Movie bonanza for SA

2009-07-29 12:26

Cape Town - It's been about a year since the spectacular launch of the Cape Town Film Studios, which aims to take film production in South Africa to the next level, and construction work is in full swing, says CEO Nico Dekker.

"We've passed the point of no return. We have to finish and the first two major stages are already at an advanced stage," he told News24.

The soundproof stages cover an enormous area, with the bigger of the two having 2000m² of floor space and, as Dekker puts it, "all the bells and whistles on par with best practice anywhere in the world".

"We've got one of the top designers on board for this project - Veronica Sieve - she designed Fox studios and she's our studio design consultant. The studios have a unique height to the gantries - 15 metres, and a load capacity point load of 1.8 tonnes. It's got all the bells and whistles of top international studios," said Dekker.

He added that the main entrance has been built and all the internal services for the buildings are complete. Fascinatingly, the entire site has been raised by 1.5 metres.

"We raised the site so that it won't be swamped by Cape storms and so far, so good. After these last rains, we came away dry," he said.

Focus point for the entire industry

"This studio will be a focus point for the entire industry and have a major impact on the regions. In 10 years, it will be bigger than the World Cup Stadium," he added.

Dekker said he's had co-operation from different roleplayers in government and 80 companies have already requested space to move into the site, while Telkom is building high speed connectivity.

"It's like a Century City (mall complex) with a different theme. A working, playing environment. But I must salute the courage of the main investors: Videovision's Anant Singh and Sabido Investment's Marcel Golding. These guys were the best companies for the project.

"They are well-positioned to provide huge content for our market," he added.

While a planned launch date is April 2010, Dekker said that they will exercise caution and double-test their capacity before taking on international projects.

"Look, we have to be careful and get it right. We can't rush to take on a major international production and have problems - we'll never get work again in a long time. So we're being careful before we take on a major job.

"This studio - no matter who owns it - will far outlive our lives and our children's lives. By launch we'll have 8 000m² of production space available and two major workshops completed."

One-stop-shop for movie production

He added that the studio will be a "manufacturing area" that will provide jobs not directly related to the movie industry.

"For example, on (the movie) 10 000BC, we had about 800 people working, building swords and other props. These weren't guys connected to the movie, but we needed an amazing number of people to create these props."

The industry is South Africa is quite fragmented and competitive, said Dekker, but he added that though the studio is being built in Cape Town, the Gauteng Film Commission is fully supportive of the initiative.

"This is a national film studio. We have a total buy-in from Gauteng. We can offer a one-stop-shop for movie production and we're also going to create a large Crew Academy. This doesn't exist in the country.

"They train people for an area where there are no jobs - producers and directors - there're not enough movies being made for these guys to have work. But in areas where is work - crew - we do no training. Guys just learn from hanging around on the set."

He also slammed some critics of the Cape Town Film Studios who say that it's going to benefit a select group of filmmakers.

Benefit generations to come

"Our main aim is to stimulate film, including documentary film. We have a very strong service industry, but no base for filmmakers. This is the first time in our history that we're creating this infrastructure.

"We're also going to create a Master Film Academy and that's for filmmakers to share knowledge and training. But it will also enable filmmakers to share studio links. So if someone wants to have a Will Smith in their movie, hopefully they'll be able to get introduced through the studio," he said.

In terms of rands and cents, Dekker said that conservatively, the studio needs to produce two major international films per year for five years to return the investment, but that he would not only seek international work, but also local productions.

"We're an underperforming country when it comes to movies. While we already have a pencil booking for next year, there was lots of interest when I was at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

"The important thing is that I know what we do now will benefit generations to come", he added.