The debate around film companies being charged high location fees or refused access by certain tourism venues and attractions  has raised several important issues, which In Focus intends to examine in upcoming editions.

One issue that is too often overlooked is that of the role of film crews when shooting in particular locations, particularly those that are sensitive or protected environments.  In Focus spoke to Wendy Carstens, Chairman of the Melville Koppies Management Committee about what conservationists concerns are and what should film crews be doing when they shoot in such locations.

Following her experiences with film crews, she has drawn up a list of conditions for filming at Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, to ensure there are no misunderstandings and everyone's role is clear.  These conditions were drawn up in consultation with Cape Nature and Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, which have strong management organisations (see end of article for conditions document).

Carstens pointed out that possible reasons for refusing access to tourist venues or charging what might seem like high amounts could include the behaviour of previous crews, particularly in sensitive environments; lack of staff to monitor the film crews, again important in protected or valuable environments; and lengthy bureaucratic procedures to be followed by some council-owned organisations.

Issues that she has encountered in the past include:

  • The number of people on site escalating from the one stipulated in the application unless monitored;
  • Crews tending not to keep to the designated area but spreading out all over the veld, trampling delicate veld flowers as they go;
  • Not sticking to arranged times, arriving either very late or very early;
  • Expecting service at extremely short notice through a lack of forward planning;
  • The goalposts are changed, with 'just' being frequently used, such as just one vehicle, just a tent, just a few more hours;
  • A lack of understanding of what an indigenous nature reserve is all about, which goes far beyond simply picking up litter when on site;
  • Inappropriate filming requests, especially concerning commercial adverts.


Film companies which are allowed to film at Melville Koppies are very closely monitored for the full duration of filming and also sign the conditions for filming so there is no chance of misunderstanding. Carstens stresses that she is on duty at all times during filming.

She points out that with these clear working conditions and co-operation between the reserve and film companies, there have been no disasters.  "I work with many film companies which promote Melville Koppies for local and overseas tourists and make appropriate educational films."

Turning to the charges, she says donations relate to the time taken and the budget of the company. "We are not greedy, but we expect reasonable donations to help with the costs of maintenance. We employ unemployed church people to work in the conservation team. The Council provides no funding for this and the whole reserve is looked after by a volunteer committee."

Carstens believes tourist venues need to play their role as well, to ensure a win/win for all parties.  These include:

  • Drawing up appropriate conditions for filming at their venue;
  • Having a responsible person monitor the filming for the whole duration, not a security guard; and
  • Charging according to the size of the crew and the number of hours spent filming.

For more information, contact Friends of the Melville Koppies on +27 11 482 4797 or visit the website on

To download the Conditions for filming at Melville Koppies pdf please click on the link below:

Conditions for filming at Melville Koppies 19kb