South Africa and Tunisia looking forward to welcoming production companies for film and TV location shooting post-pandemic
11 December 2020
For South Africa, the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the lucrative business of international productions and film location shooting. For Tunisia, it hoping to restart its once thriving international location work. Russell Southwood looks at two very different approaches to re-opening to international work.
According to a report in Variety, the partial lifting of travel restrictions in October in South Africa means that the country can resume its busy Southern Hemisphere summer season for international film and TV productions.
The new measures allow entry for all foreign travelers who can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure, a decision that was welcomed by members of the country’s thriving production services sector. Domestic production was allowed to resume as early as May, giving the industry a chance to prepare the necessary health and safety measures once international shoots were allowed to return.
A combination of financial incentives, a dazzling range of locations and skilled English-speaking crews have made South Africa a “go-to” destination, particularly those needing to shoot ‘summer’ in the winter months of the Northern Hemisphere.
Foreign productions can claim a 25% cash rebate on all qualifying local spend, while the rebate for South African co-productions starts at 35%. For productions that meet the requirements for the emerging Black filmmakers incentive, the rebate rises to 50%.
Recent projects to lens in the country include Amazon Studios’ “Good Omens,” Sony Pictures’ superhero movie “Bloodshot,” starring Vin Diesel and Sony’s fantasy action film “Monster Hunter,” from “Resident Evil” writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson.
Marisa Sonemann-Turner, of Film Afrika, which has provided production services on projects including the Amazon Studios and ITV drama “The Widow,” starring Kate Beckinsale, and “Raised by Wolves,” the HBO Max sci-fi series executive produced by Ridley Scott, says the industry is looking forward to “a very busy first half of 2021.”
“There are a number of other fantastic projects that are prepping or filming in late 2020,” she says, including “a returning high-end television series” that Film Afrika will be servicing in early 2021.
Other upcoming productions include Netflix’s “One Piece,” a live-action adaptation of the iconic Japanese manga produced by the U.K.’s Tomorrow Studios and the Japanese publisher Shueisha, and “Around the World in 80 Days,” the David Tennant-starring adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, a co-production between Slim Film + Television and Paris-based Federation Entertainment in association with 247 Films. Neither series has set a start date.
For Tunisia, re-opening to the international film shooting business will be a much tougher climb: “International shoots fled Tunisia long before the Revolution, because our leaders were unable to communicate or develop the available infrastructure, unlike their Moroccan counterparts, while our sites are very advantageous in terms of prices and skills,” Sami Ben Mlouka, producer at CTV (Cinema Television Video Services) told JeuneAfrique. His father, Abdelaziz Ben Mlouka, participated in the production of the first Star Wars film produced in the coutry.
In recent years, Mlouka’s company has continued to host projects from France, Germany, UK, Portugal and Russia, but it is still too little for its liking.:"It is important to show that there is not only the desert here but that you can find a great diversity of landscapes. We recently identified locations to feature seven countries - from Niger to Afghanistan to Cuba - in one movie, ”he says.
The country has only two studios, in Ben Arous (Greater Tunis) and in Latrach (towards Hammamet) but “we can build sets as we did for Maybe in 1999 for Cédric Klapisch, who showed Paris under the sand, and for many other productions ”, says Ben Mlouka.
The re-launching of Tunisia as a film location destination is tied to a GIZ-funded tourism initiative to be implemented by the Ministry of Tourism to create a ‘film route’ that will show off the locations for six films: Black Gold, Indiana Jones, Monty Python: The Life of Brian, The English Patient, The Lost Legion and Star Wars. The film route will be open by the end of 2021.
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