By Ugo Bresolin
We had the chance to talk with Namib Film, an internationally renowned film production and location services company based in Namibia. Guy Nockels, CEO of the company, explained to us how they have become the primary choice for many major international productions, including Mad Max Fury Road, Transformers, and others.
Production Paradise: Your company was founded in 2000 but your team has decades of experience in the industry. Could you tell us more about your beginnings? Would you share a bit of your story with us?
Guy Nockels: I started in the sound department in the early 1970’s and worked at the BBC between 1976 and 1980. I moved back to South Africa and continued working in the sound department for a number of years, but then teamed up with a cameraman and started our first production company focusing on educational television.
After a few of years I decided that I wanted to be more involved with feature films and broke off into the Assistant Director field. I worked in Southern Africa, the UK, Poland and France on a few films, nothing big, but worked with Brook Shields, Jurgen Prochnow, Angie Everhart, Louis Gosset Jnr, Hugh Laurie and Miranda Otto to name a few.
In 2000 I decided to retire and looked for a location that kept me in Africa but away from the crime of South Africa and I landed in Namibia, where I had shot on a number of occasions over the years.
Namibia is a wonderful country, with wide open spaces, great locations and friendly people, who slowly welcomed me into their lives. A few days before I moved to Namibia I was contacted by a friend from Ireland and asked if I would do some scouting for her as she had heard I was moving to Swakopmund, which I agreed to do. So things evolved with the next “big” event in 2001, when I was contacted by Colin Gibson, the Production Designer of Mad Max Fury Road asking about deserts and filming locations. I invited him to visit Namibia which he did and was blown away by our locations.
What a lot of people don’t know, is that Mad Max actually started pre-production in Namibia in 2003, but for a number of reasons it was cancelled and the day we had a “wrap” party for Mad Max, I was called by the Director John Moore asking about the possibility of shooting the remake of the Flight of the Phoenix in Namibia as soon as possible.
Well, as they say the rest is history and Namib Film serviced our first Hollywood feature film from start to finish. Over the next few years, things moved along at a rapid rate and Namib Film became Namibia’s premier production service company with many people trying to follow with little or no success. Soon after, Bollywood arrived in Namibia and Namib Film facilitated 6 feature films such as Drona, Dhoom II and Ghajini.
Throughout the past 17 years Namib Film has serviced a large number of different productions, including music videos, TV commercials, reality television, documentaries and photographic shoots, but have never lost our prime focus – to produce the best service for any visiting production no matter how big or how small. Our byline has stood us proud, “Never underestimate the advantage of local knowledge”.
Production Paradise: From those years your reputation has grown and you’re now a leader in your field. What is the scale of productions you’re focused on? Are you only specialised in large productions?
Guy Nockels: There has been a misconception that Namib Film only facilitates large productions, but this is not true – our clients over the years have included small art films like Heat Haze from Ireland (with a crew of 6) to a 2-man crew shooting an internet film. Namib Film has supported all kinds and sizes of productions.
Over the years, Namib Film has also done a number of photographic shoots from kids clothing catalogues to an Afghan textile company, with much more in-between. Namib Film has facilitated small documentary crews, local and international music videos, reality TV shows with a cast of 1 and a crew of 5, as well as a 10-day hike through the wilderness with a crew of 25.
In 2013 I decided that it would be a good idea to separate the different types of productions, so I bought Magic Touch Films, which had a reputation of specialising in documentaries and we then split Namib Film into two entities; Namib Film – the commercial division and Magic Touch Films – the documentary side of the business.
Since the formation of the different entities, we had tremendous success in both sectors with clients commenting on how they like the new structure and, with this, we hope the entities will continue to grow.
Production Paradise: Recently you’ve been working with large productions such as Mad Max and Transformers. Tell us more about those experiences.
Guy Nockels: Big feature films are a different beast to commercials, music videos, reality TV and documentaries. They are also long-term. For example, Flight of the Phoenix arrived in Namibia in May and only departed in April the following year. Their demands and expectations are extremely high, with everyone wanting a 5-star hotel room, a private limo and everything to happen immediately, which in a small African country like Namibia is not always possible.
Transformers: The Last Knight was a whirlwind production! We were in contact with them months before the shoot, location scouting for the ideal location and then it all went quiet and then suddenly there was this big rush; 6 cameras and 60 crew members coming in, 2 helicopters, a village that needed to be built in one of the most difficult locations we have, with very little preparation.
The final location for the village was only confirmed days before the shoot, so the construction team had to pre-build the village huts and then they were flown in one at a time and placed in position by helicopter. It was hectic with everything happening at high speed and when it was all over, it was like a sandstorm had blown in and was over – all quiet as we dusted ourselves off and got ready for the next one.
Production Paradise: You’re based in Namibia but you also cover nearby countries. Tell us how your portfolio of unique locations makes you stand out among competitors?
Guy Nockels: Namibia has some unique locations that are easily accessible and easy to film in. For example, our local dunes at the coast are only 30 minutes away from our top hotels, so one minute you’re in the desert surrounded by sand and 30 minutes later you’re in your hotel sipping a cold drink with internet access to check your mails. What more could you want when shooting your next desert scene?
There is also a wide variety of different locations across the country that are fairly close to modern amenities, our 2 international airports are well situated, Windhoek our capital is centrally positioned to service the northern and eastern parts of the country and Walvis Bay airport covers the western and southern parts of the country. In fact, from Walvis Bay Airport it is only a 15 minutes drive to the coastal dunes, very convenient for the quick in-and-out production, such as a music video or commercial.
Namibia’s location and relationship with its neighbouring countries in itself also makes it an ideal stepping stone into countries such as Angola and Botswana. Apart from international connecting flights, our fixers understand the challenges of filming there.
Production Paradise: Your primary mission is in bridging the gap between Namibia and international production companies. What is the reason a filmmaker should choose you?
Guy Nockels: Experience, experience, experience. Local knowledge and locations.
Production Paradise: What are the future plans of Namib Film?
Guy Nockels: Continuing to grow with our clients, to keep up the professional service that they all have come to expect from us, and to make sure the Namibian industry grows alongside us.
Production Paradise: How has Production Paradise helped you in reaching more customers?
Guy Nockels: The best part of Production Paradise is the new section Location Finder. As new members of Production Paradise, we don’t have a long track record with them yet, but we have already seen enquiries coming in for our locations which we posted on the site.
We would like to thank Guy for taking the time to talk with us. We invite you to visit Namib Film’s Member Page on Production Paradise and their website for more information. You can see some of the beautiful locations offered by Namib Film on Location Finder.
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