Rooted in Southern Africa and with the Atlantic ocean wrapping around its western side, the country of Namibia is home to beaches, mountains, German-influenced architecture and deserts in plenty. Taking LBB through the untouched and spectacular landscapes of the country are NM Productions executive producer Anissa Payne and local location scout Hein Van Zijl.
LBB> How would you pitch Namibia to any agencies or production companies looking to shoot in that region?
Hein> Namibia has the oldest desert in the world, as well as many diverse and spectacular landscapes. The people are extremely friendly and most importantly it is safe. There are only 2.4 million people in Namibia which means there is a lot of vast open space.
Anissa> Namibia offers such vast diversity in terms of locations, whether you’re in the south in the desert or the more wildlife-rich northern parts of the country. From a cost perspective, the British pound and US dollar will go a lot further in Namibia. Crew wise, their local scouts and line producers are incredibly resourceful and always eager to help, offering such flexibility that will make any trip run smoothly.
LBB> What are the main qualities of this region?
Hein> Spectacular, untouched and accessible landscapes.
Anissa> As Hein has said, the landscapes are incredible and continue for what seems an eternity, gradually changing from one amazing look and colour to another, as you pass through them.
LBB> Where would you say are the top shooting locations in Namibia?
Hein> Imagine a vertical line through the middle of the country; the whole western side is spectacular. The south western areas have the biggest sand dunes in the world and endless landscapes with enormous mountains. There is a ghost town close to Lüderitz with plenty of Brown Hyenas and Jackals wandering around, as well as skeletal shipwrecks on some of the beaches, to name a few of the highlights.
The Fish River Canyon is another spectacular site in the southern part of the country and Windhoek, Swakopmund and Lüderitz have some unique German-influenced architecture. When people think desert they think 'no life' but Namibia’s desert is full of life, including; plants, reptiles, predators, antelopes and the Big Five. You are guaranteed to find the Big Five and a variety of predators and antelopes in the northern part of the country. The Himba and Khoi-San tribes are very interesting people with traditions that are centuries old.
Anissa> One of the locations we stayed and filmed at during our time in Namibia was Wolwedans, who pride themselves on training up local Namibians and have inspirational conservation and sustainability projects. This was something that made our stay and time at Wolwedans feel much more welcoming and involved, knowing that all their employees had an investment in their ongoing projects. Their sustainable practices are made very clear through things such as bottling their own water, growing their own food and minimising their carbon footprint as much as possible by using solar power, which is very accessible in a country with 365 days of sun.
We really felt that Wolwedans was the perfect location, not only in terms of the landscape for our shoot but also to reinforce the sustainability of the project we were shooting, which aims to lower our carbon footprint by reducing crew sizes on set. We found the overall experience incredible, especially seeing them train young locals in horticulture and hospitality, by reinvesting some of their profits into training programmes.
LBB> Which area would you say is the most popular/ has the most to offer?
Hein> Difficult to say because there are so many. Depending on what you want to do, I'd say the central coastal region; starting approximately 100 km south of Walvis Bay and going northwards, until you reach the beautiful coastal town of Swakopmund. This area consists of mainly dunes and beautiful endless beaches, with the very popular Spitzkoppe and moon landscape locations not too far away.
LBB> Which location would you describe as the biggest attribute to local production?
Hein> The capital, Windhoek. There are no spectacular locations close by but most of the population lives here, therefore this area plays a big role in budgets when it comes to local productions.
LBB> Explain the climate and the best/worst times to shoot in Namibia.
Hein> Winter (late April to September) is the best time to shoot for the more inland locations. All year round is good for the coastal spots but summer (September to April) is best if you are after clear skies. Avoid the central desert during the summer months!
LBB> What specific work permits/Visas are required to shoot in Namibia?
Hein> You will need to obtain a general film permit from the Namibia Film Commission, and a permit from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism if you are going to film in a National Park. Drone permits come from the Namibia Civil Aviation and all international crew will need a three month multiple entry visa. An additional permit will be necessary if you are going to film with the groups such as the Koi-San and Himba tribes.
LBB> What is the infrastructure like in Namibia for supporting large productions? Access to high-level cameras and kit, casting, crews etc.
Hein> Namibia has a handful of experienced professional crew. For larger productions, we usually bring in crews from South Africa, which is a two hour flight away. Luckily I have great connections from my past in South Africa. The same goes for equipment.
LBB> As an outsider, what would you say are the biggest Dos and Don’ts in the region?
Hein> Namibian culture is very relaxed. In general, the Namibian people are very easygoing, sometimes too easy for my liking! When it comes to interaction, the most important thing is to treat everyone equally.
LBB> What would be your number one tip for anyone going to Namibia to shoot a campaign/film?
Hein> The permissions process can take a long time, so start preparing everything at least three months in advance.
LBB> Where would you suggest a foreign production team stay while they are in Namibia? Recommended hotels/accommodation/general area.
Hein> We have a really good variety of hotels fairly close to all the popular locations. We also specialise in a fully functional bush and desert camping, if the client requires to be really close to the set. Also, 1 GBP equals 20 Namibian Dollars!
LBB> Any hidden gems you could suggest?
Hein> The perennial rivers of North Western Namibia. Here you'll find the unique desert elephants and lions, if this is the kind of wildlife that could fit with your idea. To be honest there are so many hidden gems. I travel so much and see so many amazing things, it's difficult to explain – you will just have to come and see for yourself.
LBB> Any other visitor recommendations?
Hein> The San and Himba tribe living Museums.