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Location shooting in Gauteng

Commissioner Street in central Johannesburg
Commissioner Street in central Johannesburg.

Gauteng is South Africa’s smallest province, but has a sophisticated economy, a developed infrastructure, an established film industry – and incredibly diverse filming locations.

These irange from the urban and industrial landscapes of Johannesburg, the province’s biggest city and the economic powerhouse of Africa, to gold mines, small towns, nature reserves and botanical gardens, monuments, historical buildings and the majestic Magaliesberg mountain range.

This is where modern and ancient meet as one of the world’s most dense, high-rise urban centres give way to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, with its pristine cave formations, undulating savannah grassland and scenic mountain vistas.

Major urban and cosmopolitan centres

  • Johannesburg and Soweto
  • Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, centrally located in the greater Tshwane metropolitan municipality
  • Ekurhuleni, encompassing historic mining villages, towns and townships along the East Rand and a prolific gold-producing region
  • The West Rand, including the historic mining town of Krugersdorp in the Mogale City municipal area
  • The Edwardian-era diamond mining town of Cullinan and gateway to a Big Five game reserve
  • Heidelberg, a scenic 19th century Dutch settler town located in a scenic mountainous area
  • The heavy industrial areas of Vereeniging, which is also home to historic military fortifications, cemeteries and battlefields
Eland in a game farm in the Sedibeng region
Eland in a game farm in the Sedibeng region.

Street- and townscapes

  • Precolonial African settlements
  • Victorian and Edwardian mining villages
  • 19th century Dutch settler villages
  • Victorian streetscapes and expansive garden city suburbs
  • Classical Edwardian architecture and streetscapes
  • Art Deco architecture and streetscapes, high- and low-rise
  • International, modern and contemporary European and American high-rise architecture
  • African markets and streetscapes
  • American Western ranches
  • Colonial Africana
  • Post-industrial and sci-fi
The Voortrekker Monument
The Voortrekker Monument outside Pretoria.

Visual icons

  • Nelson Mandela Bridge, Johannesburg
  • Johannesburg skyline
  • Union Buildings, Pretoria
  • Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria
  • Headgear and mine dumps
  • Hillbrow and Brixton towers
  • Soweto street-scenes
  • Financial and business district of Sandton

Natural locations

  • Wetlands, lakes and waterways
  • Open savannah grassland
  • Dense safari bush
  • Scenic and dramatic mountainous
  • Cave systems and geological formations

Public film permits

The GFC does not issue location filming permits, nor does the GFC have a film permit unit. Permits are issued by the relevant city, provincial or national departments, agencies and authorities. Some government departments and agencies have asked for permit applications to be channelled through the GFC. This allows us to keep better track of what is happening in the Gauteng and help us identify and address bottlenecks.

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Guidelines for location filming in Gauteng

Johannesburg at night
Johannesburg at night.

Most publicly owned roads, streets, sidewalks and other public spaces such as squares, walkways, parks, cemeteries require a public filming permit to be issued by the relevant authority. Most government-owned structures also require permission prior to filming. Certain military installations, courts, national key points and other designated sites may further restrict certain types of activities.

As requirements vary between municipalities, contact the GFC for assistance.

The guidelines below highlight potentially sensitive filming locations, which may set their own specific permitting conditions.

Production companies should keep issued permits with them at all times, and should abide by any conditions that may have been set by the relevant authority.

Aircraft (helicopters and fixed wing)

Gautrain rapid rail link
The Gautrain rapid rail link.

Permission for the use of aircraft is supplied by the Civil Aviation Authority of South Africa. The relevant municipal departments also need to be notified.

The production company is to ensure that the relevant permission for the use of an aircraft in an urban area is supplied by the disaster management department of the relevant municipal authority.

Special indemnity forms may be requested by the relevant authority, and should be filed by the operator of the aircraft.

The relevant municipal department may advise on certain areas that may not be flown over due to safety, environmental and social issues.

If required landing zones should be ascertained during the application process.

Landing zones usually require a 100-metre open radius between the landing site and the nearest structure.

Airports

Most commercial airports in Gauteng are managed by the Airports Company South Africa. As some airports are declared national key points, restrictions may apply.

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Animals on set

Balfour
Semi-detached houses in the town of Balfour.

Although the film industry in South Africa has not developed its own set of filming guidelines for working with animals, the industry is regulated by the Animals Protection Act and the Performing Animals Protection Act. The Animals Protection Act (Number 7 of 9 2) relates to the prevention of cruelty to animals.

Both Acts can be accessed from the Animal Anti-Cruelty League website. Guidance can also be obtained from the Animal Anti-Cruelty League, the NSPCA and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Performing Animals Protection Act (Number 24 of 93 ) regulates the exhibition and training of performing animals and the use of dogs for safeguarding. According to this act: “No person shall exhibit or train or cause or permit to be exhibited or trained for exhibition any animal of which he is the owner or has the lawful custody or use any dog for safeguarding unless such person is the holder of a license”. If animals are used on a movie set, an animal trainer with a valid licence must therefore be employed by the production company.

Conservation of wild animals outside nature reserves is governed by provincial ordinances, with the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development administering the relevant legislation. Conservation is enforced through legislation that makes it an offence to hunt animals and perform certain other actions that may detrimentally affect them.

Note that a permit is required to import into, transport through and export out of the province any wild animal. In addition a permit is also required to keep any wild animal in captivity whether temporary or permanent. Permit applications are to be made to the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. In addition note that there are certain species of wild animals that are not allowed into the province.

In terms of existing legislation wild animals may not be restrained by means of a rope, chain or any similar device. The cage or enclosure in which it is kept must also be of at least the specified minimum size for the animal and built of approved materials, so that it is adequately ventilated and lit and provides protection against the weather. The regulations also stipulate that cages must be cleaned at least once a day. Generally, a permit will be issued if all these regulations are adhered to.

For the use of animals in urban areas, approval may need to be obtained from the relevant municipal department.

Call and wrap times out of business hours

Irene
Irene, south of Pretoria.

Where call and wrap times are outside of traditional business hours it is recommended that affected neighbours be notified of the call and wrap times by way of a letter drop in advance of the shoot.

Catering

Relevant regulations and bylaws govern the preparation of food and the consumption of alcohol. It is advisable that the relevant licenses are secured and complied with.

Catering facilities should also comply with the relevant fire service regulations and municipal by-laws - fire extinguishers available, and so on.

Suitable arrangements must also be made for the storage of all waste products on site during the production. Please be environmentally responsible!

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City Improvement Districts

Johannesburg City Hall
Inside the Johannesburg City hall in the city centre.

A City Improvement District (CID) is a defined geographic area within which property owners agree to pay for certain services to enhance the physical and social environment of the area. Many CIDs are established through acts of the Provincial Legislature and as such are enforceable by law. CIDs can therefore place restrictions on certain activities, such as filming, and can set fees for granting permission.

All fees received from production companies for filming in CIDs contribute to the maintenance of the public space.

CIDs in Johannesburg include Sandton Central, Rosebank Management District, Illovo Boulevard Management District, Central Improvement District (inner city), South Western Improvement District (inner city), Retail Improvement District (inner city), Braamfontein, Randburg, Wynberg, Benrose, Civic, Legislature, Sloane Precinct (Bryanston), Newtown, Constitutional Court (Braamfontein), Main Street Mall and Gandhi Square.

When filming in any of these CIDs, requests must be channelled through the GFC to the relevant managing authority for approval. Fees are charged by the Newtown Management District, Main Street Mall and Gandhi Square. For assistance contact the GFC.

Cleanliness

Municipalities are not responsible for the cleaning of locations after a shoot. This is the responsibility of the production company. All waste and litter should be removed from and disposed of in an appropriate manner.

Production companies should also ensure that no wild or stray animals are fed, either directly or indirectly, such as allowing animals to access waste, craft and/or catering tables. Waste should best be kept in dustbins, and removed on completion of the shoot.

Also see Hazardous waste.

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Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

Maropeng visitors centre
The Maropeng visitors' centre in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, which includes the Sterkfontein caves and Maropeng visitors’ centre, requires that filming applications be forwarded to the relevant authority. Contact the GFC for assistance.

Also see Environmentally and culturally sensitive locations.

Dinokeng Game Reserve

The Dinokeng Game Reserve requires that filming applications be forwarded to the relevant authority. Contact the GFC for assistance.

Also see Environmentally and culturally sensitive locations.

Emergency management services

In case of an emergency please dial 2 from your mobile phone or 0 (nationwide emergency response) from a landline for emergency services. The City of Johannesburg emergency contact centre number is 10177 or 112 if you are phoning from a cellphone. For police emergency services – the Flying Squad – in Johannesburg dial 0 98 9000/9 .

Environmentally and culturally sensitive locations

Hartebeespoort Dam
Hartebeespoort Dam

Environmentally sensitive locations in Gauteng include wetlands, ridges, river systems, declared provincial and municipal conservation areas, dolomitic land, erodible soil, cave systems and paleontological and archaeological sites. In addition, the South African Heritage Resources Act defines a “heritage resource” as either a site or structure formally declared and listed on the national, provincial or local heritage registers or as any structure that is older than 0 years. These environmentally and culturally sensitive locations may have set special filming conditions.

Formally declared conservation areas are ecologically sensitive locations and should be treated as such. In Gauteng they include:

  • Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
  • Johannesburg Botanical Garden
  • Pretoria National Botanical Garden
  • Abe Bailey Nature Reserve
  • Marievale Nature Reserve
  • Alice Glockner Nature Reserve
  • Roodeplaat Nature Reserve
  • Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve
  • Kromdraai Conservancy
  • Krugersdorp Nature Reserve
  • Rietvlei Nature Reserve
  • Wonderboom Nature Reserve
  • Tswaing Crater
  • Blesbokspruit RAMSAR wetland
Johannesburg Roads Agency building
Mosque reflected in the windows of the Johannesburg Roads Agency building in the city centre.

Care should also be taken when filming in locations where red data and endangered species (both plants and animals) are prevalent as well as in indigenous grasslands in particular during the growing season.

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, which includes the Sterkfontein caves, and the Dinokeng Game Reserve also require that filming applications be forwarded to the relevant authority.

Note that the use of nails in trees is generally discouraged.

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Fireworks

See Pyrotechnics, special effects and stunts

Gandhi Square

See City Improvement Districts.

Generators

In residential areas it is advisable to use blimped (quiet) generators. Also ensure that exhaust fumes do not unduly affect residents or the public.

Portable generators should also have catch receptacles for leaks and/or when filling takes place.

Always ensure that the positioning of the generators do not compromise emergency services access to and safe evacuation/egress from the site and should not obstruct fire hydrants or other emergency water supplies.

Government and public buildings

When government owned buildings or properties are utilised it is recommended that the GFC is notified. This will allow the GFC to facilitate permission with the relevant authorities.

Hazardous waste

Hot-air balloon in the Magaliesberg
Hot-air balloon in the Magaliesberg mountains region.

There are specific regulations that govern the management and disposal of hazardous and medical waste and the appropriate arrangements must be made to dispose of such waste. Also see Cleanliness.

Insurance

It is advisable that the necessary public liability insurance and any other applicable insurance cover is secured prior to commencement of shooting. Some permitting authorities may request proof of public liability insurance.

Keys

When filming on public property please ensure that locks are not left unlocked or gates left open. It is the responsibility of the production company to ensure that the necessary arrangements are made regarding the locking and unlocking of a property.

Main Street Mall

See City Improvement Districts.

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Newtown

See City Improvement Districts.

Noise

Noise-generating activities are regulated by the relevant noise control regulations and by laws. See Generators. When using firearms and pyrotechnics (including fireworks) note that certain restrictions may apply – see Pyrotechnics, special effects and stunts.

Notifications

The GFC seeks to ensure community support for location filming. It is therefore recommended that affected neighbours, residents and communities are notified through a letter drop in advance of the shoot. Contact the GFC for a sample notification letter.

Should residents or communities wish to lodge a complaint we encourage them to do so in writing. The GFC will gladly help to smooth out any problems.

Main Street in Johannesburg
Warehouses in Main Street in the Johannesburg city centre.

Note that many communities regularly play host to location filming – particularly during the production season. In order to avoid a hostile community reaction please always ensure that crew are courteous to the public. Where a community is aggrieved always notify the GFC so that we can help address concerns. This will alleviate problems next time a film crew wants to work in that community.

Nudity

No public indecency is permitted. Nudity is never permissible in public.

Parking

Normal use of public parking should not be hindered by a crew filming on location without prior arrangement with the relevant authority.

No designated parking bays and/ or paved sidewalks should be obstructed or occupied unless approved. All parking regulations should be adhered to. No parking in loading bays or disabled bays unless by prior arrangement.

Also see Public roads and streets.

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Plants on set

Gauteng has more plant species per unit area than any other province except for the Western Cape, which is the most diverse area in the world. Fynbos has the greatest species diversity, followed by the Highveld grassland biome – which is found in Gauteng. Please be environmentally responsible!

Nan Hua Buddhist temple
The Nan Hua Buddhist temple near Brobkhorstspruit.

Plants are conserved through the control of picking and of other actions that may be detrimental to protected plants. It is an offence to pick a protected plant without a permit. Picking or gathering is defined in wide terms as including cutting, chopping off, taking, plucking, uprooting, breaking, damaging or destroying. Landowners are exempted from some provisions with respect to protected and any other indigenous plants on their own land.

It is likewise an offence to pick protected and any other indigenous plants on land of which one is not the owner, without the owner’s written permission, or to pick indigenous plants on a public road or within a certain area on both sides of a public road without a permit.

Certain species of flora as listed under the relevant Act may have different restrictions applicable to them: for example, certain species may not be permitted within South Africa, while other species have restrictions on area of distribution. Certain invasive plant species may therefore be prohibited from entering Gauteng and possessing such plants may be a criminal offence.

Public liability insurance

See Insurance.

Public roads and streets

Park Station
Inside Park Station in Johannesburg.

For public filming on roads, streets, sidewalks and other public spaces, a public filming permit is required from the relevant authority. It is advisable that such applications are referred to the GFC for assistance. Note that each application will be handled on merit by the relevant traffic authority. The GFC will assist to identify the correct authority for each location required. The relevant traffic authority may set specific conditions and may require that a shoot is supervised.

Filming on arterials and main roads are restricted to off-peak hours and shall not take place during peak hours as determined by the relevant authority. Full closure of a section of road (or part thereof) with diversion of traffic is permitted subject to whatever conditions the relevant traffic authority may determine. Only the relevant traffic authority can approve road closures (either short or long term) and may request that such closures be supervised.

Residents and businesses in the surrounding vicinity of the road should be informed of the shoot timeously – see Notifications.

Free flow of traffic should not be obstructed unless by prior arrangement. The area should be cordoned off in such a manner as to not impede on the free flow of traffic, pedestrians and cyclists unless by prior arrangement.

Disturbance should not be caused to the animals and plants in the vicinity of the shoot.

No directional signage should be erected on national or provincial roads unless specific approvals have been secured. If such approval is obtained be sure to take down any signs erected for the shoot after the shoot is finished.

Any barricades erected must comply with the applicable legislation and may need to be supervised by a police or traffic officer.

Also see Parking.

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Pyrotechnics, special effects and stunts

The Union Buildings
The Union Buildings, the seat of South Africa's executive government, in Pretoria.

The GFC should be advised in advance in writing when the use of explosives, flammable liquids, hazardous materials and/or incendiary devices are planned to be used in the province. This will allow the GFC to secure the relevant approvals.

For the use of fireworks can be bought over the counter, the relevant authorities must be notified in writing. This is done through the GFC.

For the use of fireworks that are not available over the counter, the services of a licensed pyrotechnician must be secured. Professional pyrotechnicians will be aware of the relevant bylaws. Police, fire, traffic or disaster management officers may also be required to be present on set.

Discharges or where the use of fire, excessive smoke, explosives, stunts or motor vehicle accident scenes are used by film crews, should be communicated to the relevant disaster management authorities and, if required, the media to avoid a situation whereby emergency services are dispatched in error.

Where a firearm is used such permission is required from the South African Police Service. Note that only blank rounds may be discharged.

Road signs

Requests to cover, alter, remove and/or reinstate road traffic signage must be included in the permit applications. It is not permissible to attach directional signage to traffic signs as this interferes with traffic safety, unless express approval has been secured from the relevant traffic authority.

Security

Production companies should label all equipment to reduce the chance of illegal or dangerous articles – such as explosives – getting mixed up with equipment.

If filming is planned within a national keypoint (high security) boundary or is in the vicinity of such a facility, authorisation is to be obtained from the relevant authority.

Production companies are responsible for the security of the location, cast and crew at all times.

Also see Emergency management services.

Signage

For safety reasons interior safety signs in buildings should not be covered, (e.g. fire exit signs) unless expressly agreed to by the relevant manager in consultation with fire safety and the building’s Organisational Health and Safety (OHS) Act representative. Remember to uncover them before you leave.

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Smoke machines

Non- toxic, non-pollutant smoke machines are recommended.

The production company should inform the relevant authorities when excessive smoke is to be generated on set, especially during the fire season as “false alarms” can impede the fire services in the performance of their function.

Stormwater systems

Using stormwater systems require permission from Rand Water or the relevant authority.

When filming in stormwater systems caution must be used particularly during rain or flash floods.

Stormwater systems may not be blocked off without prior permission.

Note that naked flames or fires should not be placed in manholes or pipes, as combustible gasses may be present. Remember that the responsibility for the safe use of the stormwater system lies with the production company.

Supervision

The GFC and/or permitting authority reserves the right to monitor productions of a nature that could cause damage to the environment or public property.

Relevant officers from traffic control, municipal police departments, law enforcement agencies, environmental control, health control, fire prevention, emergency services and disaster management may also be required, depending on the nature of the location and the activities taking place. Costs associated with such supervision may be at a cost to the production company.

Toilet facilities

Provision should be made for the supply and availability of an adequate number of toilet facilities for the duration of the shoot.

Where portable chemical toilets are used, such toilets should be serviced on a regular basis and the disposal of all waste and soil water must be carried out in an appropriate manner.

Trains

Transnet Freight Rail imposes certain restrictions on filming on railway tracks due to safety reasons. The filming of trains will only be allowed if they don’t adversely interfere with the company’s day to day operations.

For passenger trains, approval must be obtained from Metrorail.

The GFC recommends that all Transnet Freight Rail and Metrorail filming applications applicable for Gauteng are submitted via the GFC offices in order to ensure an efficient application process.

Vehicles

Vehicle access should be limited to hard surfaced roadways unless a departure is agreed on by the manager in charge of the area or the relevant authority. In ecologically sensitive areas please only drive in the areas indicated by the relevant official. Also see Environmentally and culturally sensitive locations.

Vehicles may not block or obstruct entrance ways, pathways and emergency evacuation routes.

Please ensure that vehicles do not leak or discharge any fluids or harmful substances.

For safety reasons it is recommended that keys are not left in unattended vehicles.

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