M-Net's Survivor SA: Immunity Island wraps secret filming

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Nico Panagio. (Photo supplied: M-Net)
Nico Panagio. (Photo supplied: M-Net)

  • Secret filming on M-Net's Survivor SA: Immunity Island wrapped on Tuesday, somewhere on a hidden location in South Africa.
  • "Survivor SA was produced in a 'bubble' which was specifically designed to fit the needs of the project," says M-Net.
  • M-Net plans to reveal the new location for Survivor SA: Immunity Island on Sunday on Carte Blanche. 

With castaways competing inside an extremely strict Covid-19 safety bubble, secret filming of M-Net's Survivor SA: Immunity Island wrapped on Tuesday, somewhere on a hidden location in South Africa

Filming of the 8th season of Survivor SA on M-Net (DStv 101) was abruptly stopped earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown restrictions. 

M-Net and production company Afrokaans could not dispatch castaways, crew or equipment to an exotic location because of health risks and travel restrictions, and were forced to indefinitely postpone production of the new season.

However, once South Africa's domestic lockdown levels eased - although international travel bans remained in place - M-Net and Afrokaans strategised and jointly decided on setting the season in South Africa.

Channel24 has learned that M-Net plans to reveal the new location for Survivor SA: Immunity Island on Sunday on Carte Blanche

The castaways for the new season that will broadcast on M-Net in 2021 will also no longer find themselves on a physical island but a metaphorical one - a desolate and deceptive place.

"Filming for the 8th season of Survivor SA: Immunity Island started towards the end of October and wrapped in the week of 15 December," M-Net tells Channel24.

About why M-Net and Afrokaans secretly resumed filming on the season after postponing it earlier this year, M-Net says that it was always the intention to resume since the production "had never been cancelled, only postponed. When legislation allowed us to resume we re-assessed with input from health and safety as to how this could best be accomplished safely".

That is how M-Net's Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island switched from a physical island to a Covid-19 safe "bubble" - a place that M-Net describes as "a place of isolation, deprivation and deception".

Castaways who are part of the Survivor SA jury were originally told that they needed to be away for up to 50 days for the 8th season, with the in-play show that had been mapped to run for 39 days again.

"When international borders started shutting down in early-2020, we scouted for a local alternative in order to relocate the shoot to South Africa. However, lockdown measures thwarted this option. When levels were lowered we re-investigated those options and decided to shoot on home soil," M-Net says.

As to whether the originally shortlisted castaways for Survivor SA: Immunity Island are still the same people who were selected, M-Net says that filming happened with the "cast from the original shortlist" and that Afrokaans had remained in contact with the chosen people during the national lockdown. 

When the contestants were asked months later if they still wanted to take part in the new Survivor SA season - they all jumped at the chance for even more self-imposed isolation. 

But this time it wasn't just them. Besides the castaways, the entire production team figuratively found themselves inside an island of sorts as well - a Covid-safe production bubble cutting the people behind the cameras off from the rest of South Africa as well.

"Survivor SA was produced in a 'bubble' which was specifically designed to fit the needs of the project," says M-Net.

"The fundamental principles were, how do we keep the cast safe and allow them to play an authentic game within a safe environment? How do we keep the crew safe? How do we preserve the reality storylines by ensuring that there are no stoppages required due to Covid-19?"

M-Net says that the Afrokaans production crew were isolated for the entire duration of the filming, with a support team on the outside that dealt with suppliers. Hotels treated the production as an entity of their own and separated it from the rest of hotel occupants where certain zones were dedicated or made classified as completely off-limits except for the crew.

"All cast and crew did quarantine time, under supervision of production, before entering the production bubble," says M-Net. "Health and safety functions were paramount to the operational structures and support services like marketing and publicity operated from outside the bubble".

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