The recent announcement by Alan Winde, MEC for Finance, Economic
Development and Tourism in the Western Cape, that the marketing and
promotion of Cape Town and the province as a film destination will now fall
under Wesgro, the official Destination, Marketing, Investment and Trade
Promotion Agency for the province, has raised questions about the role the Cape
Film Commission (CFC) will play in the future.
Previously, the marketing and promotion of the Western Cape film industry was
tasked to the CFC, an independent non-profit Section 21 company with an
independent board of directors and an advisory board made up of industry
At the time of going to press CFC CEO Denis Lillie said it was business as usual
and that the CFC was busy with trade missions to the Berlin and Cannes film
festivals and the European Film Market.
Explained Lillie: “The future of the CFC, like any company, is dependent on
income whether it be generated by fees or funding, etc. and we have sufficient
funds to continue the work we do. The City of Cape Town has made an
allocation for the CFC for 2012/13 and we also receive revenue from other
government departments and agencies.
“We are still at a loss to understand why the Provincial Government of the
Western Cape would want to duplicate part of the services which the CFC offers
through an agency that was instrumental in establishing the CFC in the first
place. The CFC was established by Wesgro, the Province and the City of Cape
Town in 2000 for the very reason that it was felt that Wesgro was not
capacitated or experienced enough to run the film sector through that
“This was further demonstrated in 2010 when Wesgro signed a Memorandum of
Agreement with the CFC for the CFC to be funded by Wesgro to deliver the Film
Sector Trade Promotion responsibilities for the Province. There is also an opinion
that there is a conflict of interest in Wesgro promoting the film sector as they are
10% shareholders in the Cape Town Film Studios complex.’
When asked how Wesgro viewed the future role of the CFC Nils Flaatten,
Wesgro CEO, said that as a Section 21 entity, the CFC had the right to continue
its activities. He emphasised that the Wesgro announcement was the result of a
decision taken by Wesgro’s major shareholder, the Western Cape Government,
but declined to comment on the reasons behind it.
Said Flaatten: “Wesgro is an official Western Cape Government agency with its
own statute. We are mandated to attract domestic and foreign direct investment
into the province, to market the province and to grow exports. Destination
marketing for Cape Town and the province was previously the function of the
now defunct Cape Town Routes Unlimited. The Destination Marketing Act is to be
repealed so that those functions will fall under Wesgro, giving us a province-
“Destination marketing used to be confined to tourism only but Wesgro has
always believed in the maxim, “A tourist becomes a trader becomes an investor’.
We’ve been involved in the film industry for many years in terms of development
and export as films become export products the moment they’re completed.
“Last year we participated in the dti missions that took filmmakers to Cannes,
Nigeria, Ghana and Hong Kong. In addition we organised master classes for
scriptwriters and directors.’
Flaatten pointed out that Wesgro has an advantage in that it is an official
agency of provincial government and thus has automatic entree to its
counterparts in the countries it markets to.
He continued: “Wesgro works with a number of local entities in order to try and
raise financing for South African films, such as the dti, the National Film and Video
Foundation (NFVF) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). We are
also starting to tap international companies for film finance. It’s become evident
that it’s preferable to finance a slate of films, rather than a single film.
“I believe that South Africa needs its film festivals to become markets so that
local products can be bought and sold. In addition, I think there are two key
areas we need to work on – script development and distribution channels.’
Flaatten noted that Wesgro also works with the Cape IT Initiative and Silicon
Cape and that the animation industry, which is very active in the Western Cape,
falls within this.
According to Flaatten Wesgro has been approached by commercial production
companies regarding issues around visas for visiting foreign filmmakers and is
currently engaging with the Department of Home Affairs on this matter.
“We are also working on location issues – there are a number of attractions
within Cape Town that filmmakers want to access and can’t, such as beaches
and train stations. Wesgro is using its stature to leverage other government
departments in this regard and hopes, within the next few months, to release a
procedural document about how to procure permission for filming on train
stations and how film crews should operate on the day,’ he said.
Lillie maintained that many people underestimate the work the CFC does. “It is
much broader than that which Wesgro have been asked to do. We respond to
some 50 phone calls and 500 emails every day from people wanting support or
advice on filming in the Western Cape, or work permits, insurances or visas.
“The CFC has strong ties with the South African consulates in major film cities
around the world such as New York, Los Angeles and Berlin who we partner with
in hosting visiting delegations of South African filmmakers.
“We are advising the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape on the establishment to
their Film Commissions. CFC is also a member of the International Emmys and of
the Association of Film Commissions International,’ concluded Lillie.