The multi-billion rand film and television sector can create employment and transformation, and uplift those participating in it, says Coal Stove Pictures founder and executive producer Wandile Molebatsi. File photo.
The multi-billion rand film and television sector can create employment and transformation, and uplift those participating in it, says Coal Stove Pictures founder and executive producer Wandile Molebatsi. File photo.

Film and television sector ripe for investment and transformation

By Given Majola Time of article published Oct 5, 2021

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The multi-billion rand film and television sector can create employment and transformation, and uplift those participating in it, says Coal Stove Pictures founder and executive producer Wandile Molebatsi.

However, only about R15.8 million of the billions invested was going to black, female and previously disadvantaged people and companies, he said, even though a number of black filmmakers were producing excellent local content and Hollywood blockbusters in South Africa.

Molebatsi said the industry had good potential for life-changing employment and transformation.

“There is still an obvious disparity in the industry, what can we do about it together?” he asked.

Last month, the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), an agency of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, released the findings of its third Economic Impact Assessment , which measured the economic contribution of the film and video industry to South Africa’s GDP between April 2016 (2016/17) and March this year (2020/21).

The assessment also examined the impact Covid-19 had on the industry. It found the pandemic had caused substantial damage, with the contribution of the industry to the South African economy contracting by 59 percent in 2020/21 compared to 2019/20.

The economic contribution of the film industry to the local economy was an estimated R7.2 billion in 2019/20, but this fell to R2.9bn in 2020/21 as a result of the pandemic.

The number of full-time equivalent jobs created/sustained by the industry was 31 444 in 2019/20, falling to 12 775 in 2020/21. Annualised income derived by employees of the film industry amounted to R218 million in 2019/20, declining to R88m in 2020/21.

For every R1m in output generated by the film industry, an additional R0.76m of GDP at market prices was generated if the direct and indirect impacts were considered.

Molebatsi, who has been creating stories that shape a positive narrative of Africa for 25 years, said it was important producers, actors and content creators rights were protected.

“With the revolution happening in the digital space due to powerful streamers like NetFlix, Amazon, Hulu and DisneyPlus coming to the continent, it is more important than ever for the rights of producers, actors and content creators to be protected,” he said.

“From an intellectual standpoint, the way that producers (IP creators) have engaged with MNET, SABC and eTV has been very top down. However, with the importance that the South African government is placing on real, practical and measurable transformation, we have an opportunity to navigate this space and create an industry that is diverse, inclusive and resilient,” said Molebatsi.

He said the second half of the challenge came in shifting the spending behaviour of network executives and producers.

He said many of them had long-standing relationships with their suppliers and believed that taking on new entrants was risky. He said this was then compounded by the reality that many black suppliers did not have the cash flow to float the initial costs of any work given by those willing to make the change.

There were financial incentives available from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to convince international stakeholders to support newer black-owned companies.

These incentives include a rebate system that allowed producers to attract international producers to shoot their films in South Africa. For international co-productions, for example, 25 percent to 35 percent of all that was spent in SA would be given as a rebate for “re-investment”.

For local film production, these rebates could go up to 50 percent, if a production qualified in terms of BEE requirements.

The Industrial Development Co-Operation (IDC) and National Empowerment Fund (NEF) also actively invested in the film and television sector.

“What is wonderful to see in this shifting landscape is that intelligent, pioneering black women are taking the helm of massive productions,” said Molebatsi.

He said while there is no doubt the industry is structurally flawed, steps needed to be taken to ensure that the South African film and TV industry of the future was a more inclusive space for everyone.

A combination of policy changes, the DTIC’s incentive initiative and the passion of trusted film authorities would see the industry progress to an inclusive future, he said.

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BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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