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Tax rebates, new studios pull production south

Scout & About: South Africa 2012

South Africa has long long been a magnet for foreign productions, but the recent B.O. success of Universal’s “Safe House,” filmed with Cape Town-based Moonlighting Films, and Fox’s “Chronicle,” shot with Film Afrika Worldwide, has raised the country’s profile even higher.

Skilled crews, varied locations, a favorable exchange rate, world-class studio facilities, and a competitive range of incentives and rebates have led to growing demand, according to a number of South African producers.

David Wicht, CEO of Film Afrika, which recently opened an office in L.A., reported “an enormous interest in South Africa” at the recently wrapped Locations Expo and Variety BRIC Summit.

With a long history in the business, the country’s top production service companies have considerable experience servicing big-budget foreign productions. Kalahari, Film Afrika, Moonlighting, Two Ocean Productions, Spier Films, DO Productions, Out of Africa and ZenHQ are also adept at tapping into incentives offered by the Dept. of Trade and Industry.

South Africa offers aggressive incentives, including a 35% rebate on the first 6 million rands ($700,000) of qualifying South African spend and 25% on the remainder. The country’s fund for foreign productions offers 20% on qualifying spend and, now for the first time, up to an additional 5% for post-production work done in South Africa. There is no cap on any of the claims.

To qualify, foreign films, documentaries, animation and TV projects must shoot for at least four weeks and complete half their principal photography in South Africa, spending a minimum of $1.4 million. At least two weeks of post-production work must be done in South Africa to qualify for the post-prod rebate, spending at least $180,000. Co-productions must shoot for at least two weeks and complete half their principal photography in South Africa, spending at least $300,000.

Government continues to play a strong supporting role, having removed the cap on rebates last year. A separate incentive from one of the regional film commissions is reportedly in the works. The recently introduced post-production incentive should also be a shot in the arm for visual-effects houses such as Refinery, Searle Street Post, BlackGinger, and local producer/vfx artist Simon Hansen, who handled effects for “Chronicle.”

Last year’s opening of Cape Town Film Studios, which was used in the production of “Chronicle” and Lionsgate’s forthcoming “Dredd,” has given South Africa an added dimension. The $40 million complex, located a short drive from Cape Town, is the first Hollywood-style studio on the continent, with four state-of-the-art sound stages and plans to build a number of permanent sets in the coming months, according to CEO Nico Dekker.

Local filmmakers continue to enjoy a production boom that has led to a record number of films in recent years, from Oscar entry “Life, Above All” to domestic success stories like romantic comedies “Material” and “Semi-Soet.”

The strong showing in Durban this year, which includes 16 South African features across a variety of genres, reflects the growing strength, diversity, and global reach of local productions. Despite coin from the Industrial Development Corp. and a Dept. of Trade and Industry rebate, though, funding remains a challenge, with limited investment from the private sector.

Fest Traveler: Durban International Film Festival / Scout & About: South Africa
Rich soil for new voices | Tax rebates, new studios pull production south | Biz returns to the boom times of 2009

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