Showtime for South Africa

Cape Town Film Studios is regarded in some quarters as one of the top 10 film studios in the world, largely as it has hosted a number of large-scale Hollywood and European productions for, among others, 20th Century Fox, Working Title, Scott Free Media, BBC, Universal Pictures, Euro Corp and Newtopia.

The multimillion-dollar productions filmed at the studios include Dredd, Chronicles, The Borrowers, Labyrinth, Flight of the Storks, Great British Story, Mankind and Safehouse. Hollywood A-listers Denzel Washington, Stephen Fry, Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Thirlby and John Hunt have all been to the Cape shores recently to star in productions at the studios.

Nico Dekker, Cape Town Film Studios’ chief executive, said that the Cape would become one of the most sought-after in the world. “We can offer a full studio service and South Africa, specifically Cape Town, can replicate most parts of the world with its diversity of locations.

“We are also recognised for our talented, hard-working crew, and it really helps that we are an English-speaking country.”

World-class

The studios’ facilities have received many complimentary testimonials from producers. Fry said that he was impressed and that, by comparison, the studios made the Pinewood Studios in London look “shabby”.

“Andrew Macdonald, producer on Dredd, also praised the studios, saying that there were not many places in the world that could handle that kind of movie and offer such great production value. The Hollywood Reporter ranked the studios as one of the top 10 in the world.”

Government incentives all over the world play a large role in attracting foreign productions. The Cape Town studios suffered a recent loss—a $110-million production by South African director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Wolverine)—to the United States as it could not compete with that offered by the US.

“The South African government was keen to assist in bringing the production to the country but, unfortunately, due to bureaucracy, they could not act fast enough to counter the US offer. It was really tragic as it would have been a year-long production and created many work oppor­tunities for thousands of people,” Dekker said.

Big challenges

The Cape Town studios recently built a 13th-century backlot set for the Scott Free Media/Tandem production Labyrinth, based on the best-selling novel by Kate Mosse.

Dekker said it was a major undertaking as they had to replicate Carcassane, a medieval French village. “With Scott Free Media and Tandem, the studios invested millions in the building of this set. It was actually quite an engineering feat as it was built on a hill and the limited time frame for building it was challenging. It is now the first permanent backlot in South Africa.”

Dekker and his team’s dedication and hard work for three-and-a-half years has paid off. They have established a world-class facility in Africa.

“Some people thought we were crazy to embark on this dream but we have proved that South Africa can be taken seriously as a great film destination. It boils down to people who are committed to a vision as well as a strong management team.

“I want to praise the shareholders, Videovision Entertainment and Sabido Investments (e.tv), who saw the potential to build a world-class facility in Africa.”

Dekker said that the studio complex had created many employment opportunities for builders, ­designers, engineers, wardrobe and make-up stylists, stunt men and crews who worked on the international productions.

Local industry
“We also employ many previously disadvantaged people who have found a niche within this vibrant industry and have grown their skills. We have been so successful in the area of job creation that the minister of trade and industry, Rob Davies, has requested a proposal to show how the government could become more involved and supportive of this industry.”

The studios’ future strategy includes more high-end services, such as an increased visual-effects capacity, to encourage more spend on productions.

“We have a wonderful country and the film industry is vibrant, dynamic and attracts people from all walks of life. We need to build on what we have so that everyone reaps the rewards,” Dekker said.

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