Ilse Hahn can probably best be described as a film industry philanthropist. An immigrant from Bavaria in Germany, Hahn came to South Africa 30 years ago with late husband Alfred. She became a South African citizen in 1992 and bought the Unit One studio facility in Kew, renaming it Q-Studios. Upon the death of her husband Hahn took over the running of the business and, together with project manager John Difford, is now totally committed to making Q-Studios a landmark on the Gauteng film industry skyline.

Hahn recounts: “This is a huge project in so many ways. The studios themselves are large and situated in an environment that is both difficult and exhilarating at the same time. When I took over the studios they were very run-down and neglected. It was a daunting task. Nonetheless the studios have a history dating back many years and it is fitting that they should grow and be restored to pristine condition, to occupy their position of pre-eminence as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Gauteng Film Industry.”

Currently they have two large studios on offer. Unit 1 is 900 square meters but is not soundproofed. It does however have a large infinity curve and production offices. The fully soundproofed, 800 square meter Stage 2 was recently completely refurbished and now boasts offices, sound doors, extractor fans and a levelled floor. There are five other large units that have not yet been upgraded and are being used by other tenants.

The studios are located on the corner of 10th Road and 4th Avenue in Kew. This is on London Road, the boundary that unites Kew and the Alexandra Township. Does this location pose particular problems for Hahn? “When I took on the studios I not only wanted to restore them, but I also dreamt of doing more – of creating a business venture which could include the community and be good for the area and for filmmakers.

From the outset John and I have been in constant communication with the community. We have had many dealings with the Togetherness Fellowship in Alex, run by Godfrey Msezane. In fact, he initially approached us, asking us to sponsor a cow for one of their largest annual events. The fellowship organises a variety of events, including choirs and child upliftment programmes, in an effort to reclaim children from the streets and the associated glue-sniffing and dagga-smoking.”

According to Hahn, “The fellowship includes huge numbers of skilled unemployed people. Q-Studios draws its staff from among them and builds relationships in the process. Then there is the Kew Action Group, a Section 21 company. It’s a residents’ group and we were one of the catalysts for getting it off the ground. Its mission statement is ‘Committed to Creating a Cleaner, Safer Kew’. The other members are industrial owners – about 250 in total – all on a database and funded by monthly member contributions.”

Hahn adds: “The street-cleaners, who are sourced through Msezane, are currently collecting 20 bags of rubbish a day! We contribute towards their payment and the Kew Action Group wants to expand this group into a body of plainclothes security men. These cleaners are the early stage of this development. Kew has not been a high crime area of late – there has been no recent crime to speak of.

We also met with Julian Baskin of the government-sponsored Alexandra Renewal Project. This body is the channel for funds earmarked to rebuild and develop Alexandra. We would like to become part of this programme too.”

John Difford is a former advertising agency man and has a long history in the marketing industry. This can be seen by the extensive advertising campaign embarked upon by Q-Studios. Difford is also extremely bullish about the future of the studios.

He says: “Since I met Hahn and became involved with Q-Studios there has been significant developments. The most notable are the growth of the property and the upgrading of the 800 square meter Stage 2 to a fully soundproofed studio capable of sync-sound work at the highest level. We are able to provide all the services expected of a studio of this size and every shoot that has used the studio since the upgrade has been singularly enthusiastic about its capabilities.”

Difford explains that Q-Studios will shortly be commencing a new series of Takalani Sesame Street for Ochre Moving Pictures. This will be their first multi-camera television series. They are in the process of building control rooms, which will in the future be offered as part of their service.

“We use Unit 1 for non-sync purposes, as it has not yet been soundproofed. Once we get an anchor tenant in sound stage 2 we will commence the upgrades to our 900 square meter Unit 1, and that will position us as the largest provider of sound stages in Gauteng,” Difford says.

Hahn concludes, “It has become much more than just a studio complex to us – it’s all about getting involved in the community and with our neighbours. It has all grown so fast. It’s nice to have a dream and a goal where everyone, from the suburbs, to the City of Johannesburg, to the Gauteng Province, to the whole of South Africa, can benefit from its realisation. Isn’t that what ‘Ubuntu’ is all about?”