From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 7th April 2011
While City officials highlight the economic spin-offs of allowing international companies to film in the city, residents claim they have had enough of the lack of consultation. Filming came under the spotlight last week when the Long Street Residents’ Association said they were not consulted about planned film shoots. The convenor of the LSRA, Byron Qually, said the association was informed by the Central City Improvement District (CCID) of the filming of a Hollywood action movie Safe House, which stars Denzel Washington, only two days before the event. On Monday March 28, Church Street between Adderley and Burg streets had been closed. More than 200 people filled the street and were part of a scene in which a large group was protesting. The shoot, during office hours, continued for several hours into the evening, as extras walked down Church Street towards Adderley Street shouting and waving placards bearing slogans such as “Save our jobs”.
Terence Isaacs, head of the City’s Events and Film Office, said the filming of Safe House saw the closure of several streets in the CBD including Wale Street, Queen Victoria, Strand Street, Loop Street, Burg Street and Long Street, among others. Mr Qually said residents had objections and emailed City Director of Health Ivan Bromfield for assistance and direction. The association was referred to the City director for Economic, Social Development and Tourism, Mansoor Mohammed, who had been copied in on all the correspondence. Mr Qually said he was surprised to see a newspaper article in which Mr Mohamed was quoted as saying residents shouldn’t complain and should be reminded of the economic benefits of hosting such film shoots.
The association has had several problems with the lack of consultation from the Cape Town Events and Film Office, Mr Qually said, and residents often found out about shoots only after permits had been granted. The association had tried on several occasions to effectively liaise with the permit office to make sure that residents are told about film shoots and could raise their concerns before they were granted, Mr Qually said. He said he questioned the ethics of the statement made by Mr Mohamed as it disregarded the uphill battle faced by residents. “Part of the frustration is that filming is not a popular topic to complain about. Mr Mohamed’s approach to try to simplify an issue that has had such devastating effects on residents is just not acceptable,” Mr Qually said. When asked what the main concerns of residents were, Mr Qually said residents were tired of saying the same thing. He said the City was well aware of their frustrations when it came to non-consultation. He said the association was now looking at stepping its complaints up a notch. “In the next few weeks, we will be meeting with the City Bowl Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CIBRA) to discuss how we tackle this and will also be seeking legal advice,” he said.
According to Mr Mohamed, the film and events industry is a multi-billion rand industry and has the potential to be so much more. “The film and events industry impacts positively on ordinary workers such as taxi drivers, students, and waiters whose lives are intrinsically linked to the lives of the people who attend these events. “Residents who are ‘inconvenienced’ by filming and events must become more understanding and tolerant because for every R1 billion spent directly on film and events in Cape Town, approximately 15 000 jobs are being sustained. “The industry also supports many Cape Town based businesses and multi-national enterprises. Equipment and sound hire companies, hotels, catering and food suppliers, inbound tourism operators and media businesses make good money from film and events. The value of film and events to Cape Town’s economy is huge and the biggest beneficiary is tourism,” he said. Mr Mohamed said the budget for the filming of Safe House was approximately R200 million. When asked what is being done to ensure that film companies re-invest in the upkeep of the areas in the CBD where they film, Mr Mohamed said: “Film companies already pay for rates and services. In addition, they pay the costs of traffic officers and road closures. As the industry is labour intensive, the presence of film companies in Cape Town does benefit the economy. “The City will continue to provide an enabling environment for the film industry to grow. The City will continue to balance the demands of the film industry with the inconvenience factor associated with road closures”.
When asked about the applications to film Safe House in the city, Mr Isaacs of the City’s Events and Film office said: “The City first became aware of the possibility of the film being brought to Cape Town in September 2010. “Once the film had been secured the production company began engaging with the City regarding possible locations. “The first planning meeting was held during November 2010 after the shooting schedules started becoming concretised.” Mr Isaacs said the production company did not receive a “blanket permit”. “Permit applications are assessed, processed and approved individually based on a host of factors including the location, activities, expected impact, etc, and in accordance with the shooting schedule presented to the City. “Accordingly, in each area, the permit may have different restriction and conditions imposed. “The film has a number of units filming concurrently. “For a major feature film such as this, a shooting schedule has to be submitted at least between two to three months in advance. “For a film of this nature, the film company is required to communicate and consult with affected residents and businesses or their representatives. “The film company is required to submit a copy of their communications letter, adverts, or radio alerts to the Film Permit Office,” he said.
However, Mr Qually said if these procedures were in place, then residents should have been notified earlier of the shoots. He said the problem with filming in the city was that film companies were not required to pay a fee. Mr Qually said despite the claims by City officials, he questioned what tangible value was brought to the area and asked what proof was there to prove these claims. Mr Isaacs confirmed that film companies did not pay a fee to film in the city. “The City does not charge any location fee for filming on public streets, in public spaces and most City-owned locations. “This decision was taken as an incentive to market and promote the City as attractive destination for filming and, in so doing, to stimulate the local economy through increased opportunities for both local production companies and the host of subsidiary industries that support film-making in the City. “The City, however, does charge for the services it provides,” Mr Isaacs said.
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