Cape Town - For more than two decades, film crews from all over the world have found a favourable destination in Cape Town.
With revenue from the film industry totalling more than R12 billion annually, and only 20% being generated in the Cape, however, the time is now for the city to capitalise on its unique attributes as a film destination.
The Cape Town International Film Market & Festival from October 12 to 21 is a critical step in that direction with all aspects of the film industry included.
While the red-carpet glamour of the film festival will welcome top South African, African and other international talent to the cinemas of the V & A Waterfront, industry players will be working to further position Cape Town as an international film destination.
Taking place alongside 10 days of film screenings will be a four-day business-to-business event aimed at all support and affiliated industries.
Production companies, along with logistics companies, caterers, transport providers, security firms, crew agencies, set designers, make-up artists and more are invited to take part.
The event will focus on the critical value chain of the film industry; the drivers who provide an invaluable transport service to visiting and local talent and crews, the carpenters, set builders and painters, some of the world’s most experienced technical crew, and even the local clothing industry, with more than 200 000 textile workers who can produce awe-inspiring costumes to scale.
Then there is the incredible talent in our midst - film-makers, actors, scriptwriters - an untapped source of home-grown talent ready to be discovered.
Cape Town also has an array of the best hotels the world has to offer - for cast and crew. Many Hollywood celebrities have stayed in the now famous One & Only without the intrusive media glare they’re so used to.
In June, African Pride 15 on Orange marked the milestone of 10 000 hotel nights for a local film production company.
The film industry is also a powerful driver for the local tourism industry, Cape Town Tourism chief executive Enver Duminy explained while supporting the festival in a newspaper article earlier this month.
“Research company Forward Keys has forecast a 14% increase year-on-year in arrivals to the city in October, when the festival will take place (based on bookings), and many of those visitors will be here to enjoy what will be a remarkable event,” Duminy wrote.
“Earlier this year, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) ranked Cape Town as the number one city in Africa for business tourism the city now ranks in the top 40 destinations for business tourism in the world - improving 15 places on the global rankings from 54th place in 2015 to 39th place in 2016.
“Tourism, like the film industry, is affected by seasonality, and events are central in providing year-round sustainability. We rely on fresh, innovative event concepts to ensure that visitors keep on coming. The film festival is at the heart of generating ongoing interest.”
While it is clear why our city is a top destination for the international film market, we need to do more to transform the industry through inclusion and collaboration.
The City of Cape Town has become an active partner in this regard and, along with investment agency Wesgro, has officially endorsed the festival.
The City has issued 7 226 permits for various film shoots in the past year alone - that is more than the city of Toronto. This past financial year also saw the expansion of the Cape Town Film Studios and the City of Cape Town is also considering using its underused buildings, and the Cape Town Stadium, as potential studios or locations.
The City has publicly stated too that it wants to remove barriers for film crews to work in Cape Town. Mayor Patricia de Lille understands the importance of the film industry as a driver for investment, tourism and job creation.
De Lille is also an advocate for what the film festival aims to achieve: using the film industry as a vehicle to transform the lives of all who live in this city.
She told representatives of the film industry at a media event last month: “I think our track record and the way in which we have worked with you over the years has shown that we are committed to positioning Cape Town as the preferred film and media destination in Africa.
"Over the years, the film sector has made great progress and as an opportunity city, we are well aware of its potential. As a regulator, we want to know where we need to improve.
“I don’t just want Cape Town to be a destination for international productions, as important as that is. I also want to ensure that we develop the skills and talents in this sector and find ways of getting our own stories on to the global stage.
“We must have a bold vision for this sector, which can do so much to position Cape Town globally and highlight the enormous talent that sits here.
"We also need to make sure that we build a more inclusive industry and that it becomes an industry that our young film-makers can see a bright future in.”
Born and bred in Cape Town, my own story in the film industry is synonymous with De Lille’s vision. Growing up in the Bo-Kaap where I first fell in love with film, I was able to achieve the pinnacle for any film-maker, an Oscar nomination for my short film Asad in 2013.
I can therefore see both the potential and the challenges that exist here. With the film festival we hope to achieve multiple aims. Not only can we create a window into world cinema and build a rich film culture among South African audiences, but we can also start to connect the dots and realise the full potential of film in Cape Town.
We are excited to be hosting the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival that is primed to welcome the world to a truly African experience in film.
We see the event as a both a celebration and a marketplace for locals to meet their peers from all over the world, who, I am sure will be surprised that they can learn as much from us as we can learn from them.
* Tickets to the CTIFM&F, which runs from October 12 to 21 at the V&A Waterfront, are available from www.filmfestival.capetown
* Samsodien is from Cape Town and is an Oscar-nominated film-maker and the executive chairman of the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival.