Filming in South Africa was buoyant before the Department Trade and Industry's rebate scheme - a 15% tax rebate that kicks in above $3.5m of South African spend - was launched in 2004. But in terms of creating jobs and local revenue streams through international co-productions, the rebate is viewed as the single biggest factor in the native industry's success. In recent years, Robert Towne's Ask The Dust, Working Title's Catch A Fire and The Interpreter have all taken advantage of the country's skills base and locations.
A pair of $100m-plus Warner Bros productions, Ed Zwick's Blood Diamond and 10,000 B.C., have also shot in the country (the former spent more time in neighbouring Mozambique but used a South African crew), which may signal a future influx of larger projects.
Whether they are making lower-budgeted co-productions or high-end blockbusters, however, producers all cite the country's infrastructure, facilities, skilled, enthusiastic crews and up-to-the-minute equipment as positives for any shoot.
"Because it's such an opulent destination for commercials, all the latest and greatest toys are here," says Goodbye Bafana producer David Wicht. "The commercials companies insist on it."
When UK production outfit Powercorp was deciding where to shoot Flood, its disaster film about London's tidal barriers being breached, producer Peter McAleese calculated that shooting in the UK would cost $50m. Choosing South Africa allowed the film-makers to make it for $25m, with Cape Town standing in for the UK capital.
McAleese returned to South Africa with Rogue Pictures' $32m Doomsday, this time using Cape Town to double for Glasgow and finding a landscape stand-in for the Scottish Highlands.
"(Director) Neil Marshall thought I was insane trying to replicate Scotland in Cape Town," says McAleese, "but when he came here, he was blown away that an hour outside the city, you could be in the Highlands."
UK director Baillie Walsh's $14m Flashbacks Of A Fool shot for five weeks in South Africa this summer, with locations in and around Cape Town standing in for coastal Norfolk and Los Angeles, and the beach houses of Llandudno passing for Malibu. The drama, which stars Daniel Craig as a fading Hollywood star looking back on his glorious youth, is a Buena Vista UK production. "You're looking at almost a fifth of the cost of shooting in the UK," says producer Damon Bryant. "What I was surprised about as well is that 80% of our work force was black, which was terrific."
There is a limit to how many major productions can be hosted at once. Flood's shoot overlapped with Blood Diamond and 10,000 B.C. and, although McAleese says the crews were good, he had a better experience on Doomsday, when it was the only major production. Of the 350-strong crew, 15 came from the UK, including all heads of department. "Like any crew, if they're well treated and well managed there are no problems," says McAleese, responding to some producer's complaints that, without unions to regulate their hours, South African crews can be prone to exhaustion.
If South Africa wants to remain competitive and attract studio-bound Hollywood productions, says McAleese, it needs to create a studio on a par with MediaPro in Romania and Pinewood in the UK; it is something the government has said it is looking to address.
Regarding the country's reputation for violence, few producers have suffered a negative experience. "Violence is only an issue if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," says Wicht. "As a film-maker you're not really going to experience that. There are high levels of crime but it's largely confined to poor South Africans. It is very unfortunate ... but those are the facts of life."
Major productions set to descend on South Africa include The Human Factor, an adaptation of John Carlin's book about Nelson Mandela using the 1995 Rugby World Cup to help end decades of mistrust between blacks and whites. Now in development at Morgan Freeman's Revelations Entertainment, Freeman plans to star as Mandela with Clint Eastwood attached to direct.
It proves that although apartheid is in the past, inspirational tales using it as a backdrop are not going out of fashion any time soon.