Toronto-based media and entertainment company Blue Ice Group announced that it has bought a controlling stake in leading South African production company Film Afrika, and has merged this acquisition with its own Out of Africa Entertainment to create Blue Ice Afrika, which is now the largest international film and TV production company in South Africa.
“This merger pulls the skills of two successful companies into one,” Blue Ice president Lance Samuels told Variety. “Film Afrika set the pathway for the South African film and TV industry, the growth of which has been fast and amazing in recent years.”
Blue Ice Group was founded over a decade ago by Neil Tabatznik and Steven Silver. In 2011, the group bought South African-born Samuels’ production company Out of Africa and, with Samuels, founded Blue Ice Pictures. The company has offices in Toronto, L.A., London, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The group, which has spearheaded several film-related philanthropic initiatives, recently founded South African Media Capital (SAMCAP).
Samuels and Film Afrika founder David Wicht, now CEO of Blue Ice Afrika, will be at AFM.
Founded 20 years ago, Cape Town-headquartered Film Afrika has managed numerous high-end films and TV series, among them “Black Sails” and “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” offering integrated services to major U.S. and European studios, networks, and cable companies with productions filming in South Africa, neighboring Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, as well as Kenya, Morocco, Ghana and other African countries.
“Under David Wicht’s leadership, the key team of Rudi Van As and Meryl Schutte has built a reputation for management excellence that helped make Film Afrika the top service producer of international productions in South Africa,” commented Blue Ice CEO Steven Silver. “The investment in Film Afrika is another step in Blue Ice’s ongoing growth.”
“I can think of no better way of ensuring 20 more years of growth and excellence than partnering with Out of Africa Entertainment and Blue Ice Pictures,” said Wicht. “The success of Film Afrika has always been the extraordinarily talented staff who run the company, and I am delighted that the same teams that built Film Afrika and Out of Africa Entertainment will continue to manage production at Blue Ice Afrika.”
In January 2016, Blue Ice starts production on “Madiba: The Nelson Mandela Story,” a six-part series for BET starring Laurence Fishburne directed by Kevin Hooks, and produced with Out of Africa and U.K. production company Left Bank Pictures. In March 2016, Blue Ice begins 10-part legal procedural drama “In Contempt,” also for BET. Both series will lens in South Africa and be serviced by Blue Ice Afrika.
“Over the past 20 years, the concerted effort to grow the South African film industry has been very progressive,” Samuels said. “In addition to the fantastic climate and varied landscape, there are experienced crews and, right now, the currency exchange rate between the dollar and rand sits at an all-time low, so there’s great production value.
“But the most important factor overall has been the introduction by the South African government of a film and TV rebate, which has made the country a viable place to shoot international productions.”
While Blue Ice Afrika’s primary focus will be the servicing of major international film and TV productions lensing in the region, Samuels says the new company aims to develop local talent. “We are also committed to working with local writers and directors, and helping them tell South African stories to the world,” he said.