Hollywood is synonymous with movie making. During the Golden Age of Cinema, a majority of the films that were produced for the big screen were shot at studios in this glamorous Southern California city. Over the past couple decades, movie company purse strings have gotten tighter, and location scouts have been looking beyond sunny and sprawling L.A. for budget-friendly places to film the latest would-be blockbusters.

Vancouver, Canada became one of the first post-Hollywood film hubs. Places like Eastern Europe, Portugal and New Zealand have also seen a rise in film crew traffic.

One of the world's newest filming hot spots is Cape Town, South Africa. Reasonably priced labor, unique settings, experienced film crews and support staff, and a diverse population have made this southernmost African metropolis a major destination for film and television production companies of all sizes.

The downtown area of Cape Town is in especially high demand thanks to its chameleon-like buildings, which are fitting stand-ins for buildings in many major cities on Earth. Star-seeking tourists have a good chance of running into a film set if they stroll the downtown streets.    

Cape Town's profile is still on the rise in the movie world. Its impressive statistics (more than 11,500 location sites were booked and 7,372 filming permits issued in the past 12 months) are mainly due to domestic films and shows as well as music video and commercial shoots.

Safe House filming in Cape Town

The movie "Safe House" films on the streets of Cape Town. (Photo: warrenski/flickr)

Well-known productions have been getting into the mix as well. The award-winning series "Homeland" is being shot in Cape Town, and the 2012 Denzel Washington-headed thriller "Safe House" was set and filmed in the city.

Several blockbusters were largely responsible for first bringing so much attention to Cape Town. Large parts of Leonardo DiCaprio's "Blood Diamonds" and the action flick “District 9” were shot here, while “Dredd” and "Invictus" also gave a lot of screen time to the city. Now there are rumors that a large part of the next James Bond film will be set in and filmed in Cape Town.

Cape Town's growing reputation as a filming destination is bringing much more than glamor and status. In fact, the push to lure films here has little to do with catching some sort of a silver screen buzz and everything to do with economics and industry development.

The earning potential for Cape Town goes well beyond the fees collected for filming permits. Major productions give their foreign crews a per diem, which is money that is spent at local restaurants and shops. Cape Town locals, from camera operators and set designers to extras and personal assistants, are regularly hired for projects large and small. People with experience in these niches are getting a steady stream of lucrative work.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the film boom are caterers, who are hired to provide three square meals a day for cast and crew. Of course, hotels and car rental companies are also reaping the benefits of increased business.

Even if the buzz dies down and some other city takes over the title of hottest new filming destination, Cape Town will still enjoy some lasting benefits from its time in the spotlight. Many major productions provide training for local crew members prior to filming, and Cape Town film workers who participate in these projects are left with a great deal of experience and knowledge that can be used on their own domestic work in the future. South African-made movies like "Lucky Man" have been generating buzz around the world. So in the future, Cape Town will be known not as a destination for foreign productions, but for the films made by local artists and local production studios.

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