Monday, August 09, 2004

IDC invests more into SA moving image

Cape Town - The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has ploughed R60 million into the $20 million (R125 million) filming of Charlie Jade, a 20-part science fiction TV series.

The IDC is partnering with Canadian television network Chum TV and production partners Robin Spry and Bob Werthheimer in making the series.

"The corporation's investment in the film industry is not viewed in terms of individual productions only, but rather in the development of the industry itself," said Moses Silinda, the head of the media and motion pictures strategic business unit of the IDC.

Low film production costs and a suitable climate, coupled with the recent offer of tax incentives by the government to local and foreign film companies, provided an added incentive for foreign film makers to shoot productions locally. But more commercial funding was still needed to grow the industry, said Silinda.

In addition to financial figures and return on investment, the IDC also measured a project's success by the number of jobs that were created and by the level of skills transfer that took place when funding motion picture projects, Silinda said.

A spokesperson for the series said the cast came to 250 people and the crew an additional 250. The 16th of 20 episodes was currently being filmed.

Silinda said the South African film industry is growing well. In spite of the fact that it could take up to 48 months to show a return on investment, all indications were its strategic business unit was making sound financial and developmental investments.

The unit has funded 16 feature films and 12 documentaries since inception in 2001, with the first film released in 2003.

A recent project was Hotel Rwanda, a R170 million tripartite production between South Africa, Italy and the UK that was mainly filmed in Alexandra and Soweto, creating 9 000 jobs in two weeks of filming and 10 000 jobs over an eight-week period.

He said the media and motion pictures business unit was carefully managed, primarily because even though the industry was growing steadily in South Africa, motion pictures were risky projects.

For the industry to reach full potential, a lack of big studios, a shortage of skilled crew members and location capacity problems needed to be addressed, he said.

Cape Town's Dreamworld studios, once completed, would minimise infrastructure shortages, while the country had every conceivable backdrop a film maker could require.

The IDC ensured black economic empowerment benefited by encouraging film makers to take black or female producers on board when filming locally.

Other major film projects the business unit has been involved in include Stander and Red Dust.

Olive Schreiner's Story of an African Farm, which is due for release this month, is an entirely South African project.


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