Avengers to supercharge SA’s rep as a movie destination

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Tomorrow evening sees the first showing of superhero extravaganza Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron in South Africa, two days before the public gets to see it and a full week before the US. That’s pretty special, and also a great time to release the movie as it’s on a long weekend, giving people ample time to go see it.

As you’ve probably heard by now, there’s a scene in the movie where Tony Stark takes on The Hulk wearing his Hulkbuster Iron Man armour, filmed right in the middle of Joburg; they break things, SAPS gets involved and, well, all kinds of chaos ensues. It’s pretty cool.

Watch the trailer below, and a glimpse of the South African bit is around the 0:51 mark, and then again at the 1:20 mark.

That scene came about for several reasons, which I found out about during an interview earlier today with Disney/Marvel’s senior vice president and country manager Christine Service and representatives from the National Film and Video Foundation (Zama Mkosi), the Gauteng Film Board (Andile Mbeki) and Joburg Tourism (Laura Vercueil).

The first is that apparently writer/director Joss Whedon wanted to take the Avengers outside their typical staged sets, and place them into real locations instead. Johannesburg ticked all the right boxes: the city’s earthy, gritty qualities suited the script and it was thus chosen as the setting for the battle.

The second is that various government departments have gone to bat for the country as a whole, promoting it abroad as a desirable destination for film makers. The result was a partnership between the local film industry and Disney/Marvel’s production people, which Mkosi said was vital to the success of the endeavour

Service told me that scouting for the ideal location in which to film the Hulk/Iron man battle took place in mid-to-late 2013, and filmed over 10 days in February, 2014. In the end, over 300 local production people were used in the filming of the segment with the whole of the Jozi CBD at an absolute standstill for the full 10 days, at a cost of $4 million.

The R10.74/$ exchange rate at the time probably didn’t hurt either, which can be inferred from Mkosi’s comment to me that “The economics and incentives had to make sense” in order for the project to go ahead. Clearly, they did.

Joburg Tourism’s Laura Vercueil said that with The Avengers, it’s nice to see a South African city appear in a movie that’s not about gangsters and crime.

The net result of this collaboration between the local film industry, government and Marvel/Disney is the growth of South Africa’s reputation as a workable, competent and beautiful place to shoot movies. The good experiences had by the cast and crew will undoubtedly spread by word of mouth to other studios as well.

Already, South Africa has played a part in movies like the late Paul Walker’s Vehicle 19, the Denzel Washington-led Safe House and TV series like Dominion, with more currently in the works.

I was told of a new TV series slated for a 2015 release called Of Kings and Prophets currently being shot outside Stellenbosch, as well as a movie based on the true story of a Ugandan chess prodigy being filmed in Gauteng called Queen of Katwe, so our reputation is definitely growing for the better.

Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is out for everyone on Friday, the 24th of April. Check out the latest trailer below.

[Image – YouTube/A screen from the scene shot in Johannesburg]

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.