New black film fund announced

2014-07-21 13:32

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A new government film-funding project has been announced at the Durban International Film Festival.

Six films a year will be created by black directors through the new transformation fund, which is earmarked to rise to ten films annually after the first three years.

“This is just the beginning. We are hoping to get to a point where we are making 30 or 40 films a year,” said Basil Ford, head of the Media and Motion Picture Business Unit at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) at a brunch at the Elangeni Hotel this morning.

The announcement was made by the IDC and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF).

“The IDC has agreed to change the way it does business for this project. We will be bringing costs down,” said the NFVF’s head of production and development, Clarence Hamilton. “We will make it simpler and faster to make films.”

The department of trade and industry’s Nelly Molokoane shared the stage in support of the initiative.

The new production model – called the Emerging Black Filmmakers Transformation Fund – aims to radically reduce paperwork and legal fees for film makers, offering template documents to speed up the process.

Filmmakers will no longer need to raise any of their own funds nor prove the commercial viability of their projects.

This will be done by the fund, which aims to recoup its investments to become sustainable.

Black filmmakers will effectively just have to sign on the dotted line and get on with the business of writing and directing films, with mentorship from the fund.

The films have to be made within a budget of R5 million and 51% of the production must be black-owned.

This doesn’t bar white producers from the process, it just limits their ownership.

Ford explained that the initiative began years ago, growing out of discussions around a low-budget film pilot project.

R5 million is about the average budget of a South African film at present and is not considered particularly low. But it excludes more ambitious projects – to the frustration of some of the country’s more established black filmmakers.

Traditionally the IDC has battled to justify increased budgets for black films because of a lack of cinemas in townships and hence small black audiences.

After the announcement, experts seemed to agree that the project could be good news for the industry – which is under pressure to transform. It does, however, mean that a certain kind of film will be taking precedence in future, one that can be made for R5 million.

Comedian and producer David Kau made a plea to the panel and to the industry to look beyond only distributing films in cinemas, but to consider DVD sales and self-distribution to win audiences and justify making money to pay back state investment in films.

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