The eMedia film studio that helped make a Netflix number-one TV show

eMedia not only owns some of South Africa’s most distinctive television brands like E-tv and Openview, but also the film studio that helped produce Netflix’s hit TV show, One Piece.

Cape Town Film Studios (CTFS), located in Faure, Cape Town, has been the destination of major long-form film productions over the past ten years.

Some notable credits include the live-action adaptation of One Piece, the first four seasons of Black Sails, Brothers Grimsby, Long Walk to Freedom, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomb Raider, and Outlander.

CTFS, which opened in 2010, says it is the “first world-class, custom-built, Hollywood-style film studio complex in Africa” and has been rated the best film studio in the developing world.

Its construction was the first and largest investment in long-term film infrastructure in South Africa’s history, and it employed 98,000 people in its first ten years of operation.

The studios are built on a two-square-kilometre piece of land located 30 km outside the centre of Cape Town.

Regarding facilities, CTFS offers 8,745m² of soundproof stages spread across five buildings and three workshops.

The studio uses three ships as sets: a small amphibious ship, a medium amphibious ship, and a major static ship.

Three additional backlot sets replicate a multi-themed world, an 18th-century American town, and a satellite platform.

CTFS also uses Cape Town’s surrounding areas for filming locations, such as nearby beaches, Bo-Kaap, and Stellenbosch, which were used to film One Piece.

There are also three water tanks, often containing a ship, one of which is a 900m²  beach tank with a tropical forest set built next to it.

In addition to all the sets and studios, CTFS has a dedicated data centre that houses the studio’s ICT infrastructure.

A gigabit-per-second fibre network terminates at the data centre and propagates throughout the facilities.

One Piece. South African actors Steven Ward as Mihawk and Milton Schorr as Don Krieg with the Hottentots Holland Mountains in background. Courtesy Netflix

One Piece

The studio was most notably used for the live-action remake of One Piece, the Japanese best-selling graphic novel — or manga — with over 500 million copies sold worldwide since 1997.

It is also a wildly successful Japanese animated series (anime), which has run for 20 seasons since 1999. The anime spans over 1,000 episodes in total.

One Piece was created by Eiichiro Oda, and fans credit the live-action remake’s success to the fact that he was deeply involved with the production.

Netflix executives said the live-action adaptation was a close collaboration between teams in the US and Japan, with Oda presiding over the cast and characters.

Its Japanese team ensured the production stuck to character narratives and nuances, while the US team worked on the storytelling. It was Oda’s decision to do the show in English.

“This was the first time where we had IP that really invited and required multiple perspectives and different creative teams,” said Peter Friedlander, Netflix vice president of scripted series in the US and Canada.

The first season of One Piece released in September 2023 and was the most-watched show on Netflix for several weeks. For the six months from July to December, it was the second-biggest show on Netflix.

Netflix said One Piece was its biggest-ever production in Africa, spending over $48.7 million (then worth around R897 million) on local suppliers.

Netflix used 625 local suppliers, mostly small, medium, and micro enterprises.

It estimated that One Piece created 1,000 full-time equivalent jobs in South Africa, of which 27% were women.

Looking through the show’s credits, it is apparent that South Africans were instrumental throughout the production.

Although the show is based on a Japanese manga and may not have been written and directed by South Africans, it featured dozens of South African actors, stunt performers, crew, and post-production services.

One Piece. Stuntman Shaun Verth with Steven John Ward as Mihawk. Courtesy Steven John Ward/Instagram
Aerial view of Cape Town Film Studios, where One Piece was shot.
President Cyril Ramaphosa meeting with Shola Sanni, Netflix public policy director in Sub-Saharan Africa, on the set of One Piece.

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The eMedia film studio that helped make a Netflix number-one TV show