Jobs in South Africa film industry
(Getty Images)
  • South Africa’s film industry contributed R7.2 billion to the economy in 2019.
  • This dropped to just R2.9 billion over the past year, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Around 60% of full-time equivalent jobs in the sector were lost, according to the National Film and Video Foundation’s latest Economic Impact Assessment.
  • And although 83% of active stakeholders interviewed by the foundation applied for financial assistance, only 33% were successful.
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South Africa’s film and video industry has been devasted by the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns. Relief measures offered by government have been inadequate to stave off major job losses.

South Africa’s film industry contributed – both directly and indirectly – R7.2 billion to the country’s economy in 2019. This contribution dropped to just R2.9 billion over the past year due to the global pandemic, according to a report by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), a subsidiary of the department of sport, arts, and culture.

Prior to the pandemic, approximately 31,444 full-time equivalent jobs were sustained by the film industry. This dropped by around 60% over the past year to just 12,775 jobs sustained in 2020/21, according to the NFVF’s latest Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) study, released on Thursday.

READ | Local movie theatres lost 80% of their income - forcing them to become creative

The EIA relied on interviews with almost 200 active stakeholders in the film industry, involved with feature films, documentaries, TV series, TV films, animation series, and shorts. Film and production companies made up the bulk of respondents, most of whom are based in Gauteng.

Despite serious job losses – and annualised income derived by employees dropping from R218 million in 2019/20 to R88 million in 2020/21 – government has done little to assist the embattled film industry.

Only 17% of respondents indicated that they had not applied for any of the public or private film support measures offered. Yet only 33% of applicants have received some form of financial support over the past year.

When asked whether the film industry has been afforded adequate support measures, 75% of respondents said no. Respondents cited flawed and convoluted application processes as a major stumbling block. Additionally, the staff working at agencies offering funding are overwhelmed and under-trained, resulting in slow turn around times for much-needed support.

The NFVF said that support during the time of Covid-19 “was welcome relief to the very fortunate few stakeholders who benefitted” but maintained that the measures were inadequate to meet the needs of the film industry.

While the NFVF’s own relief fund offered crew in the film and television industry grants of up to R10,000, while the department of sport, arts, and culture’s Covid-19 support scheme has been marred in controversy.

Other funds accessed by filmmakers, with limited success, include the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), National Empowerment Fund (NEF), and the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (DTIC).

“The last year has unfortunately set the industry back due to Covid-19. The focus for us now, is to work collaboratively with the industry to re-build our much-loved art,” said NFVF Research & Compliance Manager, Botse Matlala.

But the tide is slowly turning, helped along by public-private collaborations, like the recently signed partnership between Netflix and the NFVF to fund local filmmakers. It’s estimated that this will unlock around R28 million.

One of the key elements of the industry’s revival, as noted by the NFVF’s EIA, is the increased production of small-medium independent feature films for Showmax and Netflix. Respondents have already noticed an increase in demand from streamers for local content, as funding models turn away from under-budgeted government agencies and towards international streaming services.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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