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ARTS AND CULTURE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 August 2001
NATIONAL FILM AND VIDEO FOUNDATION REPORT
Documents handed out
ARTS AND CULTURE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Indaba 2001 Power Point Presentation
Indaba 2001 Interim Report
Chairperson: Mr Dithebe (ANC)
The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) reported on its progress regarding the development of the film and video industries in the Republic.
Mr Moodley (NFVF) introduced his colleagues, the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NFVF, Mr Mbalo, and the Chairperson of the Finance Committee, Mr O'Leary.
Mr Moodley explained that the NFVF, a statutory body, operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of Arts and Culture. The foundation came into being through the introduction of Act 73 of 1993. However, it effectively became a body group in October 1999. Technically speaking, their term began in May 1999, and it will last until April 2002. Of great significance to the development of the foundation at this stage is that in November 2000, a symposium was hosted with European members for the first time in South Africa. It led to clear directions for the Indaba of stakeholders within the Republic. The Indaba was hosted on 11 August 2001 and the outcome will inform the council of its direction.
The South African Film and Video Industry is often fragmented. The Indaba has facilitated development in this regard. Its purposes were to identify areas of concern and to determine possible solutions as a result thereof. These will be presented to the industry for input, as it is very important for the industry to buy in. The foundation intends to consolidate research produced over the last five years. This includes developing relations with the government; accessing funds from both public and private spheres; stimulating and advancing skills; planning national strategy; developing local content, film in South Africa and film exports; restoring past imbalances; reflecting South African culture and language; and dispersing funding for development. Encompassing these objectives are strategies for input and a springboard for development. The government has to highlight areas of concern. Film and television will serve a major role in the map plans.
Indaba.consists of four panels each concerned with a specific area. These are production and co-production, finance and funding, training and development, and marketing. Each panel is tasked to gather information, to review it and to consult stakeholders, thereby identifying clear plans. They are appointed by the NFVR on the basis of their expertise. Reports are drafted and posted on the foundation website after review, accessed at www.nfvf.co.za. This means that anybody who is interested to comment may do so before the final date. Ultimately all reports will be collected and combined to form the Post Indaba Report, due for publication on 1 October 2001.
The entire film and video industry has been targeted to participate. Amongst the 78 delegations present for the Indaba, representatives of the Ministries of Arts and Culture, Trade and Home Affairs were present, and even the Rand Merchant Bank. The wide range of representation highlighted the importance of this debate.
Key recommendations resulting from Indaba:
1.Production and Co-production
Investment is a priority. The foundation must ensure a minimum percentage of the approved budget in order to provide for script editors and all other commercial aspects. At the end of September 2001, a negotiation forum will meet to review the terms of trade, the issue of transparency and fairness, and that of diversity. Local content must be properly defined. Copyright and contract issues must be established. The question of how to develop budgets is relevant, and this links up with problems relating to the business aspects of film and video making. Co-production with other broadcasters is also needed.
Commissioning must be improved because the industry has a broad base (i.e. subjecting commissioning editors to qualification courses, and encouraging broadcasters to commission movies of the week – made for television as it is important for the film industry to grow). One can also create local festivals with competitions and prizes. Film commissions should be developed in each of the provinces (last year Britain attracted 250 million pounds worth of foreign movies into the country – South Africa must do the same). There is a need for better access to information and to identify the climate in which small indigenous countries strive. Funding must be increased. In addition, local events with international influence can be utilised, while at the same time concluding production treaties with other countries, and undertaking more accessible co-production.
In May 2001 the foundation had an umbrella stand at the Cannes Film Festival in London. This provided a home for all South Africans, but he was proud to say that although the American stand was adjacent to the South African stand, more Americans used that stand than they did their own. When Jesse Jackson arrived, his first stopped at the South Africa stand.
There is a need to introduce incentives promoting mentorship for newcomers into the market. A legislative body must be created in terms of the existing legislation. It is also important to form an industry representative body that may be used particularly as a lobbying vehicle (because unlike the foundation that is a statutory body and can be seen as allied to government, this body will offer a more powerful body for the industry).
2. Finance and Trade
An advisory panel has been formed to make recommendations regarding various issues. They must determine fair criteria for allocating NFVF funds. Of importance is the need to identify opportunities to create funds. There must be accountability to government funding, (last year 70% of the funding could not be accounted for – now regulations have been tightened and all funding must be reported). The panel must deal with income tax allowance and additional revenue sources. Incentives for private contributions to the national film funds must be looked at. (In both France and Sweden, a percentage of the licence fee is given to film funding. This does not exist in South Africa where the fee reverts to the fiscus).
The question of a full time funding office is important. Recommendations must be made in terms of working with the South African Revenue Service. (S 24F that provides for the production and marketing incentives afforded to all manufacturing industries must be clarified. This is because when producers access this rebate, personnel are unable to render services in the interests of the industry). Marketing strategies must be developed. The panel must locate alternative government funding sources. There must be co-ordination with international practice and an analysis of international practice. National funding is needed and the opportunity for lobbying government for additional funding must be determined.
If we do not inculcate a love in our children for South African stories, the cause is lost. Local and indigenous culture must be developed. The foundation needs to engage with the Department of Education because this aspect of media literacy must be introduced at school level. The NFVF will set up digital cameras in selected schools, thereby allowing students to shoot and edit material in their own locality. This can be given exposure through national broadcasting.
An economically sound rationale for increasing audience participation must be established. It must ensure that the foundation does not fall foul of existing trade practices in government. There is the issue of audience developing funding and that of audience developing agencies. A separate allocation from the national lottery fund may be guaranteed. (The British Film Institute receives funding from the lottery and this is channelled towards education).
The formation of a new marketing distribution is essential (with dispensation over a two-year period). Script development projects are encouraged here. Distribution is the more crucial aspect in this industry as there are only two major exhibitors in South Africa. There will be market research, provision of capital and infrastructure, strengthened links with the Department of Foreign Affairs and alliances with the print and advertising industries. The foundation has already engaged with the Department of Foreign Affairs to create a Compact Disc ROM with information on the industry. This will provide foreign missions with easily accessible information. (It has been noted when on a foreign mission that people are completely lost when questioned about South Africa because they do not know). Increased sponsorship, subsidised processes, community directed workshops, and updating copyright and intellectual property rights are also necessary.
4.Training and Development
There must be a skills audit. Learnerships will be facilitated. One must promote equity with the skills group. A body concentrating only on training is required. A National Film School must be established, (this involves researching national models, integrating the media, and ensuring that the school is running within two years).
Mr Moodley concluded by saying the above recommendations involve a lifetime of work. Therefore the NFVF must prioritise within its term of office. Priorities that have been identified by the foundation are:
a)Establish funding initiatives (both public and private partnerships). The importance of this cannot be overstated. With an allocation of R12.5million this year, the foundation is doomed unless it is able to access other funding.
c)Training and development. (The foundation is already working with PANSALB to create scripts in other languages).
d)Marketing South Africa as a film location.
Priorities might increase depending on what is required by government and the portfolio committee.
Mr Mbalo (NFVF) stated that the committee at a previous meeting on 1 June 2001 many questions were raised. These are not short-term issues and it is therefore important that they are viewed within the whole process of the Indaba. This created the first ever forum for local stakeholders to engage in real terms. They are hopeful that from the report-backs and from the processes put in place, broadcasters will realise this in the interests of the foundation. Feedback has been good and the foundation has managed to take the industry along with it. Thus although the questions which were initially raised may not all be directly answered, they are within the broader plan.
As far as utilising community art centres, the foundation is engaging with other statutory bodies. Task teams have been set up in co-operation with playhouses, for example. This shows that there is a beginning. In addition, the National Arts Council and National Film Council should work together.
The foundation is engaging with foreign countries where there is goodwill, an example being Japan. It will make available equipment to selected centres where this is feasible. These will be test and pilot studies. Local stories will also be told and this will be incorporated with media literacy.
He then referred to the question of being short R1billion, asked at the previous interactions. The foundation has spoken to Ster Kinekor and to Nu Metro and they are fully co-operative. Initially there was resistance, but the foundation ensured the companies that their worries were irrelevant for the film foundation. Once this information comes to light, it will be made available.
Ms Kgoali (ANC) asked what was being done with the fact that stories written are not broadcasted.
Mr Moodley replied that meetings have been planned to resolve this matter. The problem highlights the fact that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is more concerned with portraying stories with the calibre of national interest. There is a need for regional television. New Zealand has four national broadcasting stations, five regional televisions, and a city television in Auckland. The regional television income stream is not necessarily the same as that of national television. There are untapped areas of local business people who can only afford entrance via the regional market.
Mr O'Leary added that regional television is the lifeblood of local content. The national broadcast is required to engage national interest. This public service mandate is better dealt with on a regional level. A decision must be reached whereby regional broadcasting licences are granted. He commented that television advertising costs twice as much as radio broadcasting. This means that regional television will eat into the pie of the print media.
Mr Mbalo added that the importance of broadcasting must be emphasised. South African content will drive the development of the industry (through the movie of the week - producing for television before producing for the big screen). This shows that the broadcasting issue is not necessarily that of the Department of Communication alone. This Committee should begin to engage itself effectively in that debate as promoting film and culture impacts directly on broadcasting.
Mr Dithebe inquired whether regional is synonymous with provincial. Mr O'Leary responded that this necessarily is not so.
Ms Kgoali asked what is being done about talented filmmakers are having difficulty when submitting to the production process.
Mr Mbalo answered by saying that the commissioning process is difficult because it requires reliance on the broadcaster. Part of the unaccounted 70% had resulted from the lack of commitment by broadcasters. Therefore the way the foundation hopes to address this issue is by creating mentorship processes whereby young people are teamed with the more experienced artists. In addition, acceptance is need from the people on the ground that there are different stages to pass, each requiring a certain level of expertise.
Mr O'Leary added that this is a very complex and difficult situation. From a call for proposals put out last year, sixteen applications valued at R1000 each were received. However, the foundation had a budget of only R6000. Producers face the same situation and that only through engaging and ensuring that the funded projects are exposed can there be a difference.
Mr Dithebe asked whether anything had been done linking the youth to training opportunities abroad.
Mr Mbalo dealt with this question saying that there is definitely a need for access to scholarships. Many people are self-trained because of lack of access to training. Thus the foundation is encouraging formal training. However, this is more directed towards those studying internally. Because training abroad is costly, the foundation is relying on, for instance, a memorandum of understanding signed with the British Film Council.
In May 2001 the foundation met with the Director of the National Film School of Britain in London. It emerged that the costs of a student per year amount to 15000 pounds. The Director expressed that he is willing to offer one scholarship to a South African student. The foundation is looking for a champion in South Africa who will steer the process locally. If the South African Film School were underway in two years, it would not have the necessary personnel. This means that one scholarship will not solve the problem. The foundation requires once-off funds accessed through the committee to send about six students on this course, as this will not be possible within the bounds of the existing funds. The good news is that as a result of bilateral agreements in 2000, there is a confirmed commitment from India to provide three scholarships per year towards training in that country. However, the foundation may need to augment the funding to accommodate for the culture shock. In addition, India is prepared to cover the costs of sending a tutor to South Africa for two years.
Mr Mbalo said that a New York University is setting up an African Scholarship Fund. This will be given keynote by the former president of South Africa, Mr Mandela. South Africa will have to take advantage of this opportunity. The foundation hopes that students training abroad will be financially supported by the host country.
Professor Mohamed asked how the video cameras in local communities would be identified and what projects would be undertaken.
Mr Moodley responded that they had not been identified at this stage. However, this will be done in consultation with relevant bodies. The purpose of this test is to increase media literacy. The foundation will be responsible for the training of the persons in that area and it is hoped that the effects will infiltrate to other communities.
Professor Mohamed also asked to what extent the cameras would be used in the community art centres in local communities.
Mr Moodley answered saying that the art centres would definitely be included in the process. The dynamics of this have not been decided yet. It is necessary to go a step further here. Municipalities must be engaged because there are buildings available in most of these areas that can be converted, and this will assist in subsidising the screening of the local content.
Ms Kgoali member expressed concern with the fact that although she appreciates the local shows aired on television, she was surprised to see that films from the past are being repeated. This suggests that there are no present filmmakers.
Mr Moodley replied that repeating is a legit and economic factor involved in a broadcasting business. It is a fact of life and must be accepted. The only option would be to look at the quota of the repeat. It is an economic fact that the audience who viewed the programme ten years ago may not necessarily the same as the present audience. The foundation has a problem with the value of the shows. The point allocated system will give the repeats next to nothing as far as local content and this is a way of controlling that problem.
Mr Mbalo added that it is not acceptable that repeating is an economic factor. This kills the industry. It shows that commissioning is not taking place although the demand for foreign products continues to rise. Therefore the broadcasters do not have to absorb all commissioning costs and the foundation is prepared to so as well. Nevertheless, SABC is unwilling to look at the process in that light.
Mr O'Leary added that the SABC has not explored the issue of co-production. A more global plan is required thereby allowing the product to travel. For instance, South African Airways does not air local shows, showing the need for education.
Mr Moodley added that this is where integration of government and private bodies will be necessary in order to effect a major paradigm shift. The Portfolio Committee will be very important in this regard.
Mr Mbalo said that at the moment the advertiser decides what goes on air.
Mr Dithebe congratulated Mr Mbalo on his new appointment. It is important to engage in the prioritised areas to achieve the aims of the foundation. There is a need to engage with the public broadcaster to bring about a fundamental change in mindset.
The meeting was adjourned.
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