Written by Shona Smith on Apr 18, 2019. Posted in On Location

Kate Beckinsale thriller The Widow filmed in Holland, Wales and South Africa

Adding to the long list of dramas choosing to base production in South Africa, production designers constructed sets doubling for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Filming for the eight, hour-long episodes also took place in Rotterdam and Wales.  

A Two Brothers picture production for ITV and distrubuted worldwide by Amazon Studios stars Kate Beckinsale as a widow who, after losing the love of her life in the Democratic Republic of Congo returned to Wales where she lived a reclusive life. When she spots her supposedly dead husband in the background of a news report from the Congo, she becomes determined to find the truth.

Explaining the decision to film in South Africa, as opposed to the DRC, writers and executive producers Harry and Jack Williams said “We really wanted to film in the Congo. Our lead director Sam Donovan and our producer Eliza Mellor did go to the DRC for a recce for a week. Against the strenuous objections of ever insurance company in the world. But it was too dangerous. Even to film some general views. So sadly, we weren’t allowed to. We then worked with a brilliant designer to film in South Africa. Every frame had to be treated and dressed. You can’t just go to South Africa and pretend it’s a street in the Congo. Everything had to be rebuilt”.The Widow Block 1 - SD48 - Episode: 4

Filming for the series took place during South Africa’s water crisis meaning that harsh water restrictions were in place, and the possibility of “day zero” - when municipal water supplies would be largely switched off – was on the horizon before the drought was avoided.

Star Kate Beckinsale added “We had quite the gamut of experience in Africa. We arrived in January when it was incredibly hot. One of the things you heard a lot on this project was, ‘Cape Town has five different types of weather a day.’ Which you think is just a cute saying, but it’s actually true…I fainted one day from being too hot. And then by the end of the African shoot, which was in their winter, we had thermals on”.

The Widow Block 1 - Gallery Stills 23rd Sept SD - EpisodeA portion of the filming in Cape Town took place at a township. Beckinsale relates “most of the people in the scene who weren’t principal characters were people who lived there. I spent most of my time with eight or nine kids who were incredible” adding that the production “have done a really good job of capturing how overwhelming it is in there”.The Widow Block 1 - Stills SD 14- Episode 1

The Widow joins an increasingly long list of British productions choosing to base production in South Africa. Due to the cheaper cost of hiring crew, actor Alex Kingston recalls that “we had a lot of crew. As a result of that jobs got done. It was very unusual to be working with such a large crew, incredible caterers with everything just there. That’s what keeps productions going to South Africa” she also added that its “studios in South Africa now have amazing facilities”.

Due to a co-production agreement, British television series shot in South Africa can access a rebate that amounts to 35% of the first ZAR6 million qualified production expenditure, and 25% thereafter. At least fifty percent of the schedule must be undertaken in South Africa, with productions spending at least ZAR2.5 million over this period.

The Widow Block 1 - SD52 - Episode: 4the_widow_episode_2_03Major scenes were also shot in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Two Brothers pictures recently shot in The Netherlands for Baptiste, this time in Amsterdam during which they noted its neighbouring city's architecture and feel.  “Even before we’d had the idea, we passed through and saw Rotterdam on the way. Rotterdam is very striking, angular, urban and symmetrical. Visually it’s the antithesis of the Congo. So it just felt like, ‘What’s the biggest contrast we can make visually?”, they explain.

In the UK, filming took place in Wales, as well as Heathrow Airport.

International projects that film in South Africa without the co-production agreement can access a 20% Cash Rebate. The system applies to productions that shoot more than twenty-eight days in South Africa, shoot 50% of the schedule is shot in the country and spends at least ZAR12 million.

The Netherland's Film Production Incentive offering a cash rebate of up to 30% on production costs on parties subject to Dutch taxation for high-end TV drama, documentaries and animation series. This increases to 35% for feature films, feature length documentaries and animated films.

Images: Two Brothers Pictures 

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