‘America’ outsourced to South Africa

Logistics, weather, costs make series filming attractive

America: The Story of Us” premiered on the History Channel in April with a foreword from President Barack Obama, bringing the network a record audience of 5.7 million. Despite a mixed critical reception, it’s up for four Emmys — nonfiction programming: cinematography, picture editing, sound editing and writing.

Ironically, though, the series was shot in South Africa, apart from some establishing shots lensed in the U.S. “We were looking to re-create America from 400 years ago, so we needed something not built up, with plains, prairies and scrubland. It would have been hard to film America’s past in America’s present,” says Jane Root, who exec produced the series through Nutopia.

The weather also played a role, as filmmakers could swap America’s winter for Cape Town’s summer.

The proximity of the locations was another selling point. “If we’d shot in the U.S., we would have had to travel across 20 states, whereas South Africa offered us landscapes (that looked) like how America used to look, all within an hour of Cape Town,” Root says.

The production used services provider Film Afrika, and Root believes the budget went further too, especially with the Department of Trade and Industry rebate. “You’re able to hire at a higher level. We were able to find the best crew from Oscar- and Emmy-nominated projects like ‘District 9,’ ‘Blood Diamond’ and ‘No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.’ As a result, we got something that looked really beautiful.”

Having been involved with “Planet Earth,” Root wanted a similar sense of scale that would make the series feel like a huge event. “We wanted to take history out of the dusty, cold library and prioritize the excitement, so it’s full of heroic moments and jaw-dropping CGI.”

Root is British, and Nutopia has an office in London as well as Maryland, but she’s quick to say she doesn’t think of this as “a British production in South Africa. I live in America and our approach is that this is a global production. We’re very used to conference calls.”

Next up, Root says they’re planning a history of Africa.

More TV

  • ROSEANNE - "Knee Deep" - Roseanne's

    Our Staff Picks: TV Shows to Watch the Week of May 21, 2018

    America: The Story of Us” premiered on the History Channel in April with a foreword from President Barack Obama, bringing the network a record audience of 5.7 million. Despite a mixed critical reception, it’s up for four Emmys — nonfiction programming: cinematography, picture editing, sound editing and writing. Ironically, though, the series was shot in […]

  • The Middle finale

    How ‘The Middle’ Will Say Goodbye After Nine Seasons

    America: The Story of Us” premiered on the History Channel in April with a foreword from President Barack Obama, bringing the network a record audience of 5.7 million. Despite a mixed critical reception, it’s up for four Emmys — nonfiction programming: cinematography, picture editing, sound editing and writing. Ironically, though, the series was shot in […]

  • Lena Waithe

    Lena Waithe to Receive 'Trailblazer' Honor at 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards

    America: The Story of Us” premiered on the History Channel in April with a foreword from President Barack Obama, bringing the network a record audience of 5.7 million. Despite a mixed critical reception, it’s up for four Emmys — nonfiction programming: cinematography, picture editing, sound editing and writing. Ironically, though, the series was shot in […]

  • UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT

    'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Season 4: Kimmy Gets a Job, Tackling #MeToo, and Jon Hamm's Return

    America: The Story of Us” premiered on the History Channel in April with a foreword from President Barack Obama, bringing the network a record audience of 5.7 million. Despite a mixed critical reception, it’s up for four Emmys — nonfiction programming: cinematography, picture editing, sound editing and writing. Ironically, though, the series was shot in […]

  • GREY'S ANATOMY - "Break Down the

    'Grey's Anatomy' to Bring Back Kim Raver as Series Regular for Season 15

    America: The Story of Us” premiered on the History Channel in April with a foreword from President Barack Obama, bringing the network a record audience of 5.7 million. Despite a mixed critical reception, it’s up for four Emmys — nonfiction programming: cinematography, picture editing, sound editing and writing. Ironically, though, the series was shot in […]

  • Barack Obama Michelle Obama

    Barack and Michelle Obama Sign Netflix Production Deal

    America: The Story of Us” premiered on the History Channel in April with a foreword from President Barack Obama, bringing the network a record audience of 5.7 million. Despite a mixed critical reception, it’s up for four Emmys — nonfiction programming: cinematography, picture editing, sound editing and writing. Ironically, though, the series was shot in […]

  • WORLD OF DANCE -- Season: 2

    Jennifer Lopez Says 'World of Dance' is Going Younger and Bigger for Second Season

    America: The Story of Us” premiered on the History Channel in April with a foreword from President Barack Obama, bringing the network a record audience of 5.7 million. Despite a mixed critical reception, it’s up for four Emmys — nonfiction programming: cinematography, picture editing, sound editing and writing. Ironically, though, the series was shot in […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content