The South African film industry began production in 1896, not long after the famous Lumiere brothers debuted their first commercial film the previous year in 1895. As a result of this, South Africa’s film industry is not only the oldest in Africa, but also one of the oldest in the world. This industry is one of the most established on the continent, as well as one of the industries with the greatest financial potential.
It does not produce as many films as Nigeria’s thriving industry, but it does deliver a steady trickle of crowd pleasers (with Leon Shuster’s comedies setting box office records), as well as international award winners like Tsotsi (2006) and Skoonheid. Despite the fact that it does not produce as many films as Nigeria’s thriving industry, it does provide a steady stream of crowd pleasers (Beauty, 2011). However, films made in other local languages, even if critically acclaimed and of high production quality, have not been very successful. Despite this, there is still a sizable and devoted audience for Afrikaans-language films.
On average, the industry contributes R3.5 billion to the economy each year. Although 22 South African films were given theatrical distribution in the country in 2019, they only brought in R60 million of the R1.2 billion made at the local box office. Hollywood films continued to dominate the South African box office.
Following the end of apartheid in South Africa, the “facilitation” manufacturing style proved to be the most profitable. This remained true in the years that followed. A large number of South African producers have established themselves as professionals in the business of hosting foreign film and television projects by providing clients with crews, selecting locations, and casting extras. As a result, they have established themselves as industry leaders in the field. The film incentives offered by the Department of Commerce and Industry have largely contributed to the location’s rise to prominence as one of the most sought-after locations for filming. Because of these benefits, travelling productions can receive financial compensation for the time they spend working in the country.
The widespread COVID-19 epidemic has made it abundantly clear that this is no longer an option. As a direct result of the epidemic, the economy of the sector has suffered in a number of countries, most notably the United States. Even though the restrictions that governed film and television production lockdowns were lifted in April, that does not mean that everything has returned to normal since then. Due to the strict operational guidelines that must be followed and the fact that a maximum of fifty people are allowed on set or on location at any given time, both the scale of productions that can be made and the level of intricacy of such productions are limited.
On the other hand, a few dynamics that had already begun prior to the lockout have been pushed to the forefront as a result of the significant reduction in production. Among these dynamics are: These dynamics include the following: Filmmaking on a shoestring budget, the use of non-traditional distribution channels, and the creation of collaborative cinematic works are all examples of such endeavours. They have the potential to be one of the keys that will unlock further growth in the industry in the future, and this growth will be unlocked as a result of their presence.
Luxuries That Are Affordable Even on a Tight Budget
Enter the indie film made on a shoestring budget. Jenna Cato Bass, who lives in Cape Town and works as a writer, director, and cinematographer, is regarded as a pioneer in this field. Despite her young age, she has already directed three feature-length films: the urban romance drama Love the One You Love (2014), the “body-swap satire” High Fantasy (2017), and the “feminist western” Flatland (2015). She directed all of these films (2019). During our most recent conversation, she revealed that one of her goals is to “make a career out of making films and would like to produce a lot of them.”
Her films are frequently made by small crews with limited production funding and other resources. They are not polished or made on a large budget like Hollywood movies, so they cannot compete with other types of movies. Despite this, they have a devoted fan base, are frequently selected to make their debut at the most prestigious international festivals, and she continues to receive funding to develop more of them.
She was forced to postpone the production of her fourth feature film as a result of the lockdown, but she remains confident that she will triumph over this situation. She is able to postpone the shoot because the costs associated with her production are quite low. Furthermore, because her crews are so small, she can begin shooting while waiting for personal distancing restrictions to be lifted. This is made possible by the small size of her crews. As a result, she has a significant advantage over films with budgets in the millions of dollars.
The Lockdown Attitude Is Beneficial to Teamwork Development
Another trend that has emerged is the creation of content from a remote location. As a result of the country’s lockdown, numerous collaborative productions were launched within a reasonable amount of time after the crisis began. Tim Greene directed the Cabin Fever production, which was one of these projects. Members of the cast videotaped their own sequences at home with whatever camera or recording device they could find in order to collaborate on the creation of this work of fiction. The film was then uploaded for the editors, who were all working from their homes at the same time. Remote director viewings are carried out via increasingly popular platforms such as Zoom. In recent years, this has become the norm.
It is possible to keep film production going by utilising remote filmmaking, which makes use of the combined skills, equipment, and software of a variety of creative specialists. Furthermore, it capitalises on creative collaboration, which was already a feature of local production, particularly documentary films, and it reduces the filmmaking industry’s notoriously large carbon footprint.
Distribution via the Internet
Showmax, a MultiChoice video-on-demand service, hosts the vast majority of Bass’s films, and users can access it by connecting to the internet and using the company’s satellite television service. Showmax appears to prioritise the acquisition of local content, as evidenced by the fact that they are licencing as much as they possibly can as quickly as they possibly can. Among the films that have received positive reviews are Five Fingers for Marseilles (2017), Inxeba (The Wound, 2017), Kanarie (2018), and Sew the Winter to My Skin (2017). (2018).
Showmax, however, is not the only service that can deliver movies directly to people’s homes. South African filmmakers have been debating various independent distribution options for quite some time. Moffie (2019), the most recent motion picture from Oliver Hermanus, who has received critical acclaim, was scheduled to be released in theatres around the time of the lockdown, and public screening venues were closed as a result. The film had its world premiere in Venice in 2019, and it’s easy to see why the directors wouldn’t want to wait until 2021 to show it to audiences in their respective cities. At the moment, it is streamed directly from their website in a pay-per-view format, using both their own platform and their ticketing service, OneTix. Hermanus was the one who informed me, and he stated that they thought it “made more financial sense.”
It is reasonable to anticipate that producers will use independent channels to connect films directly to audiences. Showmax reportedly offers around $5,000 for a non-exclusive licence to broadcast a motion picture for 18 months. Showmax, on the other hand, had approximately 600,000 users by the middle of 2018, making it more successful than global behemoth Netflix’s local offering. A customised platform would struggle to reach that number of viewers if its marketing strategy did not include a significant investment of time and resources.
It is expected that the trend of producing and distributing films in innovative ways that take into account the global climate emergency will increase not only in South Africa, but also in other parts of the world. This is because such production and distribution methods have grown in popularity in recent years. While we are still recovering from the pandemic’s negative effects, we will evaluate the positive effects of #stayhome on us. This evaluation will take place at the same time as our recovery. This entails encouraging or enhancing creative approaches to film production and distribution in South Africa.