The government will continue to improve its incentive scheme for South Africa’s film and television industry, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said at a meeting with members of the industry on Thursday.
Davies said the film industry had demonstrated that it had the capacity to contribute significantly to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“It’s for that reason that we have been working to continuously improve the film incentive. A baseline study by the National Film and Video Foundation said that the film sector contributed R3.5-billion to South Africa’s GDP,” he said. “It created more than 25�000 full-time jobs. That is a significant number of jobs and a significant contribution to the GDP.”
Davies noted that a beefing up of the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) film and TV incentive scheme in 2008 had shown impressive results. From its inception in 2004 through to 2008, the scheme supported 49 productions, whereas between 2008 and 2013 it supported 398 projects.
Of these, 256 were South African productions, 77 were co-productions (with other countries), and 65 were foreign productions.
Improving the scheme
While this was good news, Davies said, there was still room for improvement – hence the department’s continued engagement with the industry.
“There are a few features of the current rebate we need to [look at]. We have to have an incentive that is competitive with what exists around the world. We need to be frank about the fact that we are a small, developing economy.”
Being competitive was important not only in monetary terms but also in terms of “the certainty and reliability of the scheme, so that when filmmakers come, they know that it’s not just a vague promise that is made to them but it is a certainty,” he said.
The scheme also needed to be continuously improved in line with what was happening in the industry, both domestically and abroad. “It’s about making adaptations when they are necessary.”
‘More than just a good location’
South Africa, Davies said, should be seen as more than just a good location for films.
“We still have that, but I think we need to make it clear to the world that we’ve moved on to things like the ability to provide a world-class film studio in Cape Town. Also, companies are moving into the production of animated films, which are particularly popular. [We] also have the ability to produce the industrial materials that go into the construction of sets.”
Davies added that the department was looking into the issue of supporting smaller black film makers. “It’s something under active consideration. We are looking at how we can address that concern.”
Filmmaker Eric Miyeni and Film Afrika representative Rudi van As, who attended the meeting, described the DTI’s rebate as a “lifeblood for the South African film and television industry, which is regarded as being very efficient”.
“Unlike some incentive schemes out there, it is reliable. This allows filmmakers to predict accurately how much their rebate amount will be and that it will materialise,” said Van As.