Growing the movie-making industry in KZN
WHILE the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission aims to focus on local movie-makers, the challenge is that there are very few specialist skills in the province.
“We have a lot of black film crew, but they are not at head of department level,” explained Carol Coetzee, the chief executive of the three-year-old KZN Film Commission.
It is a provincial government-backed entity that aims to develop a sustainable film industry while promoting the region as a choice destination for film production.
As becoming a head of department “is not a skill that is learnt overnight”, the commission is now planning to take on 30 graduates who will undertake a three-year programme.
During the programme they will study script-writing, the production side of the business as well as marketing and distribution, Coetzee said.
The commission offers incentives for film-makers to shoot their productions in KwaZulu-Natal on condition they use 70% of the spend in the province and use local black crew.
“But the challenge is that our industry is not ready to meet those demands because of the specialised skills shortage.
“What we have been doing is to compromise: for every rand we spend, the film-makers have to spend R3,” Coetzee explained.
The commission has an annual budget of R70 million, and can go up to R1.2m to help finance a single film.
While the commission wants the industry to be self-sustaining, stories that need to be told that help social cohesion are also considered for financing to give the movie-maker all-important experience.
As well as improving the skills level of the local industry – skills-development projects, internship, bursary and women and youth incubation programmes have also been held – the commission’s priority now is to shift more to KZN and Zulu stories in the films it backs.
“Audience development research has revealed that a lot of people are now accessing movies at home.
“The SABC also has an 80-90% local quota, and this represents great opportunities for film-makers for their content,” Coetzee said.
One of the commission’s mandates is to promote as many productions in the province as possible, and it has more than 100 projects on its books, with 60% still in the development stage of script-writing.
The commission was one of the funders of the blockbuster Keeping Up With the Kandasamys, which Coetzee predicts will also be exported. The popular Durban Beach Rescue was another successful project funded by the commission.
Coetzee says exciting things are happening, and about 300 people involved in the movie industry will hear about them starting tonight and tomorrow when they attend the first annual Film Industry Indaba at the Greyville Conference Centre.
“There are about 2 500-3 000 people in the industry, but the challenge is that they are independent and the idea of the Indaba is to bring as many people together as possible to get more co-operation.
“The industry has been so small that everyone is fighting for opportunities.
“But there are so many opportunities now and we want them to work together to service productions,” Coetzee said.
The commission will also unveil its brand new film cluster – two dedicated floors at its headquarters in the Musgrave Towers offices at the Musgrave Centre.
The cluster facilities will prove a boon for emerging movie-makers who are unable to afford their own facilities.
They will now be able to book office space and use the meeting rooms.
The cluster also boasts a 100-seater training facility and a state-of-the-art 34-seater soundproof cinema, where film-makers can show their movies to cinema chains and other interested parties.
The indaba will also throw the spotlight on some of the changes that are happening at the national level, including the Department of Arts and Culture’s white paper on the industry.
There are a number of new strategies being proposed and policies that are being reviewed at a national and provincial level, and Coetzee said it was important to listen to what the people on the ground had to say.