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South Africa helps out the little guy

Low-budget projects to get film, TV rebates

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s revised film and television production rebates, targeted at low-budget projects, come into force on Friday.

The new two-tier rebate structure from the Dept. of Trade and Industry replaces the Large Budget Film and Television Production Rebate Scheme in place since 2004.

The current program was criticized for not being accessible to lower-budget productions, and the DTI said the new rebate structure would open doors for smaller producers. The new incentive was “intended to increase local content generation and improve location competitiveness for foreign film productions in South Africa,” DTI said.

Previously, South African and co-production treaty films qualified for a 25% rebate, and foreign films qualified for a 15% rebate of their South African spend if half the principal photography was done in South Africa over a minimum of four weeks.

Expenditure had to be 25 million rand ($3.57 million) or more — high by South African standards — and the rebate was capped at $1.42 million for a single production for both local and foreign films.

Lower-budget producers could bundle three projects together over one year to reach the minimum expenditure required, but even this was still a tall order for cash-strapped filmmakers.

Now, South African and co-production treaty films with a budget of at least $357,000 will receive a rebate of 35% of their South African spend for the first $857,000 spent and 25% for any additional expenditure. The rebate is still capped at $1.42 million per production.

Foreign-owned productions with South African spend of at least $1.7 million will get a 15% rebate, also capped at $1.42 million.

The DTI said the new incentive is structured to boost the growth of the South African film and television production industry, creating an environment in which local producers can attract investment and develop stable output and sustainable production companies.