HBO Max's Raised by Wolves is a new and conceptually ambitious show exploring the nature of religion and myth. Despite its heady sci-fi ideas, the filming crew did, in fact, make use of extensive on-location scenery to create a more immersive environment. It turns out that the barren fields and rocky slopes of the alien world are actually part of the South African landscape.
The show was created by Prisoners scribe Aaron Guzikowski and is produced by Ridley Scott, no stranger to the world of high-concept science-fiction exploring the concepts of birth and death. Scott also directed the first two episodes of Raised By Wolves, which helped imbue the series with his trademark fixations on religious conflict and artificial intelligence. It's hard not to think of Blade Runner's replicants or Prometheus' Engineers when considering that the plot centers on a pair of androids that must raise a family of human children following mankind's extinction in a devastating war between atheists and a religious order called the Mithraic.
The Earth is completely annihilated in this universe, so the majority of the action takes place on the planet Kepler-22b, a real-life celestial body located in another solar system that has captured the fascination of scientists with its possibility of sustaining life. The two androids, simply known as Mother and Father, harbor a group of embryos that they plan on nurturing, but only one of the specimens, named Campion, survives in the years after making landfall. However, a spacecraft belonging to the Mithraic disrupts their lonely existence and resurfaces tensions from Earth's dark past. The filming locations for Raised By Wolves work to create the aesthetics sought after by Guzikowski that allow audiences to imagine a harsh, struggling landscape with hopes for repopulation.
South Africa's Western Cape province in the southern tip of the country provided a convenient location for both the surface of Kepler-22b and the interiors of the Mithraic ship. The quiet, rugged desert areas outside of Cape Town to the north of the city acted as the perfectly alien environment for a planet that is liveable, but not exactly hospitable. Despite the dryness of the environment, the Western Cape is also surrounded by the meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, adding to the geographic diversity of the world.
However, nearby Cape Town also afforded studio space for the show's complex special effects. Film Afrika, a prominent South African production company, is located in the city's Gardens neighborhood, a major arts district holding a cluster of businesses within the creative industry. South Africa has found success in recent years thanks to a rebate system meant to incentivize film and television productions to spur job growth and economic opportunity. At the studio space, the crew was able to use backdrops, blue screens, and a variety of different types of lighting to enhance the futurism of the cosmic setting.
Other shooting locations found in Raised By Wolves include the tree-laden town of Stellenbosch to the east of Cape Town, confirmed as a filming site by Mindhunter cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt in an Instagram post. Messerschmidt also posted an on-set picture revealing that the crew traveled to Somerset West, located in the lusher, winery-rich region of Helderberg, to shoot episode 9. From vast deserts to ethereal spaceships, rocky cliffs to green mountains, Raised By Wolves depends on a lived-in environment and elaborate production design to form another of Ridley Scott's captivating worlds.