Start a Film Set Business

A film set is the scenery and props as arranged for shooting a movie, series, advertisement etc. It is a B2B business within the film industry, in that it services the people filming on behalf of their clients.

This business ranges from location scouting, set acquisition, set design and building as well as auxiliary services like the manufacture and supply of props.

I have spoken about setting up websites to service the local film industry before, and there are some popular ones particularly with vehicles, a friend of mine makes good money listing some his vehicles there, one of his most popular cars is an imported left-hand-drive Honda prelude. That is because many films shot in SA are aimed at the international market. I’ve seen some photos of sets he has taken the car to, they switch the car’s plates and surrounding cars, they even change the signage of some surrounding buildings for the shoot, it doesn’t look like Cape Town anymore. When a US Dollar is worth R15, a million USD goes a long way here.

Its not just big-budget movies that are filmed in SA, I was watching a movie about a US student that went missing on the Dutch island of Aruba and there were Golden Arrow buses in the background.

Changing Paradigm
When we think movies we often think multi-million rand feature films. There is a changing paradigm with video on demand, and even online video becoming more popular (driven by faster, cheaper internet data) which will allow video to be monetized the same way that other online content are. We’ve seen it happen to the games and music industry, where indie developers are making money without going via or securing big publishing deals. This will increase the opportunity in this industry but there will be certain changes and that change involves decreasing the cost to film because there won’t be multimillion budgets. This industry still is ripe for disruption, Netflix and YouTube has done a lot to create ecosystems outside of the Hollywood way of doing things. I don’t think we have seen the end of disruption in this industry.

So what are the opportunities?
It depends on the company doing the shooting and the kind of shoot. Companies that regularly shoot in a certain location will have built up knowledge of the location and surrounding areas and certain contacts. But there can still opportunities and they will also need help by people catering to that industry. And even just by linking the two together, like the vehicle websites, there is opportunity.

Let me give you a few examples, many normal businesses they have a long turnaround time but for movies time is money, they need something quickly, they can’t wait two-weeks for basic stuff like printing but unlike other clients that demand tight deadlines the film industry is willing to pay the premium to expedite things (becasue every day on set costs money and its cheaper than waiting).

Opportunities include:
Set construction
Set scouting
Set security
Set catering
Set wardrobe
Set props
Set makeup
Set design
Set runners
There has recently been websites that show movie friendly locations  to rent (people making their properties available to film at) and even businesses have been putting their properties there, with COVID-19 you can put a nightclub there, but as a business I looked into before (set acquisition)  they have a lot of shortcomings, there is still opportunity for those that can get execution right. I’m not moved by what is out there; as if to say “oh its already done, why bother” there is still money to be made by linking film sets with crews and everything inbetween. Many sets have very specific requirements and a lot of places that offer these services are rigid. If you shooting a movie about District Six and the script calls for a barber scene, you need a very specific barber, Yogis for example, you can’t shoot at Mr Cobbs in the Waterfront because barbers didn’t look like that in District Six.