A Hollywood take on local talent
SOUTH Africa is world-renowned for its wines, so it’s no surprise that big-shot Hollywood film executive producer Dexter Davis, the chief executive of D Street Media, settles down at the end of a busy day with a glass of Stellenbosch’s finest.
But his interest in the country doesn’t end there. He has big plans for his international production and distribution company. Davis wants to set up shop in South Africa, too.
“Aside from film, we’re also developing content for television in South Africa – which is super-exciting. It’s early still, so I can’t really speak about what those projects are, but I think they’re quite historic,” he said. “Lastly, but certainly not least, we’re planning to build a state-of-the-art film and TV studio in the beautiful town of Port Shepstone on the South Coast (of KwaZulu-Natal).”
That an international film company wants to invest so heavily in South Africa is good news, and Davis has plans to use the country as a springboard for future projects on the continent.
It’s South Africa’s film industry he wants to see grow, though, as he says there is a ton of potential.
“In my humble opinion, I don’t believe there’s a real film industry in South Africa yet,” he said, acknowledging that he often got push-back from South Africans when he expressed this opinion.
“What you have is an outstanding service industry – meaning South Africa has very talented people who know how to make very good film and commercials for other people, in other countries.
“Of course SA makes excellent domestic films as well. However, you don’t make enough to sustain the local industry. That, coupled with the fact that there’s a relatively low number of movie screens in the country and not having a substantial middle class who can support the cost of going to the theatre,” said Davis.
South Africa was the next frontier in international film-making, he says.
“I liken it to the gold rush in California, once people discovered the precious metal, they all headed West to claim their fortunes. That’s bound to happen here and I wanted to be one of the first. I don’t mean to make people sound like commodities, but as we all well know, Hollywood has enjoyed great success promoting great talent around the world.
“I feel the same can be achieved with South African talent as a whole, this includes of course actors, but also writers, directors, producers, musicians, you name it.”
Film is a powerful tool for change and slowly the landscape is changing in terms of representation, Davis says.
“Sure, it’s true across the board that straight white men tend to run a lot of corporations around the world and that rings true in Hollywood for sure, but that, too, is changing. There are a lot more women, men of colour and for sure gay men running their own independent operations.
“I’m interested in making films for the broadest audience in mind, but it’s up to me to think about diversity when we’re casting and hiring in the company. That’s how I change the status quo.
“It’s a matter of being really mindful and unfortunately not all of us are mindful until we get told we’re not. And to tell you the truth, when straight white guys know better, they do better. Isn’t that what we want from our brothers and sisters of all backgrounds and races?”