The sky’s the limit for this trio of black in­dus­tri­al­ists

CityPress - - Business - POLOKO TAU projects@city­press.co.za

The ice has melted at the once-fa­mous Sky Rink in the iconic Carl­ton Cen­tre build­ing, sit­u­ated in Jo­han­nes­burg’s central busi­ness dis­trict (CBD), but ex­pect no damp­ened floors there – the skat­ing rink has been trans­formed into a mul­ti­mil­lion­rand, world-class film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity that is al­most ready to launch.

De­scribed as a “high-tech­nol­ogy, one-stop stu­dio and pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity”, the re­fur­bished struc­ture is ex­pected to make its mark as the first and largest black-owned, one-stop film and TV pro­duc­tion hub of its kind in the coun­try.

In­spired by the chronic short­age of stu­dios and pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties in South Africa, three black in­dus­tri­al­ists came to­gether about four years ago to em­bark on this joint ven­ture.

Soon, they will open the doors of Sky Rink Stu­dios, where film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion houses are ex­pected to find ev­ery­thing un­der one roof. This is where pro­duc­ers will walk in with sto­ry­lines and walk out see­ing them given life in the form of qual­ity TV dra­mas and talk shows, sports and mu­sic shows.

It all started af­ter Frank Mo­hapi tried to use his con­sid­er­able pub­lic re­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions clout to help his pro­ducer friend, Marvin Mathibe, se­cure a stu­dio for film­ing.

They tried ev­ery­where, but all the good stu­dios in town were fully booked. Nat­u­rally, they spot­ted a gap in the market. “I de­cided then and there to build our own stu­dios,” Mo­hapi said.

“There was an op­por­tu­nity in the market wait­ing to be ex­ploited.”

To­gether with IT and media en­thu­si­ast Miles Brit­ton-Masekela, the trio wasted no time in work­ing on busi­ness plans and pro­pos­als.

When they ap­proached Transnet, the own­ers of the Carl­ton Cen­tre, Mo­hapi said they had planned to house the fa­cil­ity in the 2 000seater ball­room, but were in­stead of­fered the dis­used ice rink.

Thanks to those who told them to “go big or go home”, Mo­hapi is not shy to say to­day that the three en­trepreneurs were sent back to pol­ish their pro­posal and ex­pand on a num­ber of things – in­clud­ing their budget, which ended up mul­ti­ply­ing more than four times from the orig­i­nal R50 mil­lion en­vis­aged.

Transnet of­fered the trio the floor as well as in­creased sup­port.

To­day, af­ter re­ceiv­ing R180 mil­lion from the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion and a fur­ther R40 mil­lion from the Na­tional Em­pow­er­ment Fund – along with other tranches from other part­ners – the three di­rec­tors of Sky Rink will soon see their dream house being launched.

The 2 400m² fa­cil­ity of­fers six stu­dios, rang­ing in size from a 240m² space to two stu­dios, sep­a­rated by an acous­tic door di­vider, giv­ing a com­bined space of 1 000m² when opened.

The stu­dios are sur­rounded by sev­eral con­trol and sound rooms.

Each stu­dio has been kit­ted out with LED light­ing, high-def­i­ni­tion fa­cil­i­ties and three cam­eras. There is also space for fully equipped pro­duc­tion of­fices.

A long cor­ri­dor is lined with 10 post­pro­duc­tion suites. And com­plet­ing these stu­dios are, of course, make-up rooms as well as wait­ing rooms, both pri­vate and com­mu­nal.

With all these struc­tures con­ve­niently lo­cated in one space, Mo­hapi said the es­tab­lish­ment was well equipped to pro­duce dra­mas, sit­coms, te­len­ov­e­las, news fea­tures, talk shows, sports and ad­ver­tis­ing productions.

“We are a one-stop shop that will ad­dress pro­duc­ers’ needs. We are able to live schedule, host chan­nels and stream live right from here.”

Mo­hapi added that the di­rec­tors of Sky Rink did not plan to go out fight­ing for busi­ness against other pro­duc­tion houses once the es­tab­lish­ment was oper­a­tional.

“We do not want to be ref­eree and player, but are of­fer­ing a plat­form where pro­duc­tion houses can do it all un­der one roof. What­ever we had in mind was for the pro­duc­tion houses,” he said. Why lo­cate the busi­ness in Joburg’s CBD? Mo­hapi smiled at the ques­tion. “Apart from bring­ing life back to the city cen­tre, the CBD will al­low easy ac­cess for ex­tras (ad­di­tional peo­ple brought in on a tem­po­rary ba­sis for crowd scenes). There will be no need to bus in ex­tras.”

The di­rec­tors also have job cre­ation in mind. Sky Rink is ex­pected to cre­ate about 150 di­rect jobs, while pro­duc­tion houses us­ing fa­cil­i­ties here will bring in their own staff.

“We nor­mally see five to eight ac­tors on tele­vi­sion, but behind the scenes there are about 30 to 50 peo­ple mak­ing it all pos­si­ble,” Mo­hapi ex­plained.

“This is one great in­dus­try that can em­ploy ev­ery­one from an ac­coun­tant to a se­cu­rity guard and cleaner.”

Mo­hapi said the di­rec­tors were also look­ing at cre­at­ing a plat­form to em­power black peo­ple to be­come man­agers in the film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion in­dus­try.

“We have very ex­pe­ri­enced black peo­ple who know the ins and outs of the in­dus­try and pro­duc­tion, but no one in this coun­try will ex­pose them to management po­si­tions.”

Mo­hapi and his part­ners may have suc­ceeded in re­al­is­ing their dreams in just a few years by work­ing hard and over­com­ing chal­lenges, but they are all too aware of other en­trepreneurs in dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines who have failed be­cause of the funding com­mit­tee set-up.

“You find a com­mit­tee with ac­coun­tants who only think of the money and less of the busi­ness. There should be en­trepreneurs there who think along the same lines [as the pro­duc­ers] when se­cu­rity is needed.”

Asked where he saw Sky Rink over the next decade, Mo­hapi said there would be many other es­tab­lish­ments like theirs, ad­ding that while he and his part­ners were set­ting a trend, they were also ad­dress­ing the des­per­ate short­age of fa­cil­i­ties while staying on par with tech­nol­ogy.

“We are ex­pect­ing to hit the ground run­ning when we open our doors. Al­ready, we are about to fi­nalise con­tracts for long- and short­term productions. I be­lieve we will be fully booked in our first year of pro­duc­tion and will look into expanding soon,” he said.

PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

VI­SION­ARY TRIO The di­rec­tors of Sky Rink Stu­dios, Miles Brit­tonMasekela, Frank Mo­hapi and Marvin Mathibe, cel­e­brate the near com­ple­tion of their fa­cil­ity in the heart of Joburg

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