Cape Town studio complex become a reality

Wed, 06 Feb 2008 13:00

Anant Singh, chairperson of the shareholder consortium, Dreamworld Film City Limited, which won the bid to build a Hollywood-style studio complex in 2004, announced at a media briefing in Cape Town on 5 February that the Dreamworld project had undergone a name change which reflected that it was finally set to become “a reality”. He said that the Dreamworld name, based on the dreams of the industry to see a world-class studio complex built in the Mother City, would from now on be known as the Cape Town Film Studios.

The media briefing was held in the wake of the announcement on Wednesday 23 January that the City of Cape Town had approved R30m in terms of the provision of bulk infrastructure for the studio project. In 2004 an undertaking was made by Government to contribute R60 million towards the project. The Provincial Government contributed R30 million through Wesgro in return for a 10% equity stake. The balance of the estimated budget of R400m will come from the private sector. Wesgro has been tasked with managing the project and ensuring the most favourable outcome for the Government and for the Western Cape film industry.

“We are pleased that our contractual agreements with the City and Wesgro have been finalised,” said Singh. “We are passionate about building a stronger film industry in our country, being internationally competitive and developing our amazing local talents. The studios have been designed to meet both local and international film needs - we want to bring the best producers in the world to our facilities here in Cape Town. The City’s announcement and Wesgro’s involvement takes us another step closer to realising this vision and we are very excited about getting started.”

With all the legal documents signed, Singh explained that critical mid-year dates in 2008 could now be met in terms of the Environmental Management Plan and funding agreements relating to the upgrading of the R301 highway, bulk infrastructure and the studio buildings themselves.

Anant Singh revealed the countdown for the erection of the Cape Town Film Studios has begun with a clearing of the site in Faure just outside Cape Town. “We expect the clearing of the site to be completed by 18 March and we will then start building. It is an 18-month project and the studios will open in December 2009.” While the programme for the media briefing indicated that Singh would also announce the new studio CEO, this did not happen. Screen Africa understands that negotiations with the proposed CEO are in the final stages of finalisation.

According to Angelo Manzoni, Chief Executive Officer of Wesgro, the film industry serves as an important vehicle through which socio-economic issues can be addressed, it contributes to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), increases employment and promotes South Africa as a preferred services destination.

“This is particularly exciting for Wesgro as film is one of our priority sectors and this investment has contributed to the agency attaining 83,5% thus far of its investment target for this financial year”, added Manzoni

Councillor Simon Grindrod, Executive Mayoral Committee Member: Economic, Social Development and Tourism said: “The Dreamworld project fits in perfectly with the City’s identification of film as a high growth sector. Cape Town Film Studios will be a valuable accelerator and catalyst for this growing industry.”

The Western Cape continues to attract a host of international filmmakers for feature films, TV films and commercials, and the local film industry. According to an economic impact assessment study commissioned by the Cape Film Commission, it is estimated to have a direct annual turnover of more than R2.65 billion and estimated to have contributed an indirect annual turnover of more than R3.5 billion to the country’s GDP through the multiplier effect. The development of the Cape Town Film Studios will increase the much needed investment in the sector and further drive the region’s turnover.

Ebrahim Rasool, Premier: Western Cape, who was responsible for getting government support for the studio project, said that hitherto Cape Town had been prone to be risk averse. The fact that it was agreed to build a world-class studio complex was a breakthrough for Cape Town. But it was “clear that no one would take the plunge unless government intervened” and it was decided to contribute initial funding of R60m with the private sector providing the balance of the budget of R400m.

While it has been regrettable that the start of construction on the Dreamworld studio complex has been delayed for three years, Premier Rasool said the fault did not lie with Singh and his consortium who kept to their part of the schedule. He explained that delays were caused by “three different regimes” within Wesgro, environments issues and financial matters.

The Cape Town Film Studios has the full support of the Cape Film Commission (CFC), said Laurence Mitchell Chief Executive Officer of theCFC. “The Cape Film Commission is committed to the final realization of the Cape Town Film Studios project as it will accelerate greater film investment into the region. The success of the project will require full industry support.”