Cannes 2012: South Africa, Ireland Sign Co-Production Treaty

8:44 AM PST 05/20/2012 by Georg Szalai

Meanwhile, South Africa's Avalon Group strikes a three-film slate deal with India's Yash Raj Studios.

Representatives from South Africa and Ireland signed a co-production treaty between the two countries here on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, Avalon Group, South Africa’s oldest and largest independent cinema exhibition and entertainment company--and largest Bollywood cinema operator--signed a three-film slate deal with India's Yash Raj Studios.

Avalon CEO AB Moosa and Avtar Panesar, head of the international distribution arm of Yash Raj, the largest independent Bollywood studio, said the films will feature Bollywood star power.

Moosa said the slate films will be blockbusters "with each having amongst the top Bollywood stars, Salmon Khan in the first slate [release], Shahrukh Khan in the second, and Aamir Khan in the third."

“The slate agreement with Avalon was concluded at the right time when South Africa strengthens their relations with Ireland," said Panesar.

The treaty enables productions from both territories to qualify for the incentives available in each country for homegrown content producers. It is designed to enable collaborations between producers from both countries.

For South Africa, which has attracted such recent international productions as Chronicle, Safe House and Dredd, this is the latest co-production treaty. It already has similar arrangements with Canada, Germany, Italy, the U.K., France, Australia and New Zealand.

Signing the treaty on Sunday were South Africa's minister of arts and culture Paul Mashatile and Irish arts minister Jimmy Deenihan.

"South African filmmakers have earned a place on the international stage," said Mashatile. "Through relationships like this one, we will continue to support them and our future storytellers."

Deenihan mentioned past co-productions between the countries, such as John Boorman's Country of My Skull with Juliette Binoche and Samuel L. Jackson. This deal has been in the works for nine years, and Ireland is anxious to advance as many co-production deals as possible, he later told THR.

"Co-productions mean you can share costs in filmmaking, so they are beneficial to filmmakers," Mashatile told THR. "And you get distribution in the other country as well, so you give your filmmakers a bigger market."

South Africa currently offers production incentives that allow for a cash rebate of up to 35 percent of qualifying spending by local productions up to a certain amount, followed by 25 percent for expenditures above that level.

Foreign productions get a change of a 15 percent rebate, which will likely soon become 20 percent. Companies from countries with co-production pacts get treated like local companies.

Ireland's production incentives cover up to 28 percent of a film or TV show's Irish budget and are capped at €50 million ($64 million).

Six Hours, a film project that Samson managing director David Collins from Ireland and DV8 Films' Jeremy Nathan from South Africa have been developing, is looking to become one of the first films to tap into the financial benefits of the new co-production agreement.

They said they are about to start financing the film about an African man, a gangster, and an Irish woman who works in the medical field, who have to bring a man's heart across the country in six hours - the amount of time a human heart continues to beat once outside the body. The movie will shoot in South Africa, with postproduction set to be handled in Ireland.

Collins said the action thriller is "a very ambitious first feature, which the marketplace could find too risky," making it ideal for the new co-production treaty.

Nathan said the co-production partners are also looking at more novels, scripts and other collaboration opportunities on projects for South African and Irish directors. 

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