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Cape Town - Hollywood is coming to South Africa this week on a tour that could set Cape Town up as one of the most filmed cities and locations.
It could also turn it into one of the premier movie-making destinations on the planet.
Top executives from major film studios Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney and the Producers Guild of America (PGA) landed on Saturday for a 10-day tour of the country. They will visit key tourist destinations, scout potential filming locations, meet local production companies, and tour post-production facilities and studios.
And the red carpet will be rolled out for the studio execs, who include Sara Spring, senior vice-president for feature production management at Paramount; Kate Beyda, senior vice-president for physical productions at New Line/Warner; Mary Anne Hughes, vice-president for film and television production planning for The Walt Disney Company (which includes Miramax and ABC); and Vance van Petten, chairman of the PGA, which has 6 000 members.
The group arrived in Johannesburg on Saturday and are due to go on a safari, as well as tours of The Cradle of Humankind, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, the Cape Winelands and Robben Island.
South African consul-general in Los Angeles Cyril Ndaba said that although a number of major movie productions had already been filmed in South Africa, the visit by the executives was a huge coup.
“(The visit) affords them an opportunity to see for themselves what makes South Africa tick,” Ndaba told Weekend Argus in a telephone interview from Los Angeles this week. “We will be welcoming them not only in their capacity as executives, but we are also here to promote South Africa. They will see what South Africa is all about, that we can deliver the potential that is already there.”
Finance, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Alan Winde described Cape Town as the culture, design and creative capital of South Africa.
“That’s why film works well here and why the Western Cape is a leading global film destination. It’s cost-effective for international productions, even more so now with the weaker rand,” he said.
He added that Cape Town was also a versatile location, with talented, hard-working crews. And among the most important benefits, according to Winde, are the economic opportunities.
The 2012 Hollywood action movie Safe House, starring Denzel Washington, created 5 200 jobs alone – a huge number for one blockbuster.
Johan Klopper, of the South African consulate in Los Angeles, said that “every conceivable question” will be addressed during the visit, including incentives, the tax regime, potential locations, and availability of crews, skills, equipment and facilities.
But the big question is: “Why should their studios shoot films in South Africa?”
Ndaba said if South Africa could get the eyes and interest of such senior executives, it would be obvious to them that the country was a competitive alternative to other film-making locations around the globe.
According to chief director of services incentives for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Francois Truter, the department spends up to R400 million a year on co-funding film productions, most recently season two of Black Sails and The Book of Negroes – both being shot in Cape Town.
The department had covered the costs of giant water tanks and faux slave ships to be built on dry land, and international production houses were taking notice of the work being done here. “If it wasn’t for us the film industry would not thrive as it does,” he said.
Denis Lillie, chief executive of the Cape Film Commission (CFC), said the Hollywood executives would be looking at the ability of South Africa to deliver.
“This is by means of technical ability, budget, time and quality on screen. We know we can achieve this and have already proved it. They will also be looking for talent, production companies to partner with and locations,” he added.
The project had been a long time in the planning, with the CFC starting discussions with the LA studios over the past year, with the support of the South African consulate in Los Angeles.
According to Lillie, the initiative stemmed from discussions at the home of South African ambassador Ebrahim Rasool in Washington.
“This is huge as Johan (Klopper) and the consul-general have created something that has never been done before – major Hollywood executives visiting South Africa to check out our facilities and abilities,” said Lillie.
Winde said Wesgro, the province’s destination marketing, investment and trade promotion agency, aimed to secure R1bn in trade and investment.