Survivor SA

Survivor SA: Casting, Castaways and Care

05 July 2018
A quick insight into how the Castaways are selected and taken care of.

The Castaways of Survivor SA: Philippines

Series Director Leroux Botha and Executive Producer Handrie Basson talk about the journey from casting the Castaways to preparing them for life on the island.

How are the Castaways chosen? 

We opened auditions to the public last year. Each entrant needed to make a short video of themselves telling the casting panel why they should be on Survivor. This method is used all over the world for Survivor casting. The video didn’t have to be professionally filmed, mobile videos would do. We were looking for some stand-out characters with personalities that jumped at you. After the initial videos entries, successful candidates had to fill in questionnaires, followed by telephonic interviews conducted by our casting team, face-to-face interviews with the producers and M-Net, medical screening and psychological profiling to determine the final cast. 

Do the Castaways get any survival training before they go on the show?

Each Castaway receives a survival guide when they arrive at the location which explains basic survival skills, how to build a shelter, what dangerous animals are in the area and the rules of the game. 

How do you mentally prepare the Castaways?

Our Castaways are all fans of Survivor, so they already know what the show entails and what will be demanded of them. The producers have one-on-one consultations with each Castaway before they depart the country, and then another conversation on location about how the show is being filmed and what is expected of them. The mental preparation for the game, however, is largely up to them. They need to prepare themselves for the adventure of the lifetime. 

What medical checks do they go through before, during and after filming?

Each contestant is medically and psychologically screened before they are cast. We also determine what type of chronic medication the Castaways might need on the island. They receive this prescription medication throughout the filming process, as per their personal doctor’s instructions.

On the island, the contestants are medically checked before and after each challenge, as well as before and after tribal council. If there is any medical concern with a Castaway, the producers would be informed of the situation and a decision is made based on our medical team’s assessment. Minor scrapes and cuts are treated because of the risk of infection. 

Once a contestant is eliminated from the game, they are given a full medical check-up. Once we get back to South Africa, a psychologist is available for debrief sessions at any time with the contestants.

Who is allowed to interact with the Castaways?

The only crew the Castaways are allowed to interact with on the island are the content producers, as well as the host. The crew is instructed not to interact with the contestants at all, unless they have to tell them where to sit for an interview. The content producers are the guys who tell the story on the island. They make sure that if there is a story about a fire that does not want to burn, they get the shots of that fire from different angles to tell that story. They also interview the Castaways in their confessionals. They are the custodians of the Survivor stories.

Are the Castaways allowed to bring any luxury items?

Castaways are required to bring a whole list of things. Some of those are luxury items. It is production’s discretion if they are allowed to take the luxury items to the island. Sometimes the luxury items form part of a reward challenge.

How do they keep their clothes clean?

They wash their clothes in sea water… as much as that will help to clean it.

With what do they brush their teeth?

The best toothpaste and toothbrush on an island is a piece of bamboo that has been scraped to release bristles, and a paste made of ash and water. 

What if a Castaway is a smoker? How would he/she cope?

That is entirely up to them. We suggest to Castaways who smoke to quit before they arrive on location. But sometimes that is exactly what you need as part of the content, for someone to blow up because of a craving.

How do the producers decide on plot twists, like a tribe shuffle? Do these get planned in advance? And what happens if things don’t go according to plan? 

The entire season is plotted beforehand. When we start putting the show together, the entire season’s challenges, twists, shuffles and splits are planned meticulously. Art & Construction Departments also need to know way in advance what each challenge will be in order to start building it and getting it ready on time.

You can plan as much as possible, but there must always be a backup plan in case of emergency. There are always a few contingencies in place in case of an emergency. The important part is to recognise when that eventuality is taking place and what can be done not to thwart the plan.

What happens in the case of a medical emergency? 

If the medical emergency happens during the game, the medical team would intervene immediately. If the medical emergency happens at tribe camps, the content producers would make the call to get the medical team in immediately. After that there is an evacuation plan that is rehearsed by the medical team. 

Survivor SA: Philippines airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Thursdays at 19:00. Join the conversation on the Survivor Facebook Page or on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SurvivorSA.