Jacques Stoltz, senior marketing manager at the Gauteng Film Commission, recently contributed an article to the Annual Guide to the Crocodile Ramble, one of Gauteng's popular and well-known art and craft routes. In it, he looks at why Gauteng is fast becoming a global player in the film and TV industry.

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Scene from Crush
The importance of the film and TV industries to the South African economy is often still poorly understood. While the country had a prolific industry in the early parts of the 20th century, it is only more recently that there has been renewed hope that the fledgling film industry is once again becoming a global player. Recent data shows that the film production industry (excluding broadcast and distribution) enjoyed an annual turnover of R2,4 billion in 2007 and supports more than 8,500 direct jobs and many more thousands of freelance jobs in the province alone.

Recent productions that have been filmed in Gauteng include the second and third series of Wild at Heart (shot on location at Glen Afric Safari Lodge, as well as the US pilot version, Life is Wild), Leon Schuster's Mr. Bones II, Jozi H (a Canadian- South African co-production), the Academy Award winning Tsotsi, Rough (starring Judy Davis), Skin (with Sam Neill and Alice Krige), the local blockbuster Jerusalema as well as the yet to be released District 9 - a Peter Jackson (him of the Lord of the Rings fame) project filmed on location in Soweto. The province has also been used by Hollywood luminaries such as Mira Nair for Amelia (expected to be released in 2009), Terry George with Hotel Rwanda, Phillip Noyce for Catch a Fire and most recently Clint Eastwood working on an adaptation of the book The Human Factor: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Saved South Africa which revisits the 1995 Rugby World Cup. In addition more than 340 commercials were filmed in Gauteng last year and not forgetting the nearly 1 billion rand worth of local programming commissioned every year by the broadcasters.

With 2010 and the world's media attention firmly placed on the country for at least the next 18 months, there is already an indication that demand for South African and pan-African content in run up to this global spectacular is not currently being met.

2008 also saw the introduction of a new tax rebate scheme which allows local and co-production producers to claim back 35% of expenditure as a tax rebate from the Department of Trade and Industry. This has given a boost to local productions across a range of genre's including animation, feature films and documentaries.

For those in the tourism and hospitality industries this bodes well as film productions require a range of services including catering, vehicle hire, accommodation and air transport  as well as of course scenic locations. At the other end of the spectrum films are increasingly also understood to play a major role in promoting a destination. Take Baz Luhrmann's Australia as case in point, a production supported by Tourism Australia.

With a favourable exchange rate, English-speaking and skilled crew, value for money production costs, competitive incentives and unique urban and natural locations made picture perfect by a warm African sun, Hollywood on the Highveld is fast making a comeback!