Forget Hollywood, Step Up Cape Town Movie Studios

Cape Town is the secret studio of Hollywood

It’s been undercover for years as one of the world’s top 10 movie locations, but now guest blogger Jaillan Yehia from explores the truth behind Cape Town’s alter ego as the film industry’s best-kept secret…

Apparently James Bond himself has said that scenes from the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall could be shot in Cape Town. Bond producers scrapped plans for filming in India due to issues with red tape. They certainly wouldn’t be the first movie-makers to turn to film-friendly Cape Town to save the day – South Africa is already well-known in the entertainment industry as a dream solution for the silver screen with its reliable weather, spectacular scenery and hugely varied locations – Cape Town isn’t known as ‘The World in One City’ for nothing.

The world’s most famous tweeter Stephen Fry praised the city’s studio facilities commenting that they make London’s Pinewood look ‘shabby’ by comparison. Cape Town’s experienced and talented English-speaking crews mean that many of your favourite films and TV shows are already being made in the city and at a fraction of the cost of a European or US production. 

Cape Town is host to many of the Big Films like Dredd 3D

The competitive exchange rate ensures that South Africa is a steal for the big screen, and the government gives competitive kick-backs on production costs. The producer of another big-hitting Cape Town-filmed action adventure Dredd 3D, which is due for release this year has even claimed that South Africa makes a film that looks $100 million for less than half the budget. Now that’s a big saving.

Which films were shot in Cape Town?

In the past huge stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon have touched down on African soil for hits like Blood Diamond and InvictusKiefer Sutherland was in town to make 24: Redemption, set in the fictional African country Sangala. It’s not just local backdrops that Cape Town can do well though, recently the fantasy England of The Borrowers and the 13th Century Carcassone depicted in Labyrinth have been recreated in Cape Town, and last month saw Sienna Miller wrap shooting on The Girl, about Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship with his leading lady.

Filming in Cape Town

In fact when it comes to the small screen even classic period dramas and English literary adaptations such as Women In Love starring Rosemund Pike are being filmed in Cape Town – as was ITV’s hit drama Kidnap and Ransom 2, starring Trevor Eve, which was due to be filmed on location in India but like Bond was scared off by the bureaucracy and welcomed back to the South African city where series one was filmed and set.

This week Cape Town itself gets a starring role in Hollywood action-thriller Safe House, which was rewritten to show off the Mother City alongside Denzel Washington and co-star and international sex symbol Ryan Reynolds. The local rumour mill then went into overdrive when another sexy Ryan – this time Gosling – was thought to be heading over for yet more filming, so one can only imagine how shaken Capetonians will be if Daniel Craig comes to town!

Filming safe House in Cape Town

Cape Town in filmic figures

– The number of dimensions in which mega-high-budget Hollywood comic adaptation Dredd was made – it’s the first 3D movie to ever be filmed in Africa.

– The fictional District in Johannesburg in which the sleeper hit sci-fi film was set, although it was based on the real-life District 6.

20 – The number of minutes outside Cape Town’s city centre that film-makers can travel to reach a variety of exotic locations.

24 – The TV series which brought Kiefer Sutherland to the Mother City.

57 – The staggering number of worldwide settings Cape Town played in Nicholas Cage movie Lord of War – everywhere from Bolivia to Sierra Leone.

1200 – Total number of people who can work on set at one time at Cape Town Film Studios.

30,000 – How many people are estimated to be employed by South Africa’s film & TV production industry – in 1995 it was just 4000.

745,000 – How many US dollars film-makers have to spend in South Africa to cash-in on the government’s competitive 35% rebate.

Thanks to Polly Cork and David Bloomer for the images. 

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