Instructions for Filming Crews in African Countries

Production crews must plan ahead of time when shooting in more distant areas of the continent, or they risk encountering goat ‘location fees,’ an audience of aggressive baboons, and unseasonable rain in the desert. Aside from the unpredictability of the surroundings, the amenities are frequently very modest. As a result, you must plan ahead of time to ensure that you carry everything you will need with you.

“One of the most difficult aspects of planning for a film in Africa is being really specific about what you will bring with you because there is typically very little equipment at the location where the production will take place.”

“There’s no way you can rent equipment that you’ve left behind in remote locations,” said Margie McMahon, a South African-based line producer or “fixer” who specialises in filming across Africa, from Angola to Morocco, Ethiopia to Madagascar. “Infrastructure is good in places like Kenya and Nigeria,” she remarked. “However, in remote locations, hiring equipment that you’ve left behind is impossible.”

There will always be those who are unprepared for the harsh realities of filmmaking in Africa, no matter how rigorously you organise and manage your clients’ expectations. “We’ve had some incredibly difficult shoots where consumers aren’t prepared for how rudimentary certain parts of Africa may be, no matter how much you warn them,” said Brin Kushner, executive producer of AFS Productions. “We’ve had some pretty difficult shoots.”

The idea that Africa is a very diverse country must also sink in for international producers, who must recognise that filming “Africa” for Africa, including the myriad features that viewers regard to be peculiar to Africa, is only achievable in select areas, such as Tanzania and Kenya.

“At the moment, nations such as Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda are becoming increasingly appealing as filming locations.” They are not difficult to film in, have useful resources for crews, and have a range of facets.” Of course, it also depends on the content, because the shoot may have location requirements that involve filming at a specific landmark inside a destination,” McMahon explained. “Perhaps the project has location constraints that necessitate filming at a specific landmark.”

Fixers are required

Jennifer Smith, who works for Stage and Screen and specialises in industry travel, observes that filming regulations vary depending on where the production takes place. “You need leave enough time to arrange your carnet, visas, and filming licences, and you should also consider how long it may take for your foreign shipments to clear customs.” We have important fixers and agents in the nations where our customers are interested to ensure that they are completely prepared.

This planning, according to Smith, requires organising travel plans to remote places with inconsistent and intermittent airlift service in order to carry out critical maintenance. “African travel networks might be unreliable. Ports are closed, planes are delayed and cancelled at will, and because there are no regular timetables, a crew or your equipment could be trapped for several days at a time.

There is only so much proactive forward planning that can be done in these situations, but it helps to have someone with African travel experience on the ground to alleviate the stress of rescheduling onward travel, tracking lost luggage, expediting excess baggage check-ins, and sorting out immediate travel requirements. This guarantees that the crew’s demands are properly met, that your equipment arrives on schedule, and that you have peace of mind.

McMahon described an event in which a crew arrived in Nairobi while in transit only to learn that their luggage had been left behind in a prior place. Because there were few aircraft that proceeded on to their final destination, they lost a day of time and were obliged to make alternate arrangements. “You have to plan for things that are out of your control, like confirming that your luggage is on the plane at each leg of the journey,” the person said.

Smith observed that workers are quite concerned about their belongings when travelling throughout Africa. Not only in terms of security, but also in terms of its ability to carry large amounts of weight and quantity. “When it comes to how much luggage (even more) can be moved, different airlines have different restrictions, and crews must be aware that specific countries have customs requirements when it comes to film equipment.”

“As a result, when travelling around Africa, it is vitally necessary to rely on a company that specialises in the specific needs of the television and film industries.” You must be able to calculate how much excess luggage you have, and if it is more than an aeroplane can carry, you must allot more time for the next trip so that the remaining half of the load may go on it.

As with most things in Africa, having contacts and global alliances that can assist with managing the bureaucracy and volatility of the environment is advantageous. “Having an on-the-ground grasp of each country’s quirks necessitates a strong network of partners within each location,” Smith explained. “Having a firsthand awareness of each country’s quirks”