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CODED – THE MOVIE

Imagine you as the viewer having an influence in how a film could actually pan out. Well, that is something that might not sound as far fetched in the near future, in terms of a collaborative initiative involving various leaders in the Durban media industry including iKind Media director, Matt Nefdt, producer Richard Green and Blue Fire Productions.

Latoya Newman writes for The Independent’s Tonight supplement that the multimedia feature film – Coded – would be a first for South Africa, according to producer Richard Green (Nothing but the Truth, Chikin Biznis, Red Dust, Taxi to Soweto).

Inspired by a Swedish TV series which augmented reality and fiction into a new genre of participation drama, Coded is a multiplatform experience designed to engage the audience as never before – promising to take interactive media to new levels.

It is still shrouded in secrecy, but Green said the project was the natural progression of convergent trends in media and would give audiences the ability to control their own experience, much like in a game.

“Media is going a really strange route but it is an interesting one,” he said. “With Coded, we’re collaborating with a broader mix of content specialists, like Blue Fire Productions, to give the audience a more intimate connection to the story,” he said, declining to give any further details.

Coded is one of several major projects set to cause a buzz on Durban’s film scene this year.

A second biggie, which we are allowed to reveal at this stage, is House of Shaka (the musical oratorio and the film).

Roland Mqwebu (who also starred as King Shaka’s friend Ngomane in the 1980s classic Shaka Zulu) said he had secured exclusive rights from the Zulu Royal Family to make the film, which is not a remake of or a sequel to Shaka Zulu (1987).

He explained: “The film will mostly be about how King Shaka died and what happened after he died. Gavin Wood (Tsotsi, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) will direct the movie. We are consulting Professor Musa Xulu (cultural researcher and adviser in the Office of the Premier of KZN) who is also doing a play by the same name,” he said. Mqwebu said the film was likely to be shot in Zululand and Northern KZN. The groundwork is already under way.

Acting chief executive of the Durban Film Office, Toni Monty, said 2011 looks set to be as much of a success as last year for the local film industry.

One of the most fruitful projects launched last year, and already fielding queries for this year’s leg, is the Durban Film Mart.

With this project the Durban Film Office and the Durban International Film Festival (Diff) provide film professionals from across Africa with the chance to pitch projects to financiers, distributors and sales agents.

They can also participate in a masterclass and workshop programme. “One of the projects pitched last year went into production and is now ready for the market… this year’s film mart will take place from July 22 to 25 during the Durban International Film Festival,” she said.

Monty said last year 17 feature films, 32 documentaries and 21 television shoots – among other projects – were filmed in Durban, adding that the boost to the local economy is priceless.

“The KZN film sector generates about R236million a year, and contributes about R348million to the provincial economy (once merchandising and hospitality spin-offs have been factored in).

“Information gleaned from permits issued by the Durban Film Office in 2006, in terms of actual economic impact, the average television commercial has a budget of R1.27m, feature films spend R37.2m (smaller films about R4.9m).

“Even the average stills shoot costs R314,000 a week during its production on location. The return on investment is immediately felt throughout the local economy.”

Deon du Preez, a private contractor and location scout/manager, has been in the business for 17 years and mostly works with international projects. He said the drawcard for Durban as a film site was its versatility.

“Durban is probably the only city in the country where you could easily do Pakistan, West African, Malaysia etcetera (scenes)… You can find the people, culture and texture you’re looking for. An added bonus is it is close to the Midlands and Drakensberg mountains where you would then find ‘European-looking’ locations.”

“Cape Town is very popular because of its large variety of architecture and landscapes, but Durban is a true African city with its own unique ‘look’, not easily found in any other citys in South Africa.”

“And the Durban Film Office offers full support and incentives, such as reduced rates for city council locations. In some cases, it even sets up a media campaign.”

Some of the biggest productions filmed in Durban and surrounds include Stander, Blood Diamond and more recently Spud: The Movie and Mr Bob. There had also been “massive interest” from Bollywood.

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