South Africa: Jo'burg in Bid to Build Own Film Industry

Investment

Newtown, Johannesburg's cultural precinct, will be promoted as a film-friendly zone in a bid to capture a slice of the lucrative film market. The audiovisual industry is worth R5.5bn nationally, a figure that includes feature films, short films and TV content, according to the National Film and Video Foundation.

Gauteng market research conducted by Deloitte estimates that the audiovisual production industry -- excluding spin-offs -- was worth about R1.1 bn. According to the Gauteng Film Commission, Newtown is one of Johannesburg's most-used sites, with filmmakers attracted to the gritty, industrial locations, cultural institutions such as the Market Theatre, and landmarks such as the Nelson Mandela Bridge.

Scenes from Tsotsi and Jerusalema were shot in Newtown as were TV shows such as e.tv's Scandal, commercials and documentaries, said Kate Shand, marketing manager for the Newtown Management District. She said Newtown was also popular with film students and as a location for interviews.

Cape Town has long been seen as the major film destination. However Bianca Mpahlaza, the Cape Film Commission's marketing manager, said the city's focus was on stills photography, feature films and commercials.

Mpahlaza said that the Cape film industry was worth R3,5bn, including spin-offs, according to 2006 figures, with a 10% average growth rate. Johannesburg, by comparison, had a huge TV industry because both the SABC and M-Net were based there.

Veteran film producer Peter Gird said SA was an attractive destination for the film industry as it was just an overnight flight from Europe and was on the same time zone. In addition, it boasted a variety of locations.

However, he said Cape Town was in some cases too expensive for local productions as attractive locations were being marketed by one company, which had pushed up prices, although the city was still attractive to international companies. Still, said Gird, Cape Town nonetheless had a "fantastic record" of growing the industry.