Friday, December 25, 2020

Survivor SA: Immunity Island: From fish eagles soaring overhead to river challenges – here’s how the Wild Coast will reshape the 8th season of the reality competition show on M-Net.

by Thinus Ferreira

The 8th season of Survivor South Africa on M-Net that switched filming from an exotic foreign locale to the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape promises a "truly unique look and feel" but will still have a tropical atmosphere with tribes living on desolate beaches although water challenges got moved from the sea to rivers while castaways compete as fish eagles circle overhead.

On Sunday night M-Net revealed that the new 8th season of Survivor South Africa, still entitled Survivor SA: Immunity Island but no longer set on a real island, will take place at the lush Wild Coast of South Africa's Eastern Cape after filming wrapped last week on the new localised season of the 39-day reality competition format licensed from Banijay Rights.

DStv subscribers will be able to watch Survivor SA: Immunity Island on M-Net (DStv 101) from Thursday 3 June 2021 after the production company Afrokaans and M-Net restrategised to switch filming of the new season with 20 castaways to a South African location following the immense restrictions, logistical impossibilities and travel challenges wrought by the global Covid-19 pandemic internationally and within the country.

Asked how difficult it was to find an alternative location during and because of Covid-19, Handrie Basson, Survivor SA executive producer at Afrokaans, told TVwithThinus that "While Survivor SA was always typically positioned in a far-flung tropical location, it has always been an incredibly agile format".

"With this, the show has continued to strive in the face of Covid, with production becoming more localised without quality being hindered."

"On M-Net's initiative, the production team started scouting for suitable locations within South Africa's borders only days before Level 5 lockdown at the end of March."

"With international travel compromised and the true impact of the global pandemic still widely uncertain, it was deemed best to look locally for a place where we could film Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island, without the risk of international travel bans being imposed," says Handrie Basson.

"In order to consider a location, there are a few factors to take into account: the weather conditions during the desired filming period; adequate isolation from modern development, but close enough to decent infrastructures such as accommodation for crew, and reliable supply lines for materials and equipment."

"Then the location should also provide beaches suitable for tribe camps, enough space for challenges to be built, and a Tribal Council spot that would stray true to the production values and standards of Survivor," he says.

Fish eagles soaring above challenge locations
"Once the Wild Coast was deemed the most suitable location, Afrokaans worked closely with local stakeholders and service providers, such as Sun International's Wild Coast Sun hotel management, local authorities, community leaders, - and with the support of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) - all the local permissions and filming protocols could be secured," says Handrie Basson.

"The Wild Coast is truly wild," he says. "South Africa's abundant wildlife will feature prominently in the season."

"We are talking fish eagles soaring above challenge locations, snakes - the reptilian sort! - slithering through tribe camps, vervet monkeys foraging for food ... Then there are the unpredictable weather phenomena where a sunny day can quickly change into a fierce thunderstorm in the afternoon or a deluge of rain will come out of nowhere to drench the earth."

"All of these elements contribute to a very real, very exposed environment where our castaways had to survive for 39 days," says Handrie.

Filming completed without any Covid-cases
And how were the medical team bigger or different this season to outwit and outlast Covid-19? "M-Net and Afrokaans collaborated on a strict Standards of Procedure protocol to create the safest working environment possible for crew and cast," he explains.

"We had a bigger medical team on-site at all times, with specialised Covid control officers dedicated to monitoring crew and cast, doing daily screenings, providing sanitising solutions and educating the crew on effective prevention measures such as social distancing, crew moving and operating in different zones to ensure social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing."

"All crew and cast had undergone the PCR testing for Covid-19 and spent the required time in isolation, prior to the commencement of this season's filming."

"These strict protocols added an additional layer of vigilance to our daily lives, but it was 100% worth it, as we started and completed filming without a single Covid-case.

Water challenges switching from the sea to rivers
So, will Survivor SA still look like Survivor - with  tropical or ever-summer feel? Handrie Basson assures that the show's DNA in its look and feel won't look different just because it's now set on Wild Coast beaches of South Africa.

"This season will have the tropical, lush jungle background the viewers have come to associate with Survivor," he says.

"The weather was unpredictable with swelteringly hot and humid days, torrential downpours and cold nights keeping the castaways and the crew on their toes at all times."

"The tribe camps are situated on beautiful, desolate stretches of coastline and definitely provides the backdrop of a deserted island location. The ocean waters of the Wild Coast are treacherous yet spectacular, adding atmospheric drama."

"Most of the water challenges of this season played out in rivers and estuaries, rather than in the ocean itself. All of these elements contribute to give Survivor SA: Immunity Island a truly unique look and feel, whilst still delivering on isolation, deprivation and extreme nature - important staples of the format."