How To Film In South Africa

South Africa’s vast landscape has leaned itself to a number of TV, commercial shoots, and films in the past.

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The regional disparity between lush vegetation and sandy plains provides filmmakers with a range of choices, enabling them to set scenes amongst the many differing types of backdrops here.

South Africa has a film-friendly policy. As a result, you can apply for permits online at the Gauteng Film Commission, the Durban Film Office and the City of Cape Town website. Permit applications should be submitted at least 10 to 14 days before the start of the shoot.

To ensure your application is approved, we’ve provided links to permit guidelines in Gauteng Province (Johannesburg)Cape Town and Durban. In general, permission is required if filming disrupts traffic or access to public spaces.

You’ll also need permission to erect sets, film on boats, or use aircraft, fireworks, or explosive devices. The crew is expected to behave properly, respect residents and the environment, and clean up at the end of each day. Permits must be available for inspection at all locations.

Hiring freelance film crew

The film industry in South Africa is supported by experienced and hardworking crew. In fact, the technical expertise and talent of local crew members is often quoted as one of the reasons why so many international companies choose to film in South Africa.

You can hire anybody and everybody, from directors, actors and camera operators and assistants to grips, gaffers, runners, and stylists on an ad hoc basis. Krewcut, Pulse Crew, and Call-A-Crew are online booking agents that’ll help you streamline your search for the best available freelance film crew in South Africa

South Africa Film Locations

Gauteng

Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. The city is famous for its thousands of jacaranda trees, National Botanical Garden, universities, Union Buildings, and the Voortrekker Monument.

Johannesburg is Southern Africa’s largest city. It is the economic heart of Africa and the most common entry point into Southern Africa. Locations of note include the busy city center, Neighbourgoods Market, Johannesburg City Hall, Constitution Hill, and Ponte City Tower which featured in District 9 (2009). Carlton Centre observation deck offers shots of the city from above. Soweto township is located on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The Lion & Safari Park is located an hour’s drive from Johannesburg.

Western Cape

Nestled between the South Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Cape Town is world-renowned for its vast variety of film locations within an hour’s drive from the city center including its central business district, modern and old-world locations, neighborhoods, hillside communities, promenade, parks, beaches, cliffs, and ocean.

Beaches of note include Clifton Beaches, Bakoven Beach, and Llandudno Beach. Boulders Beach has penguins. Muizenberg has colorful Victorian bathing houses lining the beach. Chapman’s Peak Drive “Chappies” is one of the world’s most beautiful coastal roads. Macassar Beach Pavilion is an abandoned water park overtaken by beach dunes. Camps Bay has many beautiful mansions. Bo Kaap is a neighborhood with brightly coloured buildings. Parks of note include Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Company’s Garden. The Cape of Good Hope is a beautiful natural location. Cape Town City Hall is one old-world building of note. The South African Astronomical Observatory has space telescopes available for filming. Cheetah Outreach is a nature preserve. Cape Winelands is South Africa’s wine-producing region. Robben Island is another location of note in Cape Town.

Cape Town’s magnificent coastline and status as one of the windiest city on earth makes it a destination for ocean-bound shoots. Tall ships, fishing boats, and a range of other seafaring vessels are available for filming.

Beyond the Cape Town area, the region of Western Cape has several other locations of interest to filmmakers and photographers. Ceres is home to the beautiful modern Bosjes Chapel. Gansbaa has shark cage diving. Cango Caves is the largest cave system in Africa. Swartberg Pass is a rugged mountain road great for filming car commercials. Birds of Eden is the world’s largest free flight aviary and bird sanctuary. Garden Route National Park is known for its high forested mountains and beaches.

Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape is known for its spectacular coastline. Beaches of note include Port Elizabeth, East London and Jeffreys Bay, the surfing mecca of South Africa. National parks of note include Tsitsikamma National Park, Addo Elephant National Park, Camdeboo National Park, and Kragga Kamma Game Park. Bloukrans Bridge is a spectacular structure. Tiffindell Ski Resort is South Africa’s only ski resort.

Northern Cape

The Northern Cape is famous for its diamond mines. Kimberley is the capital of the Northern Cape. Upington is a good base for filming the Kalahari desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. Other natural locations of note in the Northern Cape include Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and Mokala National Park. Southern African Large Telescope is also located in this part of South Africa. Okiep is a small mining town that doubled for Ethiopia in the opening scene of Uncut Gems (2019).

Free State

Free State is a major agricultural area and the heartland of the white Afrikaaner population. Crops are as diverse as cherry orchards, to asparagus farms, to wheat fields. Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa.

KwaZulu-Natal

KwaZulu-Natal is known for its beaches, waterfalls, mountains and savannah populated by big game. The city of Durban has African, Indian and colonial influences. The Memorial Tower Building at the University of Kwazulu Natal is an impressive structure. Newcastle is a large industrial city. Sani Pass is a rugged mountain road. Natural locations of note include Royal Natal National Park, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, African Bird of Prey Sanctuary, Howick Falls, and Tugela Falls (the world’s second highest waterfall). Sugarcane plantations can be found along the Indian Ocean coast.

North West

This region is home to Sun City resort, Pilanesburg National Park, and the world’s richest platinum reserves. The North West is cattle country. You can also find an abundance of corn and sunflower fields.

Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga is known for the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and Timbavati Game Reserve. Nelspruit is the gateway to Mozambique and the southern section of the Kruger National Park. Mpumalanga is rich in coal reserves. The area is known for its many citrus and subtropical fruit orchards.

Limpopo

Limpopo is known for bushveld and wildlife reserves including Kruger National Park, Welgevonden Game Reserve, Dinokeng Game Reserve, and Kapama Game Reserve. Polokwane is a good jump off point for shoots in the northern parts of the Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe. Limpopo is home to a wide variety of agricultural crops as diverse as sunflowers, cotton, corn, tropical fruit, tea and coffee plantations.

Territories

Located in the Southern Ocean, Marion Island and Prince Edward Island are territories of South Africa.

South Africa Film Location Permits

South Africa has a film friendly and streamlined permitting process, with a number of privately owned locations as well as those that run through the film office. Citywide permits are available for filming b-roll at public locations. For more complicated shoots that require large setups or shutting down city streets, allow at least 2 weeks for permitting. It’s recommended to shoot downtown streets on a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday. Drone filming is permitted in South Africa.

When To Shoot?

South Africa’s climate is generally sunny and pleasant, but there is considerable regional variation. The north-west is very arid, the south is temperate, and the north-east has a more tropical climate. Winters (May to August) are generally mild, particularly in the Western Cape. Most of the rest of the country receives only a brief cold spell, with snow falling on the mountain ranges. The rainiest months in Cape Town are May to August. Johannesburg receives most of its annual rainfall in the summer (November to March) making it a great weather film destination for the winter months. During mid-summer South Africa experiences 15 hours of daylight. For monthly weather statistics please see here.

Kaapse Klopse (Cape Minstrel Carnival) takes place in January. The Royal Reed Dance is a traditional Zulu event taking place in September. For underwater photographers, the annual Sardine Run takes place from June to July.

Public holidays may affect timing, availability, and costs.

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