Johannesburg – South Africa's local film industry is becoming a serious economic player, having contributed R5.4bn to the gross domestic product (GDP) during the 2016/17 financial year.
This is according to an Economic Impact Assessment study commissioned by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF). The findings were released on Wednesday, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“We are not just here to entertain and influence society. We are here to contribute to economic growth in this country… We do not always want to be a sector begging for soft money,” said Zama Mkosi, chief executive of the NFVF.
The research was commissioned by the NFVF to create an understanding of the business of film and to ultimately help shape policy direction and strategy for the sector, explained Mkosi. “We want to show the film industry is a significant contributor to the economy of this country.”
The current study follows on from the baseline study conducted in 2013, which shows the film industry contributed R3.5bn to GDP. During the 2016/17 financial year, the film industry generated production worth R12.2bn.
For every R1 invested, it resulted in a multiplier effect of 4.9 jobs created. Over 21 000 jobs were created, the study showed.
“We want the film sector to be taken seriously, with investors clamouring over us to fund the projects we want to make,” said Mkosi.
Government remains the primary funder of projects through the Industrial Development Corporation and the Department of Trade and Industry. However, there is increasing interest and investment by the private sector.
For the industry to grow and be sustainable, we can’t have the majority of the funding be from government, said Mkosi.
Chika Chitambala, senior development economist at Urban Econ, which conducted the study, explained that government funding has been slightly declining and private funding has been increasing. “The government sector still remains the biggest funder,” she said.
Private sector funding increased at a 52% compounded annual growth rate, while the government funding increased 11% on a compounded annual growth rate.
The study showed that feature films and documentaries are the largest segments of the sector (27.3%). Animation is the smallest sector (3%) mainly because there is a lack of technology and skills to produce this content, explained Chitambala. The remainder of the sector is dominated by TV series and TV films.
Film industry segments
Film operations have been concentrated in the Gauteng province at over 55%. This is followed by the Western Cape with almost 25% of activity and KwaZulu-Natal, just under 10%. Filming activity is picking up in Limpopo, also just under 10%.
The remaining provinces, including North West, the Free State and Mpumalanga, have film activity taking place, however this activity is not income-generating, explained Chitambala.
Film activity across provinces in South Africa
Mkosi explained that there should be more investment, by government and the private sector to develop infrastructure in other provinces to shoot films. Once there is existing infrastructure, then the industry won’t have to “parachute” from the dominant provinces to shoot films.
“Most films which account for economic development in Gauteng are shot in those other provinces,” she said.
The study recommended that the film sector must focus on transformation as well as skills development among black film makers.
Mkosi explained that there were opportunities for entrepreneurs within the industry, not necessarily as directors or producers, but to provide other services such as accommodation and food for film makers. “There are gaps that can be tapped into.”
Actress Florence Masebe, who was part of a panel discussion, explained that another problem in the industry is that there aren’t enough exhibition platforms to make film accessible to South Africans. “We need to create different spaces to display South African film,” she said.
These audiovisual centres could be similar to the Fan Parks created during the 2010 FIFA World Cup where games were screened. Further, viewings could be hosted in community halls.
Masebe recalled a time where mobile screens were trucked into communities and were sponsored by businesses like Unilever. “We can go back to those models and see if they still work for South Africa.”