We managed to catch up with director Craig Freidmond between production and post production of his latest film shot in Joburg and got to speak to him about his experience of securing locations for a feature on a tight budget.

jul-joburg
Joburg CBD from Yeoville koppie
Recently shot in Joburg, a new South African film with the working title �Stiff�. Director and writer, Craig Freidmond, a commercials, features and television director, describes it as �a love story about Joburg�. Produced by Videovision Entertainment in collaboration with TOM Pictures, this feature was shot on a limited budget. Freidmond explained that although affordable locations are difficult to find, they did nonetheless manage to secure some visually inspiring locations.

The love story hinges around the dynamic of wanting to leave Joburg and yet continually being attracted back through rediscovering the City. Locations illustrating this push / pull effect � that which attracts and that which repels � had to be carefully chosen. The narrative relates the story of a sitcom writer who discovers he has lost his sense of humour. His journey to find this part of his being involves an adventure from the suburbs through rehab centres, mielie fields, Indian sweat lodges, and even regular updates with his parents in Sydney, combined with characters real and fictional.

According to Freidmond by far the biggest location challenge to shooting in and around Joburg was to find a country location with an institution which could be used to shoot the part of the story that takes place in a Christian �tough love� rehabilitation centre. Initially he wanted a Karoo landscape but he soon gave up on that and settled for �somewhere in the countryside�. The exterior needed to be daunting with an authoritarian atmosphere � redolent of a prison. The interior needed to be set on large grounds with room to exercise, run, walk the dogs, escape from, with a church, offices, dormitories etc. It was impossible to find a suitable location with the required interior and exterior atmosphere and elements so they had to settle on two separate locations.

Freidmond ended up shooting the exteriors at the old dynamite factory in Modderfontein and the interiors at Isindiso Ministries on Marshall Street in the centre of Johannesburg. Isindiso Ministries was by far the most interesting location. According to one of the actors David Butler, �the rehabilitation canteen and dormitory scenes were shot in the Ministry and the institutional look and feel was just perfect for the project�. While moseying around outside Butler noticed it was more than just a location, it also had a heritage plaque which stated that the building, dating back to 1955, had once been a pass office. �It is perfectly preserved 1950s institutional architecture� he added.

Shooting the interior and exterior in separate locations was not without its challenges, in particular care had to be taken while shooting the dormitory scenes on the fifth floor of the building, that windows with views of the city were not included as the rehab centre is located in the countryside.

At the top of Rose Street in Houghton Estate, opposite St John�s College, sits a row of five empty �art and craft� style double-storey houses. Rumour has it that they were going to be converted into a hotel but this has not happened yet, luckily for Freidmond. One of the houses was used as the home of the parents of the main character. His parents have moved to a small flat in Australia and he gatecrashes their empty house which cannot be sold. This location provided incredible views over Killarney and the green forest of Joburg.

A particularly tricky location that had to be found was a ledge with City views that could hold an actor as well as a crew. The Mills on Quinn Street in Newtown provided such a ledge. �The view of the freeway and the City was really beautiful�, said Freidmond. Freidmond also shot in the offices of Business Arts South Africa (BASA) and Ochre Media. Shivavas was also used, as were the streets in and around Newtown. Newtown is that mix of inner city urban sophistication and edgy, gritty street life in one location.

One of the most unusual locations was the national Pentecostal church on the corner of Abel and Joe Slovo in Doornfontein. Shooting took place in the large tent on a Sunday during an actual church service. �The fall of the tent flaps was very visual. This location was spectacular�, said Freidmond. Another unusual location was a mielie field on a farm near Heidelberg in Sedibeng, about 40 kilometres from Joburg. Kromdraai and Muldersdrift were also used for country scenes, including green houses, tomato farms, and road scenes to and from the rehab centre. Part of the film is set on the set of a sitcom called �Jozi Jives� set on the real life set of Egoli.

One of the biggest challenges of shooting on a tight budget included having to shoot a Tuesday to Sunday week in order to maximise on other people�s down time (such as offices) and thereby making it more affordable to shoot in certain locations. The interview ended on a very positive note with Freidmond saying that �Shooting in Joburg is easy�. �In Joburg there is still intrigue and fascination for the filming process, and permits are cheap and easy to get. You meet with very little hostility as compared with Cape Town where people are much more film aware and wary�.

Post production is about to start and the film is due for release later this year. Craig Freidmond has directed a feature film, �Gums and Noses�, two seasons of the television series �Sorted� and numerous commercials.