Mother City to give birth to innovative film projects
New Cape Town festival seeks to help extend the city’s industry from providing services to producing content, writes Struan Douglas
For nine years, Leon van der Merwe had successfully ran the Stellenbosch-based Cape Town & Winelands Festival. Now he has teamed up with Jehad Kasu and Rafiq Samsodien to relaunch it as the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival.
"We want to position the festival as a global brand, a platform that can help transition the Cape Town film industry from a services industry to a content-producing industry," says Kasu, the festival’s marketing director.
The film market is an important addition to the festival and will provide opportunities for film production companies to interact with support industries and establish contacts for content procurement and new projects. Cape Town has not had a film market since Sithengi, which ran from 2001 to 2006.
Film is an important contributor to the region’s economy. The Cape film and media gross geographic product is R2.63bn and generates 9,490 jobs. This amounts to 20% of SA’s film industry revenue, which the National Film and Video Foundation says added R12bn to GDP in 2016.
Gauteng is the hub of the film industry and the number one destination for content business is the Discop market, operated by Basic Lead — a business-to-business trade-show organiser with offices in Abidjan, Johannesburg and Los Angeles.
Discop owner Patrick Zuchowicki says that sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s fastest-growing entertainment marketplace.
"It is set to expand by 30% in the next five years, delivering close to $10bn in consumer revenue by 2021. The number of pay-TV subscribers is set to double in five years, alongside the rise of OTT [over the top] video services.
"And untapped advertising revenues represent a further source of potential growth for sub-Saharan Africa."
Discop is adding new markets in Zanzibar in 2018 and Lagos in 2019, and has entered into a cross-collaboration with the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival to encourage festival delegates to attend both events. Growth will be driven by home-grown content and intraregional trade, Zuchowicki says.
"The hundreds of talents, storytellers, comic book publishers, content buyers and producers who comprise the entertainment content industry in sub-Saharan Africa don’t need to travel to industry gatherings outside of Africa to improve their expertise, pitch projects, source innovative ideas and close deals.
"They will remain in Africa to develop, acquire, co-produce and distribute content made in Africa," Zuchowicki says.
City of Cape Town enterprise and investment director Lance Greyling says that compared with other cities, Cape Town is the cheapest destination for film production, set, site, utilities and labour costs.
The film industry has a long value chain, affecting tourism for accommodation, vehicles and restaurants; manufacturing for set builders, plumbers and electricians; electronics for camera, sound and lighting equipment; and IT for animation and software. The film industry positively affects job creation, poverty alleviation, transformation and skills development.
"The industry showcases Cape Town, its diversity of locations, technical film capacity and talent, and provides value-added marketing and investment collateral for the city. This is in line with the City of Cape Town’s imperative in terms of economic growth and development," says Greyling.
We’re losing out on potential value-add for the local economy when a foreign production company shoots here, but completes their postproduction back home. We need companies to come here and do coproductions with usJehad Kasu
The theme for the inaugural Cape Town International Film Market & Festival is "collaboration", with an emphasis on co-productions.
The long-term vision is not only for more films to be completed in the city, but for local film-makers to take their stories to international markets.
Kasu believes more could be done to incentivise content production. "What counts against the Western Cape is that we don’t have a film fund or film commission that actively supports content production — that’s where the real money is.
"We’re losing out on potential value-add for the local economy when a foreign production company shoots here, but completes their postproduction back home. We need companies to come here and do coproductions with us," Kasu says.
"They gain from reduced costs and new stories, and we gain from royalties — that is how opportunities are leveraged by producing content in a territory, as opposed to just servicing."
The festival has signed a five-year partnership with the Global Max Media Group, a Chinese media company with offices in Gaborone, Botswana. The group has an on-the-ground presence in 26 countries, with media platforms across a variety of channels in television, radio, print and digital.
"The Chinese and the African markets are ripe for our content. Through this relationship, we are introducing South African stories to China, and, at the same time, introducing Chinese stories to Africa," says Kasu.
"They are coming to Cape Town to engage with our established and emerging content producers. As they have a strong presence throughout Africa, it will become easier for us to push some of our local content into the rest of the continent, based on the same partnership. That is a great value proposition to promote local content, not only to China, but to the rest of Africa as well."
The Cape Town International Film Market & Festival has invited top international professionals to share invaluable experience and insights that will benefit all local producers and industry professionals.
The 10-day celebration of world cinema includes award-winning films from more than 50 countries; world premieres for three South African films — District Six: Rising from the Dust, Woodwind and Matwetwe — and special focuses on LGBTQI, Nordic and short films.
There will be industry events and public events with outreach and skills transfer programmes.
"The Cape Town Film Market & Festival is a welcome addition to our events calendar and will bring the necessary international focus and prestige to this industry in Cape Town," says Greyling.
• The Cape Town International Film Market & Festival is at the V&A Waterfront from October 12—22.
• Discop is at the Sandton Convention Centre from October 25—27.