When Cape Town is the setting for an international film production, chances are Moonlighting is behind it.

Moonlighting is made up of two companies, Moonlighting Films and Moonlighting Commercials, and this year the commercial company celebrates two milestones as the big jobs continue to roll in.

A number of films and ads have recently been filmed around the city while some big Hollywood names such as Richard Gere, Hilary Swank, Daniel Craig and Angelina Jolie have filmed in the country.

Moonlighting Commercials turns 20 this year and has celebrated the shooting of its 1 000th commercial, for Norwegian ventilation and electrical installation company, Bravida, using the production company Paradox.

Moonlighting Commercial founder Philip Key spoke to Weekend Argus about the company's "tears and triumphs".

"All this is special for me because it represents the total amount of business brought to South Africa, all foreign business. We have produced a significant amount of work for Cape Town as well and the local crew have all contributed. Most of the work has been in Cape Town - each year only 10 to 15 percent of the work is outside the city."

In 1989, Key ditched his sound-recording job to start his own production company after a "chat in the pub" with another producer, Richard Green. He formed Moonlighting Commercials in Johannesburg but moved to Cape Town in the mid-1990s.

"There have been good times and very difficult circumstances, like losing a key cast member or extreme weather conditions that hindered a shoot. There have been times when jobs go badly. It was difficult to survive in the early 90s. We had major losses, especially with staff, but we saw that through."

Although Key had worked on shoots as a sound recordist he had never produced before starting Moonlighting. But he describes the formation of the company as "an accident waiting to happen".

"It was very much a spur-of-the-moment thing. In those days a lot of the guys learnt things on the ground as there were no film schools. We all started out as runners and assistants and eventually worked our way up."

With so much film business coming to Cape Town, Key said promoting the city was no longer a task and the city sold itself: "Cape Town has God-given assets that are difficult to beat anywhere else in the world and major film companies know this. There is also a work ethic here that people love. We often hear our international production companies saying Capetonians have a 'can do' attitude which keeps them coming back."

Moonlighting Commercial has a permanent staff of 30, and it can take on 30 to 100 people for the bigger commercials.

His favourite production is the one they are doing now. "It's The Untitled Mandela Project, a feature film about South Africa's 1995 Rugby World Cup win. It's a highlight because of the quality of the director and the producer and the nature of the project, being so South African. The subject matter is one that is very close to my heart."

Some commercial shoots have included staging a Viking battle around Mossel Bay and Swellendam, and filming Maseratis on Chapman's Peak.

Key's partner and co-founder of Moonlighting Films, Genevieve Hofmeyr, joined in 1998 after a stint of freelance production on various projects.

After completing her BA degree in English and psychology at the University of Cape Town in the mid-1980s, she studied Film and TV Production at New York State University.

"I worked my way up. There weren't a lot of film mentors around that time ,so a lot of what I know is self-taught. Being a line producer became very difficult and complicated to set up. I identified Philip as having a strong company with good work ethic and approached him about a long-form film company."

In the film company's 11 years it has done 30 productions, including Daniel Craig's new movie, Flashbacks of a Fool, which includes scenes shot in Camps Bay, Blood Diamond with Leonardo di Caprio, shot in Cape Town, Port Alfred and Mozambique, Beyond Borders with Angelina Jolie; and the prequel to the 24 series with Keifer Sutherland.

The company plans to open an office in Cuba.