Although the US and Hollywood continue to dominate the international feature film market, there is evidence that developing countries are starting to strongly compete. For example, Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, is estimated to directly employ 300 000 people. India produces 3 000 films a year in 20 different languages, and by 2020, China is expected to become the world’s largest film market. Creative Feel looks at the past and present state of the South African Film Industry and the efforts to achieve Sallywood for our country.
Worldwide, the potential of the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) to contribute to economic growth and job creation is increasingly being recognised. An important part of the CCIs, especially in South Africa, is the role the film and television industry plays in fostering national social cohesion.
The South African film industry is among the oldest in the world and has taken leaps to secure its place in the global market. However, this fast-growing 21st-century industry remains at risk of leaving most of its human capital behind as it remains one of the most untransformed industries in the country. The number of black female-owned businesses remains stagnant, previously disadvantaged individuals are still underrepresented and the level of skills development and the skills transfer from established (international) companies is not making a real impact when it comes to training.
A recent study recommended that the industry orient young, black filmmakers to shift the current mindset that filmmaking is merely a form of art to include focusing on filmmaking as business. This would also require skills transfer, such as financial management and identification of new opportunities to be successful.
At present, despite the success of some films, there are embedded, structural challenges for the South African film and television industry that have limited industry growth in the past and that of associated audiences. These barriers include, among others: access to screens; the socioeconomic and relative poverty of most South Africans; language obstacles; the high cost of equipment; lack of training opportunities; high education requirements; the conditions of work in the industry; and lack of learning/experience-building opportunities.
Accessibility aside, South African films released in cinemas do not seem to appeal widely to broad South African audiences, which tend to prefer comedy over the larger volume of drama emerging from South African cinema-makers. It is obvious that the adage, ‘content is king’ holds true. Thus, audience development is a key area that needs to be nurtured alongside creating an enabling environment for better content development and story pipelines across formats, platforms and for different screens.
Yet the South African film and television industry is well regarded both locally and internationally. We are renowned for producing internationally recognised features, are a popular location for international production, and have highly skilled talent across the production cycle, including: preproduction, production and post-production. A recent study by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) showed that in the 2016/17 financial year, the film industry in South Africa had a direct impact of R4.4 billion, increasing to R12.2billion when the multiplier effect (indirect and induced impact) was included. The employment multiplier increased by a multiple of 4.9 for every R1 invested. Therefore, the South African film industry created an increase in employment, which essentially meant that an additional two people benefitted from the new income derived from the direct, indirect and induced jobs created. In addition, South Africa has a thriving audiovisual, advertising and corporate video sub-sector that keeps many people in the industry in regular work.
Brand South Africa sees the South African film industry as a ‘key selling point for our competitive edge as a nation and it plays a significant role in promoting the Nation Brand domestically and internationally.
‘South Africa’s film industry is quite critical in how we are able to showcase the country in a positive light. Domestically, the country is capable of producing high-quality productions that are internationally acclaimed. Films like Kalushi have addressed a wide range of social, economic and political issues in South Africa while promoting and creating awareness of South Africa as a culturally diverse country. South Africa also has top-notch, home-grown talent that can compete with the best in the world; John Kani, Kim Engelbrecht and Anant Singh, to mention just a few.’
The digital revolution is a fundamental opportunity to elevate the South African film and television industry. Across the board with digital television, a proliferation of screens, democratisation of access, video-on-demand, digital cameras, and editing, the industry is now more accessible than it has ever been. This is a strategic juncture from which to leverage off the existing industry base and amplify South African stories across all available screens, while also using the expansion of the film, television and online video industry to drive transformation, skills development and employment.
The South African Film Summit, which took place at Skyrink Studios in Johannesburg in 2019, aimed to address the theme: ‘Transformation and innovation in the South African Film/Audiovisual Industry and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Are we geared for change?’ Over 900 delegates attended the summit hosted by the Department of Arts and Culture, working together to come up with a five-year implementation plan that will bring transformation and innovation to the South African film industry.
The term ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was first used by the World Economic Forum in 2015. According to the Forum, ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another. It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances commensurate with those of the first, second and third industrial revolutions. These advances are merging the physical, digital and biological worlds in ways that create both huge promise and potential peril. The speed, breadth and depth of this revolution [are] forcing us to rethink how countries develop, how organisations create value and even what it means to be human. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about more than just technology-driven change; it is an opportunity to help everyone, including leaders, policy-makers and people from all income groups and nations, to harness converging technologies in order to create an inclusive, human-centred future. The real opportunity is to look beyond technology, and find ways to give the greatest number of people the ability to positively impact their families, organisations and communities.’
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Johannesburg unpacked the implications for transformation and innovation in the South African cultural and creative industries, with a specific focus on the audiovisual industry. Prof. Marwala used the film Black Panther as a reference, commenting that with its African setting, it should have been produced in South Africa, noting that the South African film industry has not fully entered the science space yet. He said that South Africa had been very slow in joining previous industrial revolutions and that we couldn’t afford to be behind again. Prof. Marwala challenged delegates to brainstorm together on how we can transform the audiovisual industry through the use of digital automation, especially as AI is impacting on all aspects of our lives on a daily basis. He also urged South Africans to create and write our own stories, especially science fiction, inspired by the way of life in our communities.
In his opening remarks, Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said that one of the motivations for the South African Film Summit was telling a different story. ‘We are gathered here for the next few days to answer the fundamental question of what will be the contribution of the creative and cultural industry, particularly the film sector in developing the South African story, and us contributing to the efforts of nation building and social cohesion. This is the single most important story of South Africa. After the fall of apartheid in 1994, the story that should be out in the world should be of how we are forging this path of building a nation.
‘Whatever we do today will determine the kind of future we are building. The film sector, which is an integral part of our society, was heavily affected by the gross historical injustice metered out against the black population in general – effects that are still being felt to this hour.’
Minister Mthethwa highlighted that the DAC is committed to supporting the film and TV sector in South Africa. ‘After looking in the cultural and creative industries, we have come to the conclusion that our national interests are going to lie in the film industry… Wherever people go and whatever they watch, they want to see themselves.’
Presentations and panel sessions included industry experts such as Anant Singh, chairperson and chief executive officer of Videovision Entertainment; film producer Firdoze Bulbulia; RapidLion Film Festival Director Eric Miyeni; Lalu Tuku, co-chairperson of the African International Film Festival; Chipo Zhou, Festival Director of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF); CEO of the Zanzibar International Film Festival, Faith Isiakpere; filmmaker Lungisani Mthethwa; director/producer Pat van Heerden; film director Mandla Dube; producer Irfaan Fredericks; film director Jahmil Qubeka of Yellowbone Entertainment; and producer and filmmaker Rehad Desai, to name a few.
Singh is one of the most celebrated and accomplished producers in South Africa. His speech echoed Prof. Marwala’s thoughts that Black Panther is a lost opportunity that could have injected much-needed revenue into the South African economy if it had been shot and produced locally. He implored young people in the industry to stay passionate but work hard in their chosen field, noting that there are many more opportunities today than there were when he first entered it.
Bulbulia said that the challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is to take content (our stories) and take advantage of new changes in technology to innovate the way in which we tell and distribute our stories. She said that we shouldn’t wait for overseas companies to buy our content, but that we need to invest in ourselves.
Miyeni highlighted his belief that the digital age will not kill cinema but can instead positively impact it. He also advised the South African film industry to look at international trends and learn from film industry experts.
Zhou indicated that DIFF, which is now over 40 years old and which has become an internationally recognised festival, is implementing the transformation strategies that are needed throughout the South African film industry. This entails the introduction of new voices and a move towards collaboration with platforms beyond the broadcasting and cinema space. The festival will partner with such platforms to screen festival events and films to enable the festival to reach more audiences.
Breakaway sessions enabled delegates to engage in focused and in-depth discussions on the five sub-themes. Key recommendations were presented at plenary to inform a five-year implementation plan, which will provide short-, medium- and long-term deliverables for the South African film industry. The plan will be lead by the DAC, in conjunction with other government departments including the Department of Trade and Industries (DTI), the Department of Labour, the Department of Small Business Development, the Department of Communications, National Treasury and provincial departments.
In 2019, the short-term plan was enacted: establishing the South African Audiovisual Transformation Charter (SAAVTC) and within it, the establishment of a bargaining council that will deal with working conditions in the industry; conducting a socio-economic impact study on the Copyright Amendment Bill; submitting a business case to National Treasury motivating for the National Film and Video Foundation’s (NFVF) budget to be increased to R250 million; establishing the Innovation/Digital Fund to support initiatives that will gear South Africa for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (with a focus on animation); establishing creative/innovation hubs to stimulate content creation activities; and submitting a motivation to SARS to collapse Sections 12 (O) and 12 (J) to encourage and stimulate private sector investment in the film/audiovisual industry.
By 2023, the plan is to establish an Innovation/Digital Fund that will ring-fence funding for productions by youth and women and provide incentives for film distribution and financial support for marketing and PR; as well as to create Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges as centres of audiovisual specialisation; and establish collective creative hubs.
In addition to actionable plans being put in place, funding to the industry had been increased to an incredible combined R3 billion for the 2019/2020 financial year. The NFVF committed R72 million to training, development, production, marketing and distribution; the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) set aside R329 million and aimed to create 4 000 jobs with its investment; the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) will invest R175 million; R2.5 billion will be invested by M-Net in content across all platforms and it has committed to engage on budgets for local content; the DTI pledged R370 million and will take producers to markets outside South Africa for exposure and networking, will not work with companies that do not respect women’s rights and will not give support to international films shot on location in South Africa that do not hire black suppliers.
The 2019 South African Film Summit was extremely successful in achieving its mandate, and was overall a productive two-day event that saw government agencies joining with the private sector in search of a future for the South African film industry that benefits all. There are positive steps in place for the industry to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including infrastructural, technological, educational, policy and regulatory interventions that will provide an enabling environment to encourage innovation and transformation.