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[South Africa] Black talent does not compromise quality or excellence, filmmakers

[South Africa] Black talent does not compromise quality or excellence, filmmakers

The South African filmmakers who are in the United States of America on an Outward Film and Television Investment Mission organised and funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) told American studios that utilising the services of black filmmakers for their productions in South Africa was not tantamount to compromising quality, lowering the standards and diminishing excellence. 

The filmmakers attended a meeting held at the weekend on the sidelines of the American Film Market, in Los Angeles with major role-players in the global film and television production, namely HBO, Fox, Disney, Paramount Pictures and the Motion Picture Association of America.

The purpose of the meeting, which was also attended by the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Bulelani Magwanishe was to discuss the companies’ reservations about the newly-revised Foreign Film and Television Production and Post-Production incentive programme of the dti

The bone of contention was the new requirement that 20% of foreign companies’ procurement spend should be from majority black-owned South African companies in order for them to access the incentive when shooting in South Africa.

The Americans’ apprehensions were believed to be emanating from the misconception that finding the black companies to procure from would be a mission impossible as those companies did not exist or were not up to the required standard.  

In an effort to assure the companies, Magwanishe said the dti went an extra mile by bringing about 15 black emerging filmmakers to the USA so that the Americans can find solace and comfort in seeing them and interacting with them. 

The SA filmmakers urged the Hollywood companies not to misconstrue “black” and “emerging” to mean that the quality and standards of the services that they are expected to procure from black majority-owned companies would be inferior.

"It is imperative for the American companies to appreciate the fact that other countries do not have the issues and history that South Africa has.  Our government has had to intervene to make sure that transformation takes place in our industry. We also want money to flow to our country. We want to co-produce, co finance and participate across the value-chain. We want to take away your uncertainties and assure you that working with black-owned businesses does not mean a compromise in quality and standards. It only means inclusivity and making sure that the marginalised are also brought into the mainstream and given an opportunity," said one of the SA filmmakers, Mr Mayenzeke Baza. 

He added that there was a perception that utilising black companies meant lowering of quality standards and excellence because terms like “black” and “emerging” seemed to be associated with inferior quality, lack of experience and lack of understanding of the work at hand.

Another filmmaker, Mr Bradley Joshua said the 20% requirement was more about opening up the playing fields to give filmmakers that had been marginalised for a long time an opportunity to prove themselves. 

“There is a wave of incredible talent that has been coming through over the last six years. Capable and highly trained filmmakers have graduated with film and television production qualifications from various reputable institutions. Unfortunately, this growing talent finds that there is a limited number of companies that want to give them the opportunity to further hone their skills and expand their knowledge, expertise and experience,” said Joshua.

Added another filmmaker, Mr Maynard Kraak: “To give you some comfort there are also people who have been longer than 20 years in the industry and have garnered a massive amount of experience and expertise doing this work at the sharp end. It is not about lowering the standards, or quality, or lack of skills and experience. Talking about black companies does not mean that we are talking about inferior quality. Actually, in some cases, we are talking about superior quality.”


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