The South African film industry seems to produce more conferences than films; several have been held over the past few years, including a symposium with the EU on plans to boost the local film industry. But filmmakers themselves are still suffering from the 'begging bowl' syndrome when it comes to financing their projects, and are now beginning to demand some action.
In an effort to energise the languishing industry, the National Film and Video Foundation has announced a major conference, to be held in the second week of August to discuss the way forward with key players. The Foundation, which was set up in 1997 at the Cape town Film Market (Sithengi) is the formal replacement for the Department of Arts and Culture's Interim Film Fund, which previously administered a paltry annual government grant of $1.2m (R10m) to develop, fund and distribute features, shorts and documentaries.
Since its inception the foundation has been plagued by problems and it is currently trying to recruit a third C.E.O within the space of eight months. Local filmmakers have lobbied the Foundation, this week asking them why they were stalling the process of setting up the organisation.
Foundation Chairman Shan Moodley says, "We are making plans for the short term but above all for the long term and are engaged in discussions with high powered delegations in Government worldwide. Filmmakers tend to think in the short term - they need finance. If I had the money I'd give it to them; but right now we're trying to set up a sustainable structure. We don't need wild cards disturbing the process; and that's why this think tank in August will be invaluable to everyone including those who are complaining."
The conference will address numerous issues, including: Marketing and Distribution; Training and Development; Funding, Finance and Taxation and Production, co-Production and Local Content. Panel members include producers Jeremy Nathan (Jump the Gun), Kobus Botha (Dr. Lucille), Melanie Chait and filmmakers Mickey Dube, Shariff Callis and independent distributor Mike Dearham of the Film Resource Unit.
Meanwhile the thriving television sector is about to pat itself on the back with the annual Avanti Awards to be held this Saturday and featuring over 30 nominated categories. Ironically the ceremony will take place in a Johannesburg Casino complex; one of the major reasons South Africans are staying away from cinemas - they'd rather play the slot machines