like the National Film and Video Foundation are also assisting the industry to access funds, develop talent or skills, help the filmmaker market and represent their work. They offer funding for the production of films and documentaries through grants and loans.

This means SA will have more skilled individuals, filmmakers or production companies that will be able to create more content because there will be money available. They will also generate more profits from their work as their content will reach more distributors.

With the help of grants, loans awarded by the government to local filmmakers, incentives, tax deductions by the South African Revenue Services and the Industrial Development Corporation, the industry may grow to be better. This will also assist in creating employment for most talented individuals sitting at home. Money will circulate among South Africans as the filmmaking process till distribution will be local.

Four regional film commissions in SA will help market local destinations and locations where filmmakers can be creative. This means filmmakers will be attracted to film in other provinces and will also induce tourism.

The funding provided by these commissions will also encourage co-productions and project partnerships with broadcasters, such as SABC, Multichoice and others. Strong relationships with stakeholders who show distribution support for local content like the Multichoice group and the Joburg Film Festival will be established. More partners like Moja Love and Soweto TV will give more support for local content and motivate others.

The industry is heading somewhere as we see more and more local series, drama, movies making waves on the country's online streaming service, Showmax. This includes the Cheeky Palate by Phat Joe who debates with celebrities known for strong opinions and unpopular beliefs on issues relating to SA citizens, and even Africa at large. This means even South Africans will no longer prioritise foreign content whereas they have their own.

The government is also planning to force online streaming services like Netflix, Showmax, Amazon to have at least 30% of local content quota. We are yet to see if this will be implemented and will produce good results as it can possibly help promote SA content to be more visible and appreciated.

Do you see the SA film industry growing and attracting international viewers? Let us know in the comments section below.

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*Image courtesy of Canva.