Namib Film facilitate filming for MTV’s The Challenge: War of the Worlds
International crew and talent descended upon the southern African country to film the popular MTV game show The Challenge in late 2018. The demanding shoot spanned nearly two months, from mid-October to December.
Nadia Van Den Heever, Production Manager at Namib Film, who serviced the shoot for MTV, explained that for the series entitled “War of the Worlds”, producers were on the hunt for “locations that showed the harsh conditions in which the challenges would be held”. Heever adds that thematically, Mad Max"comes to mind”. In 2015, the award winning post-apocalyptic action film starring Tom Hardy put Namibia's cinematic landscapes on the production map.
After filming part of a previous season of The Challenge in Namibia in 2012, Namib Film’s CEO Guy Nockels already had a relationship with the Executive Producer, Justin Booth. Heever notes that “Namibia was always on Justin’s radar, as Namibia has diverse landscapes. We have the desert with endless dunes, river canyons and are next to the sea. They needed all types of locations for different challenges, and we were lucky that they choose Namibia for this reason”.
Pre-production began in mid-September when the show's international producers arrived. The art crew shortly followed, arriving at the beginning of October. From that point forwards, the pressure was on to get everything prepared for the shoot. Sixty-five local Namibian crew members were employed for the entirety of the shoot, but over the prep phase more than 100 local crew members were involved, with many local suppliers supporting the show with strange requests such as monster trucks.
A fifty strong international crew were involved in the filming, mostly deriving from America but also including professionals from the UK, Australia, South Africa, Panama and Argentina. Principal photography began on seventeenth October, 2018. Heever recalls “The cast arrived on the Wednesday and Thursday and had little time to recover from jet lag before the first challenge on the Friday”. Heever stresses that the intensity of the shoot did not let up for cast or crew members for the entirety of the shoot, “It was a long and hard run for both cast and crew with the wrap on the 5th of December, we filmed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, working day or night shift”.
One of Namibia’s most alluring landscapes is the vast Namib desert which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean inland. Even for local production service companies with extensive knowledge and expertise the environment can throw up unexpected challenges and this shoot was no different. Heever says, “shooting in the desert is always a logistic challenge. We had to build a set in the middle of the dunes and getting the supplies there was already difficult. We had a few vehicles and trucks that got stuck in the dunes and the river. During the prep, we built a set in the dry riverbed - all our rivers are dry with no running water and we have minimum rain - but unfortunately there was a cloud burst 150km inland and the river flooded. This has not happened in the last 20 years, and no-one could have predicted this. The producers and crew scrambled to find a new location, which we did and a new idea for the set was designed. We only had a few days to build it”.
Despite the complexity of the shoot, Heever concludes that “it all turned out better than anyone had hoped for”, with the season already generating quite a lot of buzz. An executive producer from The Challenge fed back to Namib Film, saying “I wanted to thank you all for the hard work and dedication on this series, it legit is one of the best teams we have ever worked with in the industry! This season looks incredible, and every episode is action packed, you all should be so proud!”.
There are not currently any incentives available for filming in Namibia, but the country’s extraordinary locations have attracted big budget productions including Mad Max: Fury Road, 2011: A Space Odyssey and 10,000 B.C.
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