Almost five years since the announcement of a plan to build five-star mega film and television studios right in the middle of Durban, KZN, the progress of this highly anticipated project remain uncertain.
The move to re-purpose a Durban World War II army site into a film studio was recently welcomed after the eThekwini Municipality invited public comments for its plans to rezone the old Natal Command Site in North Beach into the eThekwini Film City.
Early this year, the move to speed up the development of a KZN-based film and television studio to rival the Cape Town Film Studios received another boost when Videovision Entertainment director and film producer Anant Singh announced an investment of R7.5 billion for the development of film and television studios and related sectors in Durban at the fourth South African Investment Conference hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa in Johannesburg.
On Tuesday, at the KZN Film Commission media engagement session held at Altas Studios, the KZN Film Commission led by its CEO, Victor Senna, and COO, Jackie Motsepe, acknowledged that though plans are already in place to realise this long-awaited dream, the progress of this development remained in the pipeline due to certain issues that need to be resolved.
“There are plans of building film and television studios in the province. We started this process in 2018 when we went to the market to find partnerships. Unfortunately the process took long because of issues. We are hoping these issues will be sorted and resolved so that we are able to continue with the project. At this stage that project is still in the pipeline,” Senna said.
From film festivals to lush and scenic landscapes, fine weather and production treaties with local and international film destinations, the province of KZN, through the commission and its various partners, has been declared an ideal film and television production destination. Motsepe said the province is open for business and partnerships to ensure that the province realises its full film-based economy.
"Our mandate at the commission is to facilitate investment into the province, and as you might know KZN is a location-based film and production destination, but we are yet to establish our own film production studios. We have been able to facilitate location shoots in and around the province with a range of partnerships with local and international film productions that have been shot in our locations.
“As a province, we boast a whole range of attractions and partnerships with municipalities, equipment rental and production companies , transport and accommodation where productions filming in the province are able to get discounted prices in order to facilitate the province as an ideal film production destination," Motsepe said.
Senna added that since its inception, the focus for the commission has been on supporting the film industry in the province and to accelerate transformation of the industry in the province with a series of interventions aimed at making the province one of the country’s leading film production destination.
“We have funded over 400 projects and disbursed more than R80 million through our film fund towards development, production and marketing and distribution of audio-visual content in the province of KZN.
“A total of 186 Youth have been awarded bursaries by the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, in the disciplines of TV and film production, design and animation. In only the last two year, we have provided training and skills to 200 participants in areas such as drone technology, script-writing and film and TV production learnerships,” he said.
As the province continues to accelerate its efforts to lead the film market, project co-ordinator and head of marketing for the commission, Mu Ngcolosi, called on producers and other practitioners from the province and Gauteng to partner with the commission in bringing their productions and film festivals to light.
“We are always open to funding film festivals across the province. As things stand, we have about four film festivals all concentrated in areas around Durban and would love to spread this out so that it accommodates other parts of the province,” he said.