The Martini Shot: The state of SA commercial production 2018/19
by Bobby Amm. The CPA recently released the results of its annual survey that aims to measure the size and scope of the commercial production sector in South Africa from May 2018 to April 2019.
As the CPA represents about 80% of independent commercial production companies active in the market, the results — generated by 42 participating production companies — represent “the minimum” figure in each category while recognising that the actual totals (had all companies submitted information) would definitely be more than what’s presented in the final report. The results do not purport to represent the entire industry but do establish a useful baseline which enables us to identify important trends and industry growth or decline.
The survey measures all three types of commercials produced in South Africa:
- “local commercials” produced for the local market
- “service commercials” where foreign production companies jobs are serviced in SA, and
- “international/SA commercials”, in which SA production companies (and their SA directors) produce international commercials directly for foreign agencies.
In total, 640 commercials were produced in SA in the year under review, at a total cost of R1 611 925 179.70, using 1530 shooting days at an average daily budget of R1 053 545.87
Of the total, more local commercials (322) were produced than service (289) and intl/SA (29); however, service commercial had almost double the number of shoot days and their average budgets were almost 50% higher than their local counterparts. Cape Town was the most-popular location with 63% of all commercials filmed there, followed by Gauteng at 35% and the other provinces combined at 2%.
Service clients came from a wide variety of countries but the list of the top five remains the same:
- UK: 73
- Germany: 67
- US: 45
- Scandinavia: 26
- France: 25
There have been some interesting changes over the last year in terms of what the budget is spent on. Traditionally in the local market, crew remuneration and post production have been the two biggest expenses but, this time, equipment hire took over from post production. This indicates the increase in post-production that agencies are taking direct or in-house. The two largest expenses in the service sector are crew remuneration and equipment hire but, this time, the cost of talent eclipsed equipment hire as the second-largest cost.
In the average budget, crew cost account for 27%, followed by equipment hire at 16%, and talent fees and art department equal at 12% each.
The CPA survey is now in its 15 year and, during this time, a core group of consistently participating companies have been tracked to assess their progress. The service sector has bounced back from a challenging season 2017/2018, in which Cape Town’s drought and increasing costs put the industry to the test. The situation is a lot more serious in the local industry, where budgets are declining every year, margins are tighter than ever and independent production companies have been negatively impacted by the in-house trend.
The main aim behind the survey is to enable the CPA to effectively lobby government departments and other important stakeholders. By being able to identify our contribution to the economy, tourism and job creation, the CPA is able to make a strong case to the authorities for assistance when it comes to barriers to entry and factors that threaten an environment that is conducive to successful production.
Bobby Amm is chief executive of the Commercial Producers Association of South Africa (CPA), the trade association of production companies that produce television, cinema and internet commercials for the local and international market. After a brief stint in journalism, she began her career in the industry at the Consultative Committee for the Entertainment Industry in the early 1990s. She first joined the CPA in 1997 but left three years later to join a production company. After finding that she missed the big-picture perspective of the CPA and the interesting issues which continuously perplex the production industry, Bobby returned to the CPA in 2003. She contributes “The Martini Shot” column monthly, covering developments, trends and insights into the commercial production and film services industries in South Africa, to MarkLives.