State help for South African film industry


Because of the downturn in the South African economy the Department of Trade & Industry has decided to throw a lifeline to the film industry and help it with its cash-flow difficulties. Last Thursday Dr Rob Davies, Minister of Trade & Industry, announced at the Cape Film Commission's (CFC) annual general meeting that producers receiving rebates from the department would in future be paid during the course of the production process and no longer at the end.

He has great confidence in the industry's growth curve and says it has reached a level where local films are beginning to attract international attention. Davies reckons there are three factors having a negative impact on the South African film industry. The economic downturn has resulted in less money being spent globally on the production of films.

Secondly, incentive schemes offered to film producers by other countries take a bite out of the local industry. And, thirdly, the strong rand is taking its toll. For these reasons the Department has decided on the new payment procedure for rebates.

Another aspect that Davies argues needs urgent attention is the development of broad black economic empowerment in the movie industry. He even went so far as to say that an empowerment charter ought to be drawn up. "We are on the point of having to decide whether one should have to comply with empowerment conditions before the department gives financial support to a movie project."

If government is approached for money, it's reasonable for it to expect something in return, Davies declares. CFC chief executive Laurence Mitchell was delighted with the restructuring of the rebate disbursement process, as well as with Davies having raised the issue of transformation in the film industry. "One cannot have an industry in which most South Africans are mere spectators," he commented.In the financial year to end-March the CFC's gross income was R8.736m.