The design secrets of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island's tribal council

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Nico Panagio on Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island.
Nico Panagio on Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island.
Photo: M-Net
  • The Survivor SA: Immunity Island tribal council area is a remarkable example of just what beautiful set design a local TV production can create.
  • The set building effort took a month to create, using eight tons of Wild Coast-collected driftwood.
  • "We wanted to go for a tribal council that felt more like a tribal village that was abandoned," says Leroux Botha, the creative director and series director.


Constructed during the coronavirus pandemic in a remote part of the Eastern Cape, the immersive tribal council area of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island has a beautiful "driftwood kraal"-look. A set building effort that took a whole month to create, using eight tons of Wild Coast-collected driftwood.

With a brown and amber driftwood-infused look, the tribal council area where host Nico Panagio interrogates the castaways before someone's torch gets snuffed, incorporates a mystical African atmosphere that draws viewers into the tense interpersonal drama playing out between the castaways.

Nico Panagio at Tribal Council.
Nico Panagio at tribal council.

Built on a hill overlooking the valleys surrounding the Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island location, the tribal council area is a remarkable example of just what beautiful set design a local TV production can create.

"When we started with the design of the tribal council space for Survivor SA: Immunity Island, I wanted to go a bit more organic and less structured than the previous two seasons which was very temple-like – both in the Philippines and in Samoa," explains Leroux Botha, the creative director and series director of Survivor SA. The series is in its eighth season on Thursday nights on M-Net (DStv 101).

"We wanted to go for a tribal council that felt more like a tribal village that was abandoned," says the Survivor SA mastermind at the Afrokaans production company that has been carefully steering the local adaptation of the reality competition franchise to ratings and review success over the past few years.

"After we were confirmed to film in South Africa, we decided to bring in some local elements, yet sticking to the tribal village feel. We opted for the driftwood kraal and used nondescript hut structures to serve as camera hides."

Viewers will also notice several specially-created skulls embedded into the tribal council area – and, of course, at least one hidden immunity idol necklace.

Survivor SA
Specially-created skulls embedded into the tribal council area.

"Skulls play a big part in the set, but the driftwood made the background for the tribal council area more dramatic," Leroux says.

"The use of the red colouring on the thatched huts, as well as on the firepit, and the use of the yellow and blue on some of the smaller pieces, brought pops of colour to this set. We also added a burnt-out wooden stump that is protruding from the deck section of the set."

324 367 nails and screws

Meanwhile, Nico's backdrop at tribal council also features the "driftwood kraal"-look with a fire bowl behind him. In addition, the voting hut features calabashes hanging from the ceiling, creating a very dramatic effect.

So, what does it take to bring all of this together, creation and construction-wise? The tribal council area's deck was constructed off-site during South Africa's Covid-19 hard lockdown period from late March 2020 to make the most of this uncertain time.

"The deck was built in sections and then moved to the location in late September 2020 when construction started in the Wild Coast," Leroux says.

Survivor SA
The tribal council area's deck was constructed off-site.

A massive eight tons of driftwood was collected from the beaches near Sun International's Wild Coast Sun Hotel and Casino Resort and was then taken to the tribal council location, where it was integrated into the tribal council set.

Local thatch artisans were used to help create the unique thatched roofs of the huts, and the Survivor SA art and construction team took 30 days to complete the set.

Some other Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island factoids: in total, 324 367 nails and screws were used for all the various builds of the challenges and tribal council, Leroux says, with 45 tons of wood in total used to build the multiple challenges and the tribal council area.

Most of the materials were sourced from local suppliers in the Eastern Cape.

SEE MORE PICS HERE:

Survivor SA
The tribal council area is built on a hill overlooking the valleys surrounding the Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island location.
Survivor SA
A contestant's torch.
Survivor SA voting hut.
The voting hut.
Nico carries the vote keeper.
Nico carries the vote keeper.

Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island airs Thursdays at 19:30 on M-Net (DStv 101).

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