A Hol­ly­wood take on lo­cal tal­ent

Cape Argus - - NEWS - Lance Wit­ten

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?”

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