Paul Raleigh of Film Finances.

Andy Stead asks industry roleplayers for their predictions on the year ahead.

Predictions are difficult, particularly in the film and television industry. Lead times are often short and few companies have bookings made more than a couple of months in advance. While the past two years have been in recovery mode from a recessionary period worldwide, the belief is that the US economy has finally entered an expansion phase again.

Although this could auger well for the South African economy, some predict that the rand will strengthen this year, which makes South Africa a less attractive destination for overseas film makers. The country is also vulnerable should its major trading partner, the European Union – and the euro – implode, which will result in less work coming from key co-production treaty countries.

That said, local Paul Raleigh of Film Finances reports that a lot of business currently on hold is due to commence in 2012. “There are two or three features that are scheduled to commence shooting in February and March,” he says, “and this is a good thing as the Christmas-January period is a virtual shut down for the industry.”

The IDC's Basil Ford believes that 2012 will be the most opportune time for the local film industry to break its dependence on facilitation and evolve to another level where facilitation and the production of local feature films co-exist on an equal footing.

“This diversification allows for all sorts of benefits to flow, for example the development of local stars, local stories and filmmakers. Local consumption-based local films will produce these elements,” he says.

“It is also critical that the South African brand of feature is developed internationally and that this brand is defined by us, rather than by foreign filmmakers making South African stories, which do not necessarily define our brand to our satisfaction. Only a collective and collaborative effort between all the South African stakeholders will achieve this vision.

“To help us achieve our goals, we invite all local filmmakers with locally developed scripts to approach us with their projects and we will do our best to make it happen.”

Positive words indeed, and a similarly positive outlook would seem to be shared by others - although with some reservations, as in the case of Helena Spring. “I'm told that worldwide the market is awful with very little investment money doing the rounds. However, as a foolish optimist, I look forward to a great year with good projects.”

The NFVF's Naomi Mokhele's vision for 2012 is to be able to have 35 South African films on release each year. “I would like to see more previously disadvantaged creatives enter the industry,” she says, “especially black women. I’d also like for film to be seen as a sustainable, economically viable option.”

There are interesting expansion developments at Sasani for 2012/13. Sasani's Eileen Sandrock will be brainstorming the new developments with more producers and industry players, and structuring the developments on the ideas that emerge.

Sandrock’s intention is to work together with clients in order to devise solutions that suit the unique requirements of the individual businesses within the industry, and to jointly provide an offering that works.

Airtimes’ Nic Bonthuys is looking forward to 2012 with mixed feelings. He says: “I honestly do not know what to predict. There are no major sporting events (bar the normal) to look forward to in South Africa, with the possible exception of the new World Golf Championship. The ANC Centenary Conference in January is of course very big for us.

“There is a big drive from the Department of Communications to stabilise the leadership situation in the SABC and we hope that that can be done speedily – it will definitely make a difference.

“Of course 2012 is targeted to switch on commercial and public DTT services; if this is achieved there should be a move towards an increase in demand for local content and equipment sales should increase again.

“We however do need a kick-start in the economy to make this all happen and from my observations I have not picked up any signs of that. Having said that, we are ready for some big challenges and are trying our best to set off some sparks to get the fire going!”

“We feel that 2012 will continue to be as tough as 2011, or perhaps a little tougher,” predicts Panasonic’s Sean Loeve. “We have some new exciting products due later in the year that we are sure will stimulate things a bit.

“The current exchange rates are pushing product prices up at the moment which, coupled with the current global market uncertainty, makes each sale difficult but we are still confident that we will do what needs to be done and come out at the end of 2012 smiling.”

So despite concerns, the general consensus is one of optimism. With the IDC’s highly positive outlook for this year, the possibility of the DTT roll-out and the prospects of some incoming international business this could turn out to be a bumper year for the industry.