South Africa

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Overview

After travelling the globe for the previous seven Mission: Impossible features, the franchise’s star and producer Tom Cruise finally touched down in South Africa, spending time in Hoedspruit, a town in the Limpopo province, to scout locations for the eighth instalment. Cruise set Twitter alight while scouting in Drakensberg, the eastern portion of South Africa’s Great Escarpment. The area encloses the central Southern African plateau and boasts mountains, waterfalls, nature reserves and myriad wildlife.

According to local publication Northern Natal News, Cruise and his production crew arrived in March to film a series of spectacular stunts. The Paramount Pictures project also spent time in Durban and Cape Town over the course of 2022. South Africa offers a base 25% filming incentive for local and international films and TV productions that shoot in the country for at least four weeks. It can rise to 30% for productions that also undertake post-production work in the country.

The territory’s trio of high-end urban film hubs includes the Durban Film Office. The film industry development arm of the eThekwini Municipality is mandated to position Durban as a world-class film production destination and facilitate the development of the local film industry. The office is also responsible for facilitating and co-ordinating location filming in the city of Durban and surrounds. (Aside from beaches and buildings, some of the world’s best jungle scenery is within easy reach.)

Gauteng Film Commission is the gateway to filming in the most populous province (X gautengfilm.org.za). The area includes the country’s chief industrial and financial metropolis Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, Cape Town Film Studios boasts five soundstages, water tanks and backlot sets, including Robben Island prison and a 1950s-style US motel. Cape Town and the surrounding area have an established and deserved reputation for being adaptable for filmmakers, offering countryside that is reminiscent of the UK, alongside US-style beach huts, mountain ranges, deserts and modern cityscapes.

Cinemax TV’s 19th-century-set martial arts series Warrior recently filmed in and around Cape Town Film Studios. Cheaper set-build costs and a lack of unions were said to play a part in the draw. The BBC and UK production outfit Mammoth Screen returned to South Africa to film series two of Noughts + Crosses, which shot for 10 weeks in Cape Town and a warehouse in Paarden Eiland. The TriStar Productions and Entertainment One historical epic The Woman King starring Viola Davis and John Boyega also filmed in South Africa. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the drama follows an all-female military unit in the kingdom of Dahomey during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Further international projects to film in South Africa include Netflix series Resident Evil (previously Venus Fly Trap), which used the tanks at Cape Town Studios, and HBO Max science fiction series Raised By Wolves, produced by Ridley Scott.

South Africa is still affected by the fallout from Covid-19, with film office websites guiding visitors to the Republic’s government health guidelines, although the national state of disaster status was lifted in April 2022 and most countries (including Canada, UK, US, the EU, Israel and the UAE) are now open for travel to and from South Africa without quarantine.

Locations

“South Africa is a large and diverse country, with locations from Med-style beaches to arid deserts, mountains, cityscapes, sprawling farmlands, wine farms, African wildlife, rivers, waterfalls, the list goes on,” enthuses Peter Constan-Tatos, CEO of local outfit Zap High Speed Studios, to KFTV. “So, in short, practically any location you can think of, South Africa will have it.”

Cape Town’s adaptability is a huge draw for filmmakers, offering countryside that is reminiscent of England, US-style beach huts, mountain ranges, deserts and modern cityscapes.

“You imagine South Africa to be mostly dry land, but actually there are striking green forests, incredible lakes that look like the ones in Switzerland, and the cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg are bustling with great beaches,” enthuses Walsham. “Plus, Cape Town is small enough to move your production around quickly, and it’s straightforward to get permissions.”

Cape Town has changed quite a lot in the past 10 years, with huge development of new buildings that look like other main cities around the world. “This together with world class beaches, mountain ranges, deserts, English style countryside and American style beach cottages make Cape Town a superb location for most shoots and productions,” adds Justin Miccoli at the 3D Model Agency to KFTV.

Shooting at these locations also proves cost effective. Neil Marshall said of the production costs for Doomsday that they came in at a third of the production costs of the UK, according to Cristian Abbott and Ken Mehrtens, founders of iKraal Film and Video Production. “Many series and films have been shot here and if production houses are prepared to use local crew, the costs savings will be great.”

“Summed up in a few words South African locations have a dynamic adaptability with crisp light and stunning talent and professional crew,” adds Miccoli.

Permits

Permission to shoot across the country is generally easy. Although it’s best to get local partners or crew who know the system to apply. Where the production shoots dictates who you need to apply to….

https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/filming-western-cape-permits-and-opportunities

http://www.gautengfilm.org.za/filming-in-gauteng/conditions-a-permits

Infrastructure and crews

Cape Town Film Studios is South Africa’s main production facility and includes five soundstages, the largest of which is 2,100 square metres. It also offers water tanks and backlot sets. Atlantic Film Studios is a smaller complex, but offers nine soundproof stages, including a green-screen studio plus a large backlot. Producers often convert warehouses into temporary facilities. Experienced crews have the depth to host about six large shoots at any one time.

Travel and logistics

South Africa is well-connected internationally by air. The main national hubs are Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The country is large enough to offer a multitude of strikingly different visuals that are routinely used by producers to double for locations around the world, whether that be the Middle East, US or other African countries.

First person to contact

Priscilla Kolwane, information officer, Gauteng Film Commission
priscillak@gautengfilm.org.za

Size matters

South Africa is well-connected internationally by air. The main national hubs are Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The country is large enough to offer a multitude of strikingly different visuals that are routinely used by producers to double for locations around the world, whether that be the Middle East, US or other African countries.

First person to contact

Priscilla Kolwane, information officer, Gauteng Film Commission: priscillak@gautengfilm.org.za

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