This article was published for the first time in the issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine on May 17th.
Since it first opened its doors back in October of 2010, Cape Town Film Studios has had little trouble luring the holy grail of international film shoots: the high-budget Hollywood project. There was also filming done there for the thrillers Safe House (starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds for Universal Pictures), Chronicle (a science fiction thriller for Fox), and Mad Max: Fury Road (starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron for Warner Bros.
However, over the past few months, the studio has been playing host to a new kind of Hollywood blockbuster: Black Sails, Michael Bay’s violent pirate adventure series that is airing on Starz.
For such a young studio, the series is something of a major accomplishment: According to Nico Dekker, the CEO of Cape Town Film Studios, the first season of the original drama, which will premiere in 2014, is the television production that has ever had the largest budget in South Africa. The season will consist of eight episodes. “It is on the same level as a major motion picture,” he argues.
Cape Town is being used as a stand-in for New Providence Island in the Bahamas, which is supposed to be presented as a paradise setting full of depravity in the television show Black Sails.
The Cape Town facility has a cinema, production offices, a greenscreen, four stages with a combined space of 75,000 square feet, two workshops, a medieval backlot that Dekker and his crew decided to keep after the Black Sails shoot, and a state-of-the-art fiber-optic network that can send rushes to any location in the world.
To answer your question, how much does it cost to shoot there? According to Dekker, “Every program [and film] is distinct, and negotiations are formed in line with the needs of productions.”
The studio complex has made investments in new facilities for some productions, such as the television miniseries Labyrinth, the Nelson Mandela biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and the film Black Sails. According to Dekker, “In the instance of Black Sails, we have developed the infrastructure for a Caribbean planet.” This included the construction of a deep sea tank, a beach tank, a beach, and an island.
Because the studio “likes to be a partner,” he and the rest of his staff are eager to spend money on the project. According to Dekker, “We want to be like a living creature rather than just a collection of buildings,” and he continues by saying that he intends to generate repeat business from strong word-of-mouth marketing.
Considering that the Bahamas actively pursues international productions, the fact that Black Sails was able to secure a location there is another another outstanding achievement for such a fledgling facility. In point of fact, the fact that a Hollywood production would choose to travel all the way to Africa rather than the Caribbean islands that are located nearby is illuminating. According to Dekker, “longer programs of this sort normally do not travel to Africa,” and since this show is based in the Caribbean, it must be a complement in some form. We made significant investments in order to bring this series to life, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will run for more seasons.
The location of South Africa puts it in a great position to profit on the fast changing global film industry, which is another advantage that the studio has as a result of its location. According to Dekker, “With the BRIC countries being a significant focus, we are playing an essential role since South Africa is considered as a gateway to Africa.” BRIC stands for the countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
Anant Singh, the producer of Mandela, has stated that he hopes the film’s high production standards, which cost $35 million to make, will play a significant part in showing the studio’s professional employees and cutting-edge facilities: “Given the profile of the film and hopefully the quality of the picture, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to attract other productions to South Africa,” said the actor.
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