Bruce Lee - [Google Images]

More than 600 film crew and 390 businesses are working on a Bruce Lee-inspired TV series being filmed in Cape Town.

US television network HBO/Cinemax is shooting the 10-part Warrior at Cape Town Film Studios‚ and only nine foreign crew members are working on the mammoth project.

“The rest are all South Africans‚ including some directors of photography‚ supervising art director‚ script supervisor‚ costume designer‚ hair and make-up designer‚ set decorator‚ special effects supervisor and visual effects producers‚” said Genevieve Hofmeyr of Moonlighting Films‚ the local production company. 

“Five years ago‚ this would not have been possible and this is testimony to the growth of the industry. A lot of this growth is due to the advent of episodic TV content being produced in SA.”

Tim Harris‚ CEO of Western Cape trade promotion agency Wesgro‚ said businesses working on the production ranged from suppliers of construction materials‚ wardrobe‚ film equipment‚ vehicles and logistics to suppliers of sound stages‚ post-production facilities‚ catering and accommodation.

“There has also been a significant investment in sets‚ and the 19th-century Chinatown‚ San Francisco back lot at the Cape Town Film Studios could be a huge asset for the local industry at large‚” he said.

The series tells the story of Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji)‚ a martial arts prodigy who travels from China to San Francisco and ends up becoming a hatchet man for the most powerful tong in Chinatown. Other cast members include Olivia Cheng‚ who plays Chinatown’s most accomplished courtesan and madam‚ and Cape Town actors Langley Kirkwood and Robert Hobbs.

Wesgro’s head of film and media promotion‚ Monica Rorvik‚ said it was exciting that big TV productions no longer had to bring in foreign talent and crew. “It shows that capacity is being developed by the Department of Trade and Industry’s incentives — but much more needs to be done there and a strong industry/government partnership can deliver that.”

International producers spend more than $30bn (R354bn) annually on production‚ Rorvik said. “It would be great for SA to mirror the growth of the US state of Georgia which‚ over 10 years‚ went from a $250mn film economy to a $2.7bn film economy. “Thus far, SA sits at about a $400m film economy — and that could easily grow to $1.5bn if the policy framework of the country is treated with care.”

Hofmeyr said 60% of the local crew on Warrior were previously disadvantaged and the production incorporated several programmes aimed at skills transfer and transformation. “The production has identified about 20 previously disadvantaged film crew who will be accelerated to senior positions on season two [if it gets the go-ahead].”