South Africa is currently the most cost-competitive it's been in years, especially for larger-budget co-productions, thanks to the Dept. of Trade and Industry, which has removed the R20 million ($2.5 million) cap on its incentives, and the value of the rand, now down to around eight to the dollar. By Kevin Kriedemann
The Foreign Film and Television Production Incentive offers a 15% rebate on qualifying South African spend, while the South African Film and Television Production and Co-Production Incentive offers 35% on the first R6 million ($750,000) and 25% for the remainder. There is no upper limit on either claim.
To qualify, foreign films, documentaries, animation and television projects must shoot for at least four weeks and complete half their principal photography in South Africa, spending a minimum of R12 million ($1.5 million). Co-productions must shoot for at least two weeks and complete half their principal photography in South Africa, spending a minimum of R2.5 million ($313,000).
All of South Africa's major production service companies -- such as DO Prods., Film Afrika, Kalahari, Moonlighting, Out of Africa, Spier Films, Two Oceans Prods. and ZenHQ -- are experienced co-producers who can tap into the DTI incentive and other funding options like the Industrial Development Corp. and the National Film and Video Foundation, as well as international funds with which they have relationships.
Although record numbers of low-budget local films are being made, private funding remains scarce, especially with the continuing uncertainty around Section 24F tax breaks for film investors, although the Independent Producers Organization is lobbying the government for clarity.
While local incentives have helped with production, they have not benefitted South Africa's fledgling visual effects industry. Vfx shop Condor closed its long-form division, while service animation company Clockwork Zoo also shut its doors.
One success story is BlackGinger. It continues to build an impressive showreel, recently handling most of the earthquake sequence on China's blockbuster "Aftershock," which won best visual effects, among other prizes, at the 2011 Asian Film Awards.
The Independent Producers Organization of South Africa and Animation SA are discussing the creation of a post-production rebate with the DTI. This would also apply to South Africa's front-end and finishing post-production options, where Searle Street Post Prods. is a notable addition to the Cape Town market.
South Africa's primary selling points have always been its diverse locations, its great light, its well-trained English-speaking crews and its infrastructure.
Its latest selling point, the luxury Cape Town Film Studios, has just celebrated a very busy first year and now offers four soundstages, production offices and multipurpose workshop spaces. CTFS recently added a permanent set of a historic French village for "Labyrinth," a four-hour mini-series co-produced by Film Afrika, Tandem and Scott Free.
Recent productions include Scott Free's "Gettysburg" for the History Channel, which won four Emmys; high-profile indies "Machine Gun Preacher" and "Winnie"; blockbusters "Safe House" and "Dredd" and series "The Great British Story."