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Arriflex film camera

Arriflex D21. Photo by Schlaier

Have a passion for film and theatre? Then you’re in one of the best places to take part in a fast developing industry – so get those creative juices flowing…

Before rushing out to buy a camera, however, take a broad look at where the South African industry is currently located: The film industry in South Africa has always been competitive. There is so much talent and drive among South Africans to excel in the field of the arts. It helps that the South African government is 100% behind the film industry, supporting and recognizing its potential to be an international force.

It was in 1995 that the international film industry began to sit up and take notice of South Africa as a possible location. This was after the successful 1994 free elections and the establishment of a more equal playing field regardless of race or skin colour. When this happened, the work force of the film industry was a measly 4 000 employees and workers. Today, there are more than 30 000 artisans and professionals working in film and drama productions. According to the Trade Department of South Africa, the film industry generates over R5.8 billion every year from film and TV, and the entertainment industry is valued at R7.4 Billion.

Currently, South Africa enjoys film treaties with 4 countries: Italy, Canada, UK, and Germany. It’s more of a production agreement for film and TV which allows for sharing of credits so that the film companies can pursue international recognition and financial aid from both countries.

There are many filmmakers who have chosen South Africa as their location for their projects. Not only are there unique locations, the production cost is affordable, weather is pretty much predictable, and the exchange rate is attractive. In short, it’s cheaper to film in South Africa than to do so in the US, Europe, or Australia.

Bolex H16 Film Camera

Bolex H16 Film Camera

The first South African film was called African Mirror in 1913. It was a news reel which ran up to the 1980s. The first feature film, The Kimberly Diamond Robbery was filmed in 1910, and is now considered a timeless piece of movie memorabilia. It was only after 1994 that South Africa began to shoot more films and tell its stories.

In the beginning of the democratic era, there were many films done on apartheid and then the HIV virus. However, eventually, South Africa moved forward and began to develop better stories, one of which –Tsotsi - even won an Academy Award in 2006 for Best Foreign Language Film.

Other award winning South African films are:

Yesterday which got an Oscar nomination and tells the tale of an HIV infected mother
U Carmen E. Khayalitsha which is a film that won the 2005 Berlin Golden Bear Award
Blood Diamond which starred Leonardo DiCaprio
Lord of War starring Nicholas Cage

Since the government has required broadcasters to show local content on their TV networks, there is a daily dose of South African drama series or soap operas which are produced and directed in South Africa with local talent. According to Eddie Mbalo, the Chief Executive for the National and Film and Video Foundation,

It is a national moral imperative to create platforms for ordinary South Africans to be able to bear influence on the expression of their own images.

The Department of Trade and Industry also supports the film industry with incentives in the form of financial assistance and tax rebates. There are 3 film commissions in South Africa:

1. The Cape Film Commission
2. Durban Film Office
3. Gauteng Film Commission

These three groups help local and foreign filmmakers with funding and advice on location shoots. The only question left is whether you’d prefer a desk job like working for for a property investment firm, or a great and exciting career in the creative art of film-making? The choice should be obvious!