The Mummy, an upcoming American action-adventure horror film directed by Alex Kurtzman and written by John Spaights, is currently filming in the Namibian coastal city of Swakopmund after its initial setting in Malta was rejected.
This comes after Mad Max Road Fury’s resounding success left a lasting impression on the international film market, having worked on a budget of a hefty US$200 million in production and pocketing US$8.2 million in the fourth week of its release, for the movie filmed mostly in the coastal areas of Namibia.
Despite these figures, there is little evidence of the positive impact left behind by these films as the stark reality suggests that these filming sharks get to pay close to nothing to acquire permits to utilize the dessert landscape of Namibia for filming.
While low costs undeniably act as a catalyst in propping up the face of Namibia on the global limelight as an iconic international filming destination which offers the best out of its primordial desert scenery, yet how much we get to pocket to the national treasury is seriously questionable.
Speaking to this publication, the Namibia Film Commission confirmed that the makers of The Mummy were granted a permit to shoot in the country at the cost of a paltry N$500.
“The amount that was set for the permit was done at the inception of the Commission, maybe you should ask those that set the money why it is still N$500,” said the Commissioner
This is despite the fact that the country is hosting a renowned multi-million dollar filming company that has brought with it a top billing cast boasting such brands like Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Marwan Kenzari, Courtney B. Vance and the famed Russell Crowe.
While how much more beyond the N$500 Namibia is going to gain is anybody’s guess, the truth of the matter is that international film companies capitalize on the beautiful scenery to shoot highly profitable movies at the expense of underdeveloped communities.
Commenting on this matter to Prime Focus Magazine, the Commissioner said that Namibia charging such a paltry fee to The Mummy crew was nothing serious that warranted any attention and needed not to be probed into.
“It is not a big issue because apart from our filming permit they still have to apply for permission to shoot in different locations and for that they have to pay a specific rate, so it’s not all entirely the fee that we charge them, but it’s all the other fees which are involved,” she said.
However, she could not disclose to this publication how much the other fees were referring further question to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
Prime Focus is well aware that on May 7, 1999 The Mummy grossed a whopping US$43 million in 3 210 theatres during its opening weekend in the United States, making it a surprise hit.
The movie went on to gross US$416 million (N$7billion) worldwide. The previous installment of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor reaped an overwhelming U$40 457 770 in 3 760 theatres at its opening, a greater returns in capital by unimaginable margin from the mere N$500 the film makers had to pay for permission to shoot on Namibian soil.
Juxtapose these profit margins with the costs of acquiring a shooting permit in Namibia and the answer does not need much explanation.
Information on the location of the shooting of The Mummy points to Swakopmund yet when asked how much it costed to shoot at the coast the commissioner said she was not in the know.
“I do not have the information with me, but you may call the production manager Donovan Bexter at the Mummy Office or you can speak to the Ministry of Environment, the parks division,” she said.
Calls made to the ministry and questions sent to South African production manager of Moonlighting Namibia, Donovan Roberts-Bexter, who was in Namibia at the time of writing this article, laying the ground for the shooting of The Mummy, went unanswered.
While it is public knowledge that these Hollywood acting heavyweights like Tom Cruise will be earning millions once the 2017 release date comes around, the gains, according to Prime Focus’ research are incomparable to the paltry amount Namibia is set to receive.
The filming of The Mummy is not the first movie to raise eyebrows as the shooting of Mad Max: Road Fury left many in Swakopmund raising a tantrum around the degree of environmental ruin the movie had left behind.
However the commissioner was quick to pour cold water on these claims as unfounded and baseless and that they were intent on damaging the reputation of Namibia Film Commission despite the fact that concerns were raised by the citizenry who live in these areas.
“We do not agree with statements that came from Swakopmund. They were uncalled for, misleading and tarnished our image and that of the production. Who would want to come to Namibia now?” she said.
While the Namibia Film Commission cannot place itself in the position of asking too much which may scare away potential internationally acclaimed film makers, there appears to be a need for a balance to be struck between marketing the face of the nation to the outside world and reaping considerable profits out of the entire business.