Tutankhamun producer talks South Africa filming
New period drama series Tutankhamun was made by the UK’s ITV Studios and filmed in South Africa, doubling the country for early 20th century Egypt. Producer Simon Lewis talks to KFTV about the shoot.
Egypt was never a serious option as a filming location for the series, due to safety and insurance concerns prompted by local terror attacks around the time that Tutankhamun was in pre-production.
Filming for Tutankhamun took place partly on location 370 miles from Cape Town along the Orange River, which marks South Africa’s north-west border with Namibia.
“The service company tried to discourage us from filming there because of its sheer distance from civilisation,” Lewis says. “There were issues with basic supplies – we ended up taking three tonnes of ice with us.”
Established camp sites along the river were used to accommodate the production team through the course of the shoot.
An old community centre in Cape Town was used as an adapted studio space to build expansive tomb sets for the shoot.
“There’s a real premium on studios,” Lewis says. “The US shows block-book studios a year in advance, regardless of whether or not they end up using them. But the community centre actually gave us more floor space and it worked out better for us as we built our tomb sets to scale.
“The downside was that the space wasn’t soundproofed and there were birds in the rafters the whole time – that all had to be sorted in post-production.
“We filmed some scenes on location in the city as well, as the business areas of Cape Town are relatively easy to shut down at weekends.”
Cape Town Film Studios is sub-Saharan Africa’s first principal purpose-built production facility and offers four sound stages, the largest of which is 22,600 sq ft.
The studio has hosted the high-end US pirate drama Black Sails for four seasons. For other productions, South Africa’s filming incentives and geography continue to be a major appeal.
“South Africa offers a strong exchange rate and also has a good number of locations and great weather,” Lewis says.