The Philippines: A Production Paradise

A look at everything that goes into making Survivor SA the phenomenon that it is

13 July 2018

Series Director Leroux Botha and Executive Producer Handrie Basson talk about difficulties, beauty and wonderful locals on the set of Survivor SA: Philippines.

Why the Philippines?

We had a few options of locations we explored before ending up in the Philippines. It finally came down to infrastructure, experienced locals and financial viability. And of course, the beauty and practicality of such an awesome tropical location.

What are some of the benefits of filming somewhere productions from all over the world have filmed before? 

El Nido is a very well-known and popular filming location. Several international films and series have been shot in the area including Apocalypse NowThe Bourne Ultimatum and several international versions of Survivor. The Filipino crew who worked with us also knows the area very well, knows what can work and made the logistical side of the show relatively stress-free. Some of the crew from the Philippines, like Danny Boom-Boom and his brother, who were responsible for the Special Effects at Tribal Council (the fire pit and fire cauldrons) worked on international films and television shows and brought their expertise to our set. 

The facilitation company that helped production with crewing up and handling shipping and deliveries and setup have been in this business for over 30 years and brought that collective knowledge to the production.

What made it particularly tough working in the Philippines?

Each of the locations for the challenges, Tribal Council and the reality islands were isolated from each other and the only way that you could get there was by boat. The entire production ran with 8 speedboats and 2 big bangkas (the Filipino boat with stabilizing side rigs). The logistical movement order puzzle that production had to deal with was quite challenging. 

The weather played a big role, but it always does on any Survivor. We were shooting at the end of cyclone season, and the area got hit by the tail-end of some of the cyclones. We had a few days where some crews needed to stay on the island as it was not safe to transport them back to base camp. 

How does one work around things like sunbathing tourists on beaches where you’d like to film a challenge?

You have a location manager. Our local facilitation company had great contacts with the local officials and coast guard and they were responsible for getting locations and making them available for construction, shoot days as well as deconstruction of challenges. On shoot days the beaches were closed for the public and the coast guard made sure that there were no boats in the background. 

How long did it take on average to assemble the sets for each episode?

On average the actual construction on the challenge location took between two and three days, but the building of some of the set pieces happened weeks before on the main land, before it was then transported to the challenge location and installed for the shoot day. The biggest build was the Tribal Council set which took a little more than a month to complete.

What happens to the challenges set, shelters on reality beaches and Tribal Council after filming?

Survivor Central requires that all Survivor shoots across the world are required to have a zero impact on the location where they are filming. The same went for Survivor SA: Philippines. Some of the challenges and set pieces were shipped back to South Africa, some was stored on location, but all the shelters were removed from the islands. We left the Philippines as we found it.

How many hours of footage have been filmed for Survivor South Africa: Philippines?

A little more than 2640 hours of footage was filmed this season, which the post production team have to sift through to tell the most compelling story to the audience.

Survivor SA: Philippines airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Thursdays at 19:00. Join the conversation on the Survivor Facebook Page or on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SurvivorSA.