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Netflix commits R900m to South African movies

The 4th Annual South African Investment Conference saw a surprise pledge from the world’s leading streaming entertainment service

At the 4th Annual South African Investment Conference last week, the world’s leading streaming entertainment service announced a pledge of over R900-million for productions in this country. The contribution to the South African creative industry between 2022 – 2023 will cover four productions – one international and three local – which will be filmed in South Africa over the coming two years.

These productions will enable local stories to be developed and showcased on Netflix’s global service available to 222-million members in over 190 countries, creating numerous job opportunities and bolstering the local economy in the process.

South Africa is fast becoming a top global location for Netflix productions, with the country viewed as a go-to location with a robust and talented film industry, filled with local creatives to bring international stories to life. Netflix is with local production partners like Film Afrika, Gambit Films, Quizzical Pictures, and Burnt Onion.

One of the major titles being filmed in partnership with Film Afrika is Project Panda, working title of international series One Piece, a live-action adaptation of the immensely successful manga/anime series. President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Trade Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel visited the set of the production last week at the Cape Town Film Studios. One Piece is Netflix’s biggest production in Africa to date in terms of scale and budget, covering South African cast and crew, infrastructure, and suppliers. It is creating opportunities for over 50 cast members from South Africa,  with more than 1,000 full-time crew member jobs, consisting of 67% Previously Disadvantaged Individuals and 46% youth employees. This also includes a mentorship programme for more than 30 young creatives and technicians, in collaboration with the SA Film Academy. 

“Netflix is committed to South Africa for the long term and we’re investing in talent both in front of and behind the camera,” says Shola Sanni, Netflix director of public policy in Sub-Saharan Africa, “Since our  launch in 2016, we’ve been working with South African creators and distributors to bring high-quality stories that showcase the best of South Africa’s creativity and talent to a global audience – and this is only just the beginning.”

Netflix is working with people throughout the industry to create content that can find a global audience and generate more demand for South African content. Local productions put the focus on South African stories, and also showcase the country’s rich social and cultural heritage, as well as other tourism assets, to a global audience. In 2021,  Netflix collaborated with SA Tourism on a study that found that, after watching South African content, viewers surveyed in Canada, France, UK, Brazil, US and Germany were 3.1 times more likely to make South Africa their number one travel destination, while also being 5.6 times more likely to learn a local language.

Each Netflix production in South Africa supports local businesses, says the company. When a Netflix Original is commissioned, there is opportunity for writers, directors, actors, stylists and make-up artists, as well as a long list of industries and trades that make the production of a complex series or film possible. There’s also a multiplier effect with any investment: the economic impact of each of the projects in South Africa is several times greater than the actual money invested.

“Netflix will continue to create new opportunities and help to build up the talent required to support local productions and grow the diversity and variety of stories,” says Sanni. “Netflix will also develop and work with the industry on more industry development and skills transfer/training initiatives to contribute meaningfully to the South African creative industry’s growth.”

Over the last five years, Netflix has invested over R2-billion in South African productions, creating over 1900 jobs in the process. As at December 2020, more than 80 South African films and television series were available on Netflix, The company estimates that for everyone local view of a South African title on Netflix, there were 26 views by households outside of South Africa.

Sanni says: “With such investments in the pipeline, we are keen to see the government of South Africa continue to maintain the favourable investment environment that has allowed for such investments thus far –  including remarkable initiatives like the Foreign Film & Production incentive scheme that DTIC has operated, which is in part responsible for putting SA at the front of the line as an attractive investment destination for production companies. It would be great for our long-term investment plans to see even more transparency and predictability in that area, because the presence of a reliable incentive scheme is crucial for our financial decisions.”

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