South African movie-goers are familiar with American cities like New York and San Francisco after having seen them depicted on screen countless times, but now American audiences are getting to see what Cape Town looks like.
Two blockbuster box office hits released on screens in the USA this month feature Cape Town as their prime location.
According to Hollywood specialist blog www.deadline.com, Chronicle, starring Alex Russel, Dane DeHaan and Michael B. Jordan, is about three teenagers who gain superpowers and raked in $12million on its opening weekend from February 3 – 5, while Safe House, the shooting of which had many Capetonians celebrity spotting as it stars hunk Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, pulled in a whopping $40,2m over the past weekend following its February 10 opening.
Although Cape Town doubled for Seattle in Chronicle, the City stars as itself for the action thriller Safe House in which a young CIA agent has to go on the run after being tasked with looking after a fugitive.
While Cape Town has long been a destination for the shooting of commercials, the filming of the two major films in the city has provided and extra boost to the local production industry.
An estimated R350 million was spent in Cape Town by those two films alone, said Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Grant Pascoe.
This was besides the “many” other films and parts of films shot in the city, such as Lord of War starring Nicholas Cage and Strikeback 3 which was currently being shot.
They said the demand for parts of Cape Town as location sites was so high that they were having to manage the challenge of various communities getting upset over the constant imposition of film trucks and road closures as shooting commenced.
“We are wanting to become the leading film destination outside of Hollywood…but have to find ways of limiting the impact on communities,” said Pascoe.
He said popular locations were Bo-Kaap for commercials, Constantia, Newlands and Camps Bay.
Although Cape Town has been a destination for commercial shoots for over a decade, its increasing popularity as a destination for both commercial and film shoots meant it was important to ensure the industry worked well and the city was marketed properly.
The opening of the world class state-of-the-art Cape Town Film Studios in Faure last year was also a shot in the arm for the industry, he said.
The growth in the film industry is also providing an opportunity for the training of new film crew as international productions used local expertise for much of the behind-the-scenes work.
Both Chronicle and Safe House used trainee crew from the not-for-profit Film Industry Learner Mentorship (F.I.L.M.) programme created by leading Cape film production and servicing companies to ensure mentorship, training and skills development in the South African film industry.
Safe House had a record 21 F.I.L.M. crew on set, including grips assistant Patrick Vrieslaar, an ex-prisoner who was also a trainee on Chronicle.
Although Vrieslaar was not available for an interview as he was working on the set of British TV series Mad Dogs, F.I.L.M’s project manager Seton Bailey said Vrieslaar’s story was remarkable.
“Many years ago in a previous life, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He grabbed a gun from gangsters and retaliated to save his own life. He was convicted and ended up doing seven years of a 12-year sentence for attempted murder.”
But now, having worked on String Caesar with Alice Krige while still in Pollsmoor Prison, Vrieslaar was released for exemplary behavior on parole and joined F.I.L.M., said Bailey.
“He’s quiet, unassuming and totally dedicated. Patrick has just powered from strength to strength,” said Bailey. – Steve Kretzmann