Cape Town Film Studios in South Africa has served as a stand-in for the Bahamas. Mainly it served that way during the production of the pirate drama Black Sails. The location in the drama is also the same. The series follows Captain Flint and his exploits during the year 1720. The goal was to showcase as a pioneer to Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic pirate tale Treasure Island. The tale also features the time and era of the same time period.
The availability of the sound stages at Cape Town Film Studios was a highlighted factor. Also, the mix of favourable financial conditions and a capable crew was there. It all added to the decision to shoot in South Africa rather than another country.
Head of the studio
According to the head of the studio (Nico Dekker) the Cape Town studio is on the hill featuring a section of the 13th Century mediaeval hamlet of Carcassonne (in the south of France). It was a recent move. The same hill also features the portion of the walled city of Carcassonne. However, the settlement became as mediaeval Florence. Later it changed more and took shape as a part of Nassau Island in 1720. So, it is brought out as the home base for the pirates in Black Sails.”
Custom Build set
In order to film Black Sails, the production company custom-built deep water tanks as well as a beach set. Additionally, the mediaeval standing set got enhancements and modifications so that it resembled Nassau in the 18th century. According to the producer Nina Heyns of the Cape Town-based service company Film Afrika;
“The major challenge was building a tank that was sufficiently big enough to accommodate the ships while taking into consideration the technical aspects and visual effects requirements of these particularly complex components.”
Dekker on the tank and ships of the set:
“This tank can carry ships that are 40 metres long and can accommodate wave machines,” Dekker continues, “It has specialised heavy-duty winches and built-in anchors, which enable it to move ships from one end to the other in an efficient and timely manner.
He further said, ” The tank has a capacity of five million litres of water and is equipped with a specialised rim flow system, which together make for continuous filming in all three directions”.
Dekker continues, “It holds between five and seven million litres of water and is further secured from leaking with an industrial spec liner underneath the cement surface.” Afterwards, “The beach tank has a solid base and a sea sand surface bed,” she says. “It is further secured from leaking with an industrial spec liner.” It is equipped with wave-making equipment and is connected to the deep-sea tank, so it can generate high and low tides if that becomes necessary.
The water was clean and sophisticated filtering systems made sure of that after chlorine gas. In addition, unique plinths prevent sand from clogging the mechanism.
“No one in South Africa has ever developed such a double tank system for filmmaking,” Dekker points out, thus there is very little local experience of how to cope with particular issues.
“As far as I know, there is nowhere in the world [that has] a similar double tank system linking a sand-filled beach tank with a deep-sea tank, but we have been successfully dealing with all of the challenges we have faced in the past and are still dealing with all of the challenges we are currently facing.”
Best example for small-screen legacy
Black Sails is the best example for the small-screen legacy of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, which has been incredibly successful, mixed with the more mature content of Game of Thrones. Moreover, the idea of the second season of Black Sails took place several months before the first episode of the show.
Production of the rival pirate drama Crossbones has begun on location in Puerto Rico,. It shows an area that is focused as a naval station. The series will recount the exploits of the infamous real-life pirate Edward Teach. He was popular by his pirate name “Blackbeard,” and lived in the 18th century.
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