Magazine article Variety

U.S. Hits Put Spotlight on S. Africa Studios

Magazine article Variety

U.S. Hits Put Spotlight on S. Africa Studios

Article excerpt

JOHANNESBURG

Two B.O. hits, both lensed in Cape Town, are adding to South Africa's growing reputation as a shooting hot spot.

Universal's "Safe House," fumed with Cape Town-based Moonlighting Films; and Fox's "Chronicle," shot with Film Afrika Worldwide, highlight the development of a country long known primarily for its locations.

Bizzers say the nation has reached a turning point that will make it more competitive on the global stage.

"I think the industry has matured, and we now can attract big Hollywood productions," says Moonlighting cofounder Genevieve Hofmeyr.

The evidence has grown in the past year, with "Safe House" and "Chronicle" joining a list of high-profile productions that includes Lionsgate's 3D comicbook adaptation "Dredd," History's Emmywinning skeins "Gettysburg" and "America: The Story of Us," Paul Walker starrer "Vehicle 19," which sold to distribs all over the world at recent film markets, and NeUl Blomkamp's "Elysium."

Film Afrika CEO David Wicht says that the industry has seen a shift from location-based films to more ambitious projects capitalizing on the country's technical skills, infrastructure, rebates and favorable rates of exchange against the rand.

"The films that have come here are not coming because the setting is South Africa," he says. "They're coming because they're getting great value."

That optimism comes in large part because of what Wicht describes as a concerted effort between government and the industry to propel the film biz forward.

The government has pushed to ensure that South Africa remains competitive globally. The South African Film and Television Production and CoProduction Incentive offers 35% on the first R6 million ($785,000) of qualifying spending in South Africa, and 25% on the remainder. The Foreign Film and Television Production Incentive offers a 15% rebate, with plans reportedly in the works to up that to 20%.

Last year, the Dept. of Trade and Industry removed the $2.6 million cap on both incentives, a move that Wicht says has made it much more attractive for bigger-budget movies to shoot in South Africa.

Perhaps the region's most exciting development was last year's opening of Cape Town Film Studios, billed as the first Hollywood-style studio on the continent. The $4-6 million complex, located a short drive from the city, offers four hightech soundstages and a sophistication previously unseen in South Africa. …

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