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Location Spotlight: South Africa


Groundglass’ founder and EP Janette De Villiers shares the wonders of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and more as she journeys through Africa’s southernmost country

Location Spotlight: South Africa

Janette De Villiers is the founder and executive producer of Cape Town-based production company, Groundglass. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Janette has created a film company known throughout the world for nurturing and developing young talent, placing a strong emphasis on female filmmakers, and for a remarkable commitment to sustainable and ethical practices in filmmaking.

LBB> How would you pitch South Africa to any production companies looking to shoot in your region? 

Janette> South Africa has a myriad of extremely varied locations - it’s like having five or six countries in one. We have one of the best climates in the world, making it possible to shoot year ‘round in different parts of our country. Additionally, our crew has a great wealth of experience and our diverse demographic makes it easy to cast for various markets locally. And it goes without saying that due to our devalued currency, it’s an extremely cost-effective shoot location. 

LBB> What are the main qualities of your region? 

Janette> We have a great contrast of locations across our nine provinces, ranging from modern cities to rural and agricultural landscapes as well as wide-ranging coastal locations. There are not many briefs we can’t facilitate here. The majority of the country is film-friendly, so even the most remote environments become shoot locations quite easily with minimal travel time involved.

LBB> What would you say are the top locations in South Africa? What is available - from mountains, beaches to rocky shores and architecture, etc. Include plants and wildlife and demographics?

Janette> We have it all! That’s no exaggeration. Cape Town is well known to most filmmakers around the world, offering beautiful natural landscapes and beaches for car and lifestyle shoots, as well as beautiful architecture for both public and private spaces. But we also shoot all over the country and Groundglass has been shooting more and more in Johannesburg these days… which offers more of a slick, futuristic city in one part of town and a pastoral, countryside landscape in the other. The city has an infectious energy and is characteristically creative; shooting there is both fun and efficient. 

Then Pretoria is less than an hour away, offering a more historical city with wide roads and a Germanic feel to the architecture. Just an hour north of Johannesburg we have the Magaliesburg mountains which offer idyllic green pasture and farmland, as well as its own mountain range and wildlife as you get a bit further north towards our exquisite game farms.

We also have the beautiful garden route leading from Cape Town up our east coast to Durban, offering very remote beaches and forests. Durban offers a landscape that is way more tropical than the rest of the country.

We’ve also shot in parts of the country that are less known to international clients in the past few months, namely; the rural Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal – these two parts of the country are replete with coastal, yet rural and remote locations. We’ve had a lot of fun finding these gems and going a little bit further than the usual shoot locations. 

LBB> Explain the climate and the best/worst times to shoot in South Africa? 

Janette> The country primarily has a sub-tropical climate, with a diverse climate across provinces. The Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces have dry winter conditions between June and August, making it perfect for shooting at this time of year, despite the slightly shorter amount of daylight in winter. The only exception to this is the region in which Cape Town falls - it has a Mediterranean climate; a mostly rain-free summer, with the ideal time of shooting here between October and April. Certain mountainous parts of the country get snow in the winter months but the rest of the country has relatively mild weather conditions.

LBB> What specific work permits/Visas are required to shoot in South Africa?

Janette> Film crew all come in on oversight visas which are very easy to obtain and are valid for 90 days. The turnaround time for a visa is between five and 10 days.


LBB> How is the infrastructure in South Africa for supporting large productions? Access to high-level cameras and kit, casting, crews, studios etc.

Janette> South Africa has an established film industry that produces both local and international high-end work, making it easy to find specialist crew and equipment. Gear rental houses, with a global network, namely Panavision and Panalux have offices in two of the film hubs in the country - Johannesburg and Cape Town. This network makes it easy to fly in any specialised gear that may not be available locally at that time. Some gear like the U-CRANE arm is available here during our busy summer season between October and April and can be flown in outside this period.

Due to the high volume of feature films being serviced here, we have an ever-growing base of very experienced and specialised film technicians and gear, and we are also known as one of the best countries for car shoots which has led to an exceptionally high standard of auto detailers, car security and specialised equipment.

There are exciting advancements in the local industry as the nature of filmmaking changes, like Cape Town-based studio, Filmscape’s new LED Volume which supports virtual and mixed reality production. It’s relatively new but shows how progressive the local industry is. 
We also have three very established film offices being Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban with teams who have been there for many years literally building the industry alongside us, so a high level of film understanding and efficiency.



LBB> As an outsider, what would you say are the biggest Dos and Don’ts in the region? For example: religious sites, language, attire to be worn, how to speak to the locals etc. 

Janette> South Africa is a very progressive country with a strong youth culture. Most of the country speaks English and South Africans are generally very friendly and helpful. The only thing to be aware of, like most places, is to be observant around petty crime, and I don’t recommend anyone self-driving in very remote areas of the country, simply to avoid getting lost in very rural areas.

LBB> What would be your number one tip to anyone coming to South Africa to shoot a campaign/film?

Janette> Explore as much of the region you are in as possible - local travel is affordable and there is plenty to see and appreciate about the country; from safari drives to surfing - and learning more about the local history and culture. I promise you it will be worth your while!

LBB> Where are the best bars/restaurants? Any hidden gems you could suggest?

Janette> South Africa’s diversity also includes the different cuisines on offer; from African, Indian, Cape Malay, and Mediterranean - most of the major cities have an assortment of great options to choose from. We are known as a foodie destination and boast some really great restaurants around the country…not to mention our wine! And of course, when in Cape Town, there is THE ELECTRIC 😉. 

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Groundglass, Fri, 09 Jun 2023 15:30:00 GMT