After a partial lifting of travel restrictions in early October, South Africa is now fully open for business, with international film and TV productions resuming in time for the Southern Hemisphere’s busy summer season.
The new measures allow entry for all foreign travelers who can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure, a decision that was welcomed by members of the country’s thriving production services sector. Domestic production was allowed to resume as early as May, giving the industry a chance to prepare the necessary health and safety measures once international shoots were allowed to return.
“Starting production has given us a great opportunity to test, refine and adapt our COVID-19 protocols, and so far so good,” says Genevieve Hofmeyr, of Cape Town-based Moonlighting Films, which has serviced more than 100 international series and feature films, including Warner Bros.’ “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Disney’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and Netflix’s “The Crown.”
Moonlighting restarted production in early October and is currently in pre-production on an international TV series that will begin shooting in February. “From a production perspective, working in a pandemic adds multiple layers of complexity to the production process and there is much to learn,” says Hofmeyr. “It is very encouraging to see how supportive the film community has been in terms of compliance and co-operation in the interest of protecting each other and the productions.”
South Africa has grown into one of the world’s leading hubs for international film and television shoots, thanks to a combination of robust financial incentives, skilled English-speaking crews and a dazzling range of locations. Foreign productions can claim a 25% cash rebate on all qualifying local spend, while the rebate for South African co-productions starts at 35%. For productions that meet the requirements for the emerging Black filmmakers incentive, the rebate rises to 50%.
Recent projects to lens in the country include Amazon Studios’ “Good Omens,” Sony Pictures’ superhero movie “Bloodshot,” starring Vin Diesel and Sony’s fantasy action film “Monster Hunter,” from “Resident Evil” writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson.
Marisa Sonemann-Turner, of Film Afrika, which has provided production services on projects including the Amazon Studios and ITV drama “The Widow,” starring Kate Beckinsale, and “Raised by Wolves,” the HBO Max sci-fi series executive produced by Ridley Scott, says the industry is looking forward to “a very busy first half of 2021.”
“There are a number of other fantastic projects that are prepping or filming in late 2020,” she says, including “a returning high-end television series” that Film Afrika will be servicing in early 2021.
Production is currently underway on “Reyka” (pictured), an eight-part crime series produced by the U.K.’s Serena Cullen Prods. and South Africa’s Emmy-nominated Quizzical Pictures for the South African pay-TV channel M-Net. Fremantle will be distributing the series globally.
Other upcoming productions include Netflix’s “One Piece,” a live-action adaptation of the iconic Japanese manga produced by the U.K.’s Tomorrow Studios and the Japanese publisher Shueisha, and “Around the World in 80 Days,” the David Tennant-starring adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, a co-production between Slim Film + Television and Paris-based Federation Entertainment in association with 247 Films. Neither series has set a start date.
Despite the stringent lockdown earlier this year, Sonemann-Turner says South African bizzers have rallied together to ensure the industry would be able to recover from an unexpected — and unprecedented — crisis.
“While COVID-19 remains the focus for all our producing partners across the world, we as the local industry are working tirelessly to provide solutions and support across the projects,” she says. “The local talent remain resolute and diligent about ensuring safe working practices across Film Afrika shows.”