After 15 years of working with the film industry, government and government
agencies, the Cape Film Commission (CFC) is closing its doors. The decision is due
to the lack of funding and support the organisation has received from local and
provincial government in recent years. This lack of operational funding has made it
impossible for the business to continue.
The last grant funding the CFC received was from both the Western Cape Provincial
Government and the City of Cape Town in 2011 and the City of Cape Town in 2012.
These combined amounts equated to approximately just over R3m for each year
from each entity.
In recent years the CFC has relied on project funding from MICT SETA to continue
with business. This funding has resulted in the CFC supporting over 600 bursaries,
learnerships and internships during the past five years. Coupled with limited
revenue received from the sale of insurance policies to the industry, this project
funding enabled the CFC to continue with core operations as well as delivering these
projects. Unfortunately, operational funding is needed to compliment this project
funding, and that funding is no longer available and has been allocated elsewhere.
In 2015 the CFC signed an agreement with the City of George to work with them
and the surrounding municipalities to develop and promote the local film industry
there. This enabled the organisation to run a series of film workshops in the Eden
District for filmmakers during 2014 and 2015. There were also dividends brought to
the region through a grant the CFC received from the National Lottery Grant Trust
Fund to run the Eden Independent Film Festival in October 2015. This festival
brought together filmmakers from all over South Africa to share their experiences
and expertise with local filmmakers and students. The agreement signed with the
City of George brought some limited grant funding to the CFC which assisted with
operational costs and the management of the Film Festival.
During 2015 the CFC also received signed agreements with Stellenbosch, Knysna,
Plettenburgh Bay and the Northern Cape to assist them in promoting their region to
the local and international film community, there was no funding received from any
of these entities. However, this initiative proved successful and attracted
filmmakers to those regions during 2015 and in 2016.
The core mandate of the CFC was to promote Cape Town and
the Western Cape for local and international filming. This was done through
relationships with the Department of Trade and Industry, the International Emmys,
the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), the South African
Consulates in various territories, the Department of Home Affairs and the film
industry. These partnerships assisted the CFC in assisting the local industry to bring
in on average approximately R2.5bn of business each year for five years.
Unfortunately the relationship with the Western Cape Government and the City of
Cape Town fell away in 2012/13, although the organisation continued to work with
various departments in both spheres of government on issues such as access to
locations for filming and the use of camera drones.
The R10bn in economic investment created many jobs and raised the profile of
South Africa and specifically Cape Town as a filmmaking destination internationally;
a steady growth for interest in filming in the region has been noted.
Unlike the KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng Film Commissions, the CFC is a not
for profit company, and has never received the level of funding that those
departments have. It is the only official film commission in South Africa and one of
only three in Africa (as recognised by the AFCI). CEO, Denis Lillie is the only
officially qualified film commissioner in Africa (as recognised by the AFCI). As a
consequence of this membership and affiliation to the AFCI, the CFC is unable to
charge for its’ services. This agreement holds for all of the 300+ film commissions
around the world to ensure transparency and a level playing field. It also allows the
CFC to freely interact with these other territories to discuss and develop co-
Several years ago when the CFC was made aware that its government funding
would be cut, it met with several government departments and agencies to table
the establishment of the South African Film Commission (SAFC). This would enable
it to draw on national government funding, especially as CFC membership had
grown from 550 in 2010 to approximately 3000 currently. Many of the 2000 SA
members are from across the country and the CFC took the view that it could be
classified as a national organisation. However an organisation needs to have been
established for over 12 months to apply for funding from certain government
departments. The CFC has never had the opportunity to test this.
Over the past year, the CFC has been in discussions with the National Film and
Video Foundation (NFVF) about handing over the South African Film Commission to
them as there is a belief that it would make more sense for industry to have them
running the SAFC, and this is in line with the Minister of Arts and Culture aspirations
for the NFVF.
The role of a film commission is clearly defined on the AFCI website but some of the
principal roles should be:
1) Promote South Africa as an international filming destination
2) Provide training services for local filmmakers to ensure the industry can
support inbound productions
3) Provide letters of support for work visa applicants who come to South Africa
as part of an international production
4) Work with the DTI on developing trade missions to international markets. (The
CFC took over 160 filmmakers to international events over the past five years. This
included Cannes, Tribeca, Berlinale, MIPTV, Annecy, Sundance and Banff.)
5) Provide access to lost cost PL insurance for emerging filmmakers to allow
them to apply for film permits.
6) Guide them through the various film permitting process with various agencies
such as Public Works, SanParks etc.
7) Promote audience development
Alternative solutions such as membership fees were considered by the organisation.
However, there are already many specialist organisations and guilds within the
industry that charge membership fees. The CFC was established to support
emerging filmmakers as well as the established industry. To charge members who
have little resources and ask the larger companies to pay yet another membership
fee would cause frustration and would be counterproductive to the ethos.
Lillie comments, “We believe that currently there is no organisation that offers the
broad services we do as a one stop shop, this is core to the success of the
organisation and the service we delivered. Government has had internal personnel
changes and policy changes that we have no say in. We were not consulted by
many of these policy decisions and therefore could not influence the processes. This
has left us in the situation we find ourselves.
Serving the industry and undertaking this role for the past five years has been one
of the highlights of my 38 year career. It has had its’ challenges and ups and
downs, but ultimately it has been a privilege to work with many of you to support
and encourage the development of the industry. I am disappointed that certain
government agencies made the decision to withdraw their support from what we do.
We believe that with their support we could have created a much more sustainable
industry with more jobs, more creativity and more opportunities.’
The CFC will be continuing with its current commitments for the next two weeks to
ensure that the filmmakers it is currently assisting have the support they need for
From an operational viewpoint, please note that the CFC will be unable to provide
any further letters of support for work visa applications after 12 February 2016.