co productions better together international film callsheet
July 11, 2019

Co-Productions: Better Together


South Africa’s numerous co-production treaties enrich the production of films and television series, as countries can partner for the myriad of benefits for all.

This article was first featured in Issue 3 of the Callsheet.

‘Co-production’ is a general term that covers a variety of production arrangements between two or more production companies undertaking a film or television project.

A ‘Co-production treaty’ is an agreement entered into by two separate governments in the field of audio-visual production. The effect of this agreement is that a film or television programme, which is approved as an official co-production is regarded as a national production of each of the co-producing countries, and is therefore eligible to apply for any benefits or programmes of assistance available in either country.

There are two types of international co-productions:

  • Creative control is shared between local and foreign partners, and there is a mix of local and foreign people in creative positions.
  • A straightforward co-financing arrangement (finance only) in which one partner provides partial funding while another company undertakes the actual production.
Apocalypse Now Now Co-production stage 5 canada international


Apocalypse Now Now is a co-production Stage 5 is doing with Canada

In Production

Fireworx Media is a local production company that is reaping the many benefits associated with co-productions.

Bridget Pickering has been working in television, media and film for over 20 years and has produced some of the highest rated shows on South African television including;

  • U Gugu no Andile,
  • Monna wa Minno,
  • Usindiso,
  • Dreamworld,
  • End Game, and
  • Sticks and Stones.

She is currently working on a co-production with Australia and Germany called The Night Outside, a supernatural story based in 1980’s Cape Town.

“A successful co-production needs a common vision of what the films is – an art film, a commercial film, etc. Here, the value will be placed and the partners set the benchmark we are all working toward,” says Bridget. “With regard to The Night Outside, our partner countries bring finance, cast and HODs, but also their experience, their network, and their audience from their home countries.”

A Formidable Co-Production Expert

Brigid Olen, Producer at Do Productions, has extensive experience in the world of co-productions, having embarked on many partnered journeys in her career. She says that a successful co-production partnership includes the willingness to collaborate and be accountable for the respective roles that one plays in the co-production.

“It is essential to remove assumptions and lock down detail on script ownership, rights, territories and draft up the legal agreements so that both parties are totally aligned in the early stages,” she says.

If done right, the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.

Brigid elaborates: “The fact that you can pool funds and align the budget with incentives from both countries – and split the risk – are the biggest advantages. Co-productions bring in elements you would not normally have had access to – talent and a global presence.”

South Africa’s Co-Production Incentive

The objectives of the South African Film and Television Co-Production Incentive, a sub-programme of the South African Film and Television Production Incentive Programme, is to support official co-productions and contribute towards employment opportunities in South Africa.

READ MORE: South African Film Rebates and Incentives

The Incentive is available to qualifying official treaty co-productions as follows:

  • The Qualifying South African Production Expenditure (QSAPE) should be at least R2.5-million
  • For documentaries, the Qualifying South African Production Expenditure (QSAPE) should be at least R500 000.

The Incentive provides an incentive of 35% of QSAPE, and an additional 5% of QSAPE is provided for productions hiring at least 20% of Black South African citizens as head of departments (HODs) and procuring at least 30% of the QSAPE from 51% South African black-owned entities which have been operating for at least a period of one year. The incentive programme offers a reimbursable grant to the maximum of R50-million per qualifying project.

Eligible Formats

The following production formats are eligible for support:

  • Feature film
  • Animation
  • Tele-movies
  • Television drama series and mini-series
  • Documentary, documentary series and documentary feature
  • Digital Content

READ MORE: How to Finance Your Film: A Step-by-Step Guide


The Elephant Whisperer is another co-production by Stage 5 that is currently in development.

Co-Production treaty MOU with Brazil

“The co-production treaty with Brazil aims to increase the economic growth and competitiveness of the BRICS economies in the global arena and fully entitle all filmmakers to the benefits that are afforded to co-production projects, rebates, and incentives. South Africa will continue to enter into co-production treaties with various countries for the advantage of the industry and as this is the 10th co-production treaty South Africa has signed, we look forward to more robust engagements and cultural exchanges that will move both the South African and Brazilian industries forward, ” said NFVF Acting CEO, Shadrack Bokaba, at the signing of the MOU in late 2018.

This will also be South Africa’s first co-production treaty with a fellow BRICS nation.

The aim of the treaty is to enhance co-operation between Brazil and South Africa in the audio-visual sector and stimulate production activities, which may be conducive to the audio-visual industries of both countries and to the development of cultural and economic exchanges.

South Africa has nine other official co-production treaties:

  • Canada (1997),
  • Italy (2003),
  • Germany (2004)
  • the United Kingdom (2007),
  • France (2010),
  • Australia (2010),
  • New Zealand (2011),
  • Ireland (2012), and
  • the Netherlands (2015).

READ MORE: Dylan Voogt Explains His Recipe for a Successful Co-production


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