Filming incentives grow South African movie industry


The movie Of Good Report.
A still from the filming of the award-winning South African movie Of Good Report.

National Film and Video Foundation
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Romaana Naidoo

With the film industry raking R3.5-billion annually into South Africa’s economy (according to a 2013 study conducted by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), government – via the NFVF, the Industrial Development Corporation and the Department of Trade and Industry  – has stepped in to provide incentives to improve on the sector’s growth.

The trade and industry department revised its film and television production incentives – effective from April 2012, and to be administered up to 2014 – to attract international production houses to shoot on location and conduct post-production in South Africa. Its South African film and television production and co-production incentive is aimed at local movie producers creating local content.

The foreign film and television incentive is intended to attract large-budget film and television production and post-production work in a bid to create jobs. It offers movie houses a 20% tax reduction on production expenditure for foreign productions filmed in South Africa with a budget of R12-million (about $1.3-million) or more. The incentive also provides a 22.5% to 25% tax reduction if post-production takes place in South Africa. Post-production expenditure must be R1.5-million (about $166 000) or more to qualify for the incentive.

Local film production incentives

The incentive for local moviemakers offers a 35% rebate for the first R6-million (about $662 000) spent, and 25% for the remainder of production expenditure.

According to the NFVF’s study, “South Africa’s potential growth on local productions has improved over the last few years. Local film production is benefitting from increased assistance from government, co-production treaties with various countries and ordinary success of the film.”

The country “generated revenues of more than R879-million in 2013 for the 204 films shown at the box office. This is due to a growing film industry and higher demand from consumers. Locally produced films have increased from 19 in 2012 to 25 in 2013, generating revenues of more than R98-million, putting SA’s box office share at 11%, while foreign films altogether generated more than R780-million with box office share of 89%.”

The film industry annually rakes in R3.5-billion. (Image: Of Good Report)

South Africa’s top two films at the box office for 2013 were Schuks! Your Country Needs You and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, grossing more than R20-million. Local films making substantial earnings in that year were Khumba (R8.5-million), Spud 2: the Madness Continues (R6.8-million), As Jy Sing (R6.5-million), Klein Karoo (R5-million), and Fanie Fourie’s Lobola (R3.7-million).

More sophisticated local movies

Another factor in local movies scoring more box office share is that local content is increasingly sophisticated. Comedies rely less on slapstick and opt for more nuanced storytelling, while local dramas are increasingly tackling difficult social issues, and coming up against censorship for it.

An example is the movie Of Good Report, taking on a pernicious problem – age-disparate relationships in schools. With such sensitive subject matter, the movie came under fire from the South African Film and Publication Board.

On 17 July 2013, just before Of Good Report was due to open the 2013 Durban Film Festival, the board ruled on a “refused” classification. The ruling is issued when the organisation deems a film contains “child pornography or propaganda for war, or incites imminent violence. Unless judged within context, the film or game is, except with respect to child pornography, bona fide documentary, scientific, dramatic or artistic merit or is on a matter of public interest.” The board later withdrew the classification.

The movie, an homage to film noir, subsequently scooped awards for best feature film, best director, best actor (Mpthusi Magano), best supporting actor (Tshamano Sebe), and best supporting actress (Tina Jaxa) at the 2014 South African Film and Television Awards.

South African film: the numbers

According to the NFVF, around 25 films, officially, are locally produced for movie theatre release, but the real number is much more as made-for-TV films that go straight to DVD are not included. There are 750 cinema screens in more than 70 complexes across the country, and the industry creates some 25 175 full-time jobs, with additional employment opportunities at the 2 500 direct service providers to the industry.