For many years Africa’s film industry has been dominated by productions coming out of Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, but in the past five years Cameroon has begun attracting the attention of film producers, and last year, their first film came out on Netflix.
The Cameroonian film scene is still developing, and is seen as having huge growth potential. As a location, Cameroon offers a wealth of diversity with beaches, game reserves, tropical rainforest and urban settings. In 2021, the first Cameroonian Netflix movie, Therapy, came out. It was shot by the director Musing Derrick, and has set the stage for more productions to follow with profitable opportunities being offered by Netflix. It is evident that Cameroon is enjoying healthy development with over 200 movies produced since 2008.
International production teams have chosen Cameroon before to host their productions including Chocolat (1988) and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), as well as a few documentaries. With the advancements in the Cameroonian film industry in the last decade, the country is now emerging as a stronger player on the scene, though there are still a number of considerations when planning a production in the country.
Cameroon is an ideal location for film producers as it offers varied terrain and wildlife. Most locations are available for film production. Privately owned locations are negotiated by African film fixers who also help manage the costs for these. The country’s main destinations are the inland capital, Yaoundé, and its economic hub and largest seaport, Douala. Douala has a large airport (servicing several international airline flights) and a shipping container port available for filming crews to bring in larger equipment particularly because most film equipment will need to be brought in from neighbouring countries or abroad and local film fixers assist with this process too. These two cities are transit points to ecotourism locations as well as beach resorts, namely Kribi, near the Chutes de la Lobé waterfalls, (plunging right into the sea) and the Limbe Wildlife Centre, which houses rescued primates.
COMMUNICATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Major roads in Cameroon are paved while rural roads are less easy to navigate. The rural roads can be especially difficult to travel across during the rainy seasons and thus filming during the dry season is advisable. Fixers can help organise safe and reliable 4-wheel-drive transportation.
The internet in Cameroon is generally slow and this is one of the contributing factors to post production often taking place outside of Cameroon.
STAFFING AND EQUIPMENT
Collywood, as Cameroon’s film industry is affectionately known, has gone from strength to strength over the past five years according to an interview with the CEO of Penjo Studios, Penjo Baba, with France24. A lot of things have changed, including improvements in terms of actors, equipement and image quality. In the past shooting was done in HD, but today they have graduated to 4K.
Though Cameroon is not well resourced in the area of film equipment, leading most productions to bring in necessary equipment from neighbouring countries, it does have a small local pool of staffing resources. These staffing resources consist of directors of photography and stills photographers as well as good art departments, camera assistants (focus pullers), sound operators, grips, gaffers, stylists, hair and makeup, PA/ runners, production drivers and local film fixers.
VISAS AND PERMITS
Once locations have been identified, public locations require a blanket shooting permit which takes approximately two weeks to obtain at a cost of $500. A word of caution to producers though as it is illegal to take pictures of government buildings and military installations, so content producers should rather plan to consult with local film fixers regarding regulations so as to avoid any filming challenges around unauthorised photography. Producer’s using drones require a permit and thus it is best to use a local drone pilot.
Numerous foreign passport holders are required to apply for entry visas to Cameroon and can do so through their closest Cameroonian embassy or mission. The applications must include an invitation letter from a locally based film fixer, as well as proof of polio and yellow fever vaccinations. Processing times vary, but crews should allow at least two weeks.
With Cameroon’s film industry growing and streaming services like Netflix taking notice, it is clear that the country is becoming a more significant player in the West African film industry. Local steaming services like Wouri TV have also been developing since as far back as 2016 and this shows that there is a huge opportunity not only for content for local viewers, but the African diaspora and the world at large.