Will the internet kill the SA film industry?

Film Industry
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This is one of the many questions that delegates grappled with at the South African Film Summit at Skyrink Studios in the Johannesburg CBD on Monday and Tuesday.

Movie mogul Anant Singh believes South Africa is capable of producing blockbusters like Black Panther but should improve film business and development. He said in the past he could have sold his movies to a film studio in Hollywood for more than anyone in South Africa was willing to pay for it.

“That’s shocking. It’s anti-competitive … Bollywood is a phenomenal machine and as the years have progressed, they’ve grown that business … We could be in that space. It takes a lot of hard work, but creativity knows no boundary. People want to watch films. They want to see fresh ideas, and you guys can do that.”

Comedian Kagiso Lediga believes telling local stories that transcend boundaries is the way to go.

“You can tell extremely local stories as long as people will understand them, wherever they land, versus trying to say: ‘This is what Americans wanna see.’ Maybe start with want you want to see … You have to tell your story and make sure that they (foreign audiences) understand, and in that skill you end up making things that are very original.”

Actor Eric Miyeni does not consider the internet a threat to cinemas.

“Humans will always want to congregate,” he said.

AAA Entertainment film and TV producer Pascal Schmitz believes the disruption of the internet will wreak havoc on the local film industry the way it did on home videos and video rental shops.

“It’s always just [that] a new technology comes in and young people will just grab on quicker [to that] because they just haven’t ingrained themselves in particular ways of working. They’re not sentimental about it. Whatever works now, what’s the easiest way to do it today, and they grab onto that.”

Schmitz believes the film industry should harness the experience of older generations and new technological innovations to produce excellence on all platforms to keep itself in the running.

He believes another solution is persuading telecommunications companies, brands and others who need content for their platforms to spend money on the local film industry.

“A lot of people need content. Amazon needs content to get more subscribers into Prime to ship actual stuff to them … and they’re not in the content business. Apple is in the device business, they’re funding content. Facebook is in the social media business and they’re funding content … YouTube is also a community. It’s not just a hub of content. This is an alternative universe.”

Schmitz believes film-making, TV production, video games and user-generated content such as YouTube is increasingly overlapping.

“Picture and sound … it takes so many forms, but it’s all connected. We should all consider the same group,” Schmitz said.

“[In] most games, the opening sequences are like feature films, CGI movies, so there’s full-on integration.”

PwC technology, media and telecommunications director Charles Stuart said their media forecast for 2018 to 2022 for South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania found that convergence would increase as companies tried to capture more and more parts of consumers’ lives.

“They started off maybe as a social media company platform. They now have an e-commerce platform. They have mobile money. They have video content. They really are trying to capture as much of a share of your wallet as they possibly can.”

SA entertainment and media revenue is predicted to grow from R129.2bn in 2017 to R177.2bn in 2022.

Stuart believes as consumer pay less for internet access, it will free up disposable income to pay for content.

“Consumers don’t care how they get it. They just want it … The content and the things that we create here [in SA] has the ability to transcend borders in a very real and a very fast manner these days.”

Arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Monday that Nigeria has overtaken SA as the largest audiovisual media market in Africa.

“South Africa’s position in the global cultural and creative economy remains insignificant, despite having one of the oldest film industries in the world, whereas Nigeria continues to compete globally with Hollywood in the USA and Bollywood in India,” Mthethwa said.

“Owning and telling the South African story should take precedence if this industry has to craft its own identity and attain its rightful place in the world of film and television. This is not an impossible task.”

The arts and culture department gives R100m to the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) annually, of which R75m is for producing and developing films. Others contributing to the sector are:

Department of trade and industry (about R300m);
National Empowerment Fund (about R50m);
Industrial Development Corporation (R300m);
National Lotteries Board; and
The KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Western Cape film commissions.

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