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How the entertainment industry can be a catalyst of change

By WANDILE MOLEBATSI, founder and executive producer of Coal Stove Pictures.



The R4,7 Billion Film & Television sector can provide employment and transformation in the real economic sense to change lives and uplift those participating in the entertainment industry. 

Despite the growth of black filmmakers who are producing excellent local content and Hollywood blockbusters being filmed on our shores, only R15.8 Million of that investment is going to black, female and previously disadvantaged people and companies.

This is according to actor and filmmaker Wandile Molebatsi who believes that the industry has massive potential for life-changing employment and transformation in the real economic sense, yet the question he asks is: “There is still an obvious disparity in the industry, what can we do about it together?” 

As the founder and executive producer of Coal Stove Pictures, Wandile has been creating stories that shape a positive narrative of Africa for 25 years. His expertise and reputation in the industry have made him uniquely qualified to be one of the drivers for this transition in the South African Film & Television industry. 

Wandile is passionate about seeing more black, female and previously disadvantaged people actively participating in the R4,7 Billion that is being spent in South Africa. His mission is to encourage international stakeholders to give newer black-owned suppliers an opportunity. 

As an industry, we have the potential to be real catalysts of change at this critical stage. With the revolution that is happening in the digital space due to powerful streamers like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu & Disney+ coming to the continent, it is more important than ever for the rights of producers, actors and content creators to be protected.

From an intellectual standpoint the way that Producers (I.P creators) have engaged with MNET, SABC and eTV has been very top-down. However, with the importance that the South African government is placing on real, practical and measurable transformation, we have an opportunity to navigate this space and create an industry that is diverse,  inclusive, and resilient.

According to Wandile the second half of the challenge comes in shifting the spending behaviour of network executives and producers. Many have long standing relationships with their suppliers and believe that taking on new entrants is risky. This challenge is then compounded by the reality that many black suppliers do not have the liquidity of cash flow to float the initial costs of any work given by those who are willing to make the change. 

There are financial incentives available from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to convince international stakeholders to support newer black-owned companies. These incentives include a rebate system that allows producers to attract international producers to shoot their films in South Africa. The Rebate works in phases. For International Co-Productions, 25% – 35% of all spend that is spent in SA will be given as a rebate for “re-investment”. In the case of Local Film production, these rebates can go up to 50% if it is a production that qualifies in terms of the BEE requirements.

There are also entities like the Industrial Development Co-Operation (IDC) and the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) that are also actively investing in the film & television sector.

What is wonderful to see in this shifting landscape is that intelligent, pioneering black women are taking the helm of massive productions. Watching as resilient, innovative African women rise to the highest ranks despite historically embedded challenges fills me with excitement for the opportunities the future may bring for my own daughter.

Often the challenge is that black women simply be given the correct platform and be allowed to excel. Something traditional corporate South Africa – who still has a hold on the Film & TV Industry – are slow to embrace.

Whilst there is no doubt that the industry is still structurally flawed, steps need to be taken to ensure that the South African Film & TV Industry of the future is a more inclusive space for everyone. It is the combination of policy changes, the DTIC’s incentive initiative, and the passion and drive of trusted film authorities like Wandile that will see the industry progress to an inclusive future.