When presented with eight months of long, hot, dry 14-hour sunny days, pristine beaches, indigenous forests, wheat fields, European look-alike scenery and abundant wildlife, movie-makers pay attention. Add to that first world infrastructure and financial services, no language barriers, advanced technical skills, some of the best directors and a favorable exchange rate of South African rand to the dollar, these advantages are unbeatable, especially in light of the fact that they are available during the American and European winter.
It is therefore to no surprise that the Globe and Mail in Toronto describes South Africa as the hottest destination for Canadian advertising agencies.
"I have never seen anywhere in the world any major production community, including Los Angeles, Vancouver, or Toronto, where you can get so many interesting locations within a short drive", the Globe quoted William Cranor, executive producer of Spy films Inc. in Toronto. "South Africa has architecture that can look like Los Angeles, New Orleans or Europe", explained Patricia White, Vice-President and Executive Producer at Ammirati. Michael Schwartz, President of Avion Film Productions Inc. in Toronto said: "It's a very good place to shoot. The support system is excellent and the crews are very good".
During 1998, advertising agencies from 30 foreign countries shot 340 commercials for the international market in South Africa. Not only have these companies discovered South Africa, but so have feature film and television production companies. Approximately 40 foreign features and 160 foreign documentaries are shot in South Africa annually.
South Africa as a location has been receiving recognition from established names in the industry. Michael Douglas, Kim Basinger, Sharon Stone, Val Kilmer, Quentin Tarantino, Sean Connery, Marisa Tomei, Sidney Poitier, Danny Glover, Angela Basset and others were involved with, or appeared in films shot on location in South Africa with the involvement of production companies from Hollywood, Canada, England, Germany and France.
Specialist companies offer the latest in camera, lights and grips equipment and no set is considered impossible to build or stunt too complex to achieve.
An abundance of South African modeling companies offer models and extras to match any international look.
Film labs are open around the clock for post-production work and the latest information technology allows for the unrestricted transfer of images to clients.
The developed hospitality, telecommunications and banking sectors provide for an effortless stay and the country's infrastructure allows visiting film-makers first-world travelling facilities.
The world was destined to be drawn to South Africa, being the land of gold, diamonds, lions and elephant, Apartheid and Nelson Mandela. The country's recent political achievements attracted international attention and re-exposed the world to the hidden treasures of South Africa as an alternative destination for tourism and business. New economic opportunities have created conditions where gold and diamonds, safaris and history now share the spotlight with entrepreneurs.
The Consul-General and the staff of the South African Consulate-General in Los Angeles are more than happy to assist in providing more detail and the relevant contacts to facilitate film production in South Africa.
The story of the South African film industry begins with the establishment of African Film Productions (AFP) and the production of the first fiction film called, 'The Great Kimberley Diamond Robbery' in 1910.
Isadore William Schlesinger was the father of cinema in South Africa. He owned AFP, a distribution company called African Consolidated Films, and exhibition venues under African Consolidated theatres.
It was only in 1956, when 20th Century Fox bought out Schlesinger's interests, that US companies acquired market share in South Africa.
In the past nine years the South African film industry has grown tenfold. In 1997 and 1998 Government and industry embarked upon steps to develop the industry even further.
THE VALUE CHAIN
This part of the value chain is very fragmented and there are hundreds of small production companies in the industry. Estimates range from 400 to 550.
By far the majority of the production companies are located in Gauteng (Johannesburg area) (approximately 80%) and most of these are involved in television production. The agglomeration of film and television production in Gauteng has been partially offset by the development of the location industry in Cape Town. Approximately 9% of production companies are located here and are mostly involved in community and television production. Natal has approximately 7% of production companies and the remaining few are spread between the Eastern Cape and the Free State.
Approximately eight local feature films are made per annum in South Africa. Of these, Anant Singh usually produces between one and two. New Image produces approximately two and smaller producers produce another five.
- Facility and Equipment Suppliers for Production and Post Production
Post production is also very fragmented and is comprised of about 150 small players and a few bigger players.
Sasani is by far the biggest player in the production and post production facilities and equipment supplier companies.
- Casting and Crewing Agencies
There are approximately 10 crewing agencies in the country, 7 of which are in Johannesburg and 3 in Cape Town. The agencies in Johannesburg have approximately 3000 people on their books. There are approximately 78 casting agencies operating in Johannesburg and Cape Town. These agencies provide staff for the commercials, modeling and film and television industries.