Groundglass keeps it rolling during COVID-19 crisis

5 August 2020

As the Cape Town Film Industry pushes to get back to full production, there is already some amazing work coming out of the city as crews and companies adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Film Cape Town recently caught up with Janette De Villiers (Owner and Executive Producer) and Debra Stubbs (Head of Production) of Groundglass, to find out more.

The local production company has just completed a commercial for the Olympics, working with American-based client NBC. The job was a huge success with NBC CEO, Jeff Shell proposing to showcase it at an NBC Town Hall.

It took six days and 13 locations across the city to complete the commercial and the support of the City of Cape Town was crucial, with Stubbs saying: “They understand our industry as if they were crew themselves”. Both Stubbs and De Villiers commented on how the City had been great – particularly when it came to scouting last-minute locations and providing permission for road closures.

Stubbs went on to highlight how it wasn’t just the City working to make production and business easy, but that as soon as lockdown happened, the entire industry took a proactive approach to getting things back up and running. “It was certainly a joint effort that helped and will continue to help – because, collectively, we can sell Cape Town as an experienced destination in solution-driven production” she said. De Villiers added to this saying the “can do” attitude can be found across every level of the industry – with everyone down to cast and crew getting on board.

While social distancing and proper hygiene protocols can make life difficult, everyone has come to the party and knows how important it is for every production to adhere to the new safety standards. Following the guides put in place will mean that the industry continues to operate safely during the pandemic and can look to return to full capacity as quickly as possible. This is vital as everyone looks to protect and promote jobs and livelihoods.

Together with the City of Cape Town, the industry has created a Standard Operating Procedure document (SOP). Stubbs commented on how it has made a huge difference in putting clients like NBC at ease with the COVID-19 protocols taken – particularly when they were shooting the commercial for the Olympics. “It definitely instills confidence in our clients and agencies to trust us and it shows that we know what we’re doing.” The document showcases exactly how much hard work and thought has been put into safety and health by both the City of Cape Town and Film Cape Town, she said.

Getting to work on a big international job like the NBC project was a great opportunity for Groundglass. But while Cape Town is known as a popular film location, prized for its natural beauty, sunshine and diverse landscapes, currently, international travel remains a challenge. De Villiers said that South Africa needs to open its doors to tourism and film travel as fast and as easily as it can – stating that “We’ll have to count on a local market for a while and not too much international support.”

Groundglass continues to think out-of-the-box and proactively by creating opportunities though. De Villiers and Stubbs gave a slight run-through on a documentary they are currently working on for the Solidarity Fund covering the country’s responses to COVID-19. So far, the entire documentary has been put together digitally with the online platform, Zoom. “It will be released in the next 8 weeks or so,” according to Stubbs.

With the backing of the City of Cape Town and Film Cape Town, the industry can continue thinking proactively and being solutions-driven to keep cameras rolling and business going in this key economic sector- watch this space for more exciting developments.