Southern Africa

(Troy: Fall Of A City image courtesy of Wild Mercury Productions/Graham Batholomew)

Two countries at the tip of Africa offer a booming film infrastructure that appeals to both large-scale Hollywood shoots and independent European productions.

South Africa is sustaining its position as one of the top production hubs in the southern hemisphere, while Namibia’s unique desert locations have helped attract shoots including Universal’s The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise.

In October 2018, filmmaker Paul WS Anderson was ramping up Sony Pictures’ movie version of the videogame Monster Hunter, which was planning to shoot in both South Africa and Namibia.

One of the major recent productions to use Cape Town as a key location has been the BBC drama Troy: Fall Of A City. Produced by Kudos and Wild Mercury Productions, the series built expansive sets in and around the South African city to stand in for ancient Greece. Interior sets were also built in local studio facilities to provide weather cover as the shoot was partly scheduled for South Africa’s winter (May to October) when the country has most of its rainfall.

The BBC’s 1960s-set drama The Last Post shot in Cape Town, doubling for the Yemeni port city of Aden, in 2016. Cape Town met the producers’ needs for mountains, desert settings and a coastline, while also offering colonial architecture.

Warner Bros’ new Tomb Raider film, starring Alicia Vikander and directed by Roar Uthaug, turned Hout Bay, near Cape Town, into Hong Kong and built a water tank at Cape Town Film Studios for scenes set at sea. The production team also built smaller sets at Atlantic Film Studios as they navigated the availability of various facilities during their schedule.

Norwegian feature Congo doubled South Africa for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2017. The drama, based on the true story of two Norwegians who were imprisoned for murder in DRC, was directed by Marius Holst who had previously shot commercials in South Africa. The producer was Norway’s Friland, which worked with local company DO Productions.

The $7m film used a crew of 150 people, mostly locals, much larger than if they had shot in Europe. The South African tax break, lower costs and 12-hour shooting days made the shoot affordable. While in Cape Town, the production was based at a juvenile detention centre in the Ottery neighbourhood, where the crew built sets of a DRC prison and courtrooms. Jungle scenes were shot in Richards Bay and scenes of life in Kampala, the borders and Kisangani were shot in Durban and its surroundings.

Directed by Alex Kurtzman, The Mummy is the biggest recent film to shoot in Namibia. The production team built a set of an Iraqi village in Swakopmund on the country’s Atlantic coast, which offered the sand-dune locations called for in the script. Permissions were secured relatively quickly and the team made use of Namibia’s well-developed accommodation options and servicing infrastructure.

The Lowdown – South Africa

Financial incentives

South Africa offers a base 25% filming incentive for films and television shows. This can rise to 25% for productions that also undertake post-production work in the country. To access the base-rate rebate, producers must spend at least $1m (rand12m) locally, shoot in the country for at least four weeks and schedule at least half of principal photography for South Africa.

Full details on financial incentives in South Africa: Department of Trade and Industry

Infrastructure and crews

Cape Town Film Studios is the country’s main production facility and includes five sound stages. Atlantic Film Studios offers production resources on a smaller scale and producers frequently convert unused warehouses into temporary filming facilities. South African crews have the depth to host about six large shoots at any one time and most production professionals speak English in addition to local languages and dialects.

Size matters

The country is well connected internationally by air and the main national hubs of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are well connected as well. 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, be it the Middle East or the US.

First person to call

Genevieve Hofmeyr, co-founder and managing director, Moonlighting Films
Tel: +27 21 447 2209

Related Articles