The World of Raised by Wolves - A Behind-the-Scenes Look

A mother and father head to a new home to begin a family. Sounds simple enough, right? But in the world of HBO Max's Raised by Wolves, the world is anything but simple.

The Ridley Scott-driven sci-fi series takes place 150 years in the future, when a world war between a religious cult, the Mithraics, and those who won't accept their life, the Atheists, has led to the Earth becoming uninhabitable. The Mithraics send a large space "Ark" vessel, Heaven, holding 1000 settlers and military in suspended animation for the 13-year journey, to a distant planet, Keppler-22b, to begin resettling humanity. But they are beaten to the punch by an Atheist rebel, Campion Sturges, who converts one of the Mithraics' levitating killing machines — a "Necromancer," a female-appearing android — into a nurturing, maternal edition, known simply as "Mother." Sturges pairs her with a generic service android - "Father" — and places them aboard a small craft, along with six human embryos, and sends them ahead to the planet.

They land and begin their new life, Father constructing a simple settlement, while Mother births the children in small gel-filled tanks inside a red dome they have brought with them. But five of the six children mysteriously perish as they grow, after eating the "carbo" tubers which grow from the bones of large serpents which once inhabited the planet. After an exploration team from the Ark meets them and attempts to take over, Mother accesses her buried Necromancer talents, destroying most of them with her "death scream" (which causes them to be eviscerated in an explosion of flesh). She then takes their small Lander vessel, goes to the Ark and captures another handful of children, for a fresh start, before crashing the Ark into the planet, killing nearly all on board.

And, after that, it gets really interesting. . . .


Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) collect tubors for the children to eat, not long after arriving on Keppler-23 (HBO Max / Coco Van Oppens)

The series came to Scott in mid-2018 as a spec piece written by eventual showrunner Aaron Guzikowski. "We were explicitly seeking material, a flagship piece, that Ridley could direct," says executive producer David Zucker of Scott Free Productions. "When I first gave him the script, he couldn't believe this was an entirely original piece. Something sparked in him on the very first read."

The director quickly assembled his top team of collaborators to develop the 10-episode series — of which Scott would direct the first two (working within a time window he had between features) — including cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, ASC, and production designer Chris Seagers. The team then began developing the look and tone of the series, which would be followed by subsequent directing and production teams (including production designer Tom McCullagh and directors of photography Erik Messerschmidt and Ross Emery). "It was an exceptional opportunity for Ridley and his team to build this sci fi world," says Zucker. "It was essential that we didn't get this extraordinary opening salvo of shows, and then have it drop off into something more conventional."

The first step was to find a location in which to film. After considering the usual landscapes for "planet surface" — Iceland, Morocco and Spain — producer Mark Huffam suggested having a look at South Africa, which, unlike those locations, would be in its summer season for the January 2019 start date. "I jumped on a plane on a Sunday night, flew down to Cape Town," recalls Seagers. "Ridley said, 'Can you get some pictures back to me by Wednesday? If we like the pictures, we'll be on a plane on Thursday, and can sign off on it by Saturday.' And that's exactly what happened."

Upon their return, the pair sat with Guzikowski and went through the first two scripts in detail (along with the following three the writer had developed with his team), Scott picking the writer's brain and beginning to formulate the world. "Then," recalls Zucker, "Ridley said, 'All right — can I show you some things?' And, suddenly, all these drawings got scattered across the table."


Mother in front of the red “Lab” dome exterior set at Lourensford. (HBO Max / Coco Van Oppens)

Scott, who has a strong art background, is known for his detailed storyboards, which he uses to plan shots and develop looks. "Ridley's real superpower is his ability to use very elaborate and clear 'Ridleygrams,'" says his son, director Luke Scott, who helmed three of the ten episodes. "They're exceptional, and they always seem to capture the essence of the world on which we are about to embark." Guzikowski himself also has a fine art background, so the two would sit and add to each other's ideas, graphically. Those storyboards, then, were set on the walls of the production office henceforth, available to anyone from the production team who might want to reference Scott's thinking. "They created the place language for us," says concept designer Darren Christien. "We all made sure that that was the cohesive element that marries all of our work together." Scott also made himself available throughout the production season, to help flesh out any other ideas and keep the look on track.

Building a World
Prep began on location in October 2018, with construction taking a full three months. While Cape Town Film Studios and a few other locations in town were used for some sets (see below), the main location was at a place about 20 miles east, which would become the home of the Settlement set. Located just at the foot of the Hottentots-Holland Mountain Range, part of the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, is the Lourensford Wine Estate, on whose grounds the Settlement was constructed.

"The location company showed us this farm, which had an old vineyard, very high up in the mountains, which was being grazed by old buffalo at the time," says Seagers. "We noticed the roads going up were all sandy and rocky. So we said, 'If we strip the topsoil off, will it be sandy and rocky everywhere?' So we brought two big Caterpillar D8s and sculpted the ground to create our world." About 30 hectares (3.2 million sf) of vegetation was removed by an earthmoving crew, part of a team of 460 construction team, which grew to nearly 700, including greens, special effects and other departments, according to Line Producer Cheryl Eatock, a member of the local film production community. "We were super nervous, as a fairly new territory in the film industry," she recalls. "If this is the call you want to get, this is the call you want to get — Ridley Scott's coming to town."


The dazzling – and natural – fog which rolled over the Hottentots-Holland Mountain Range, which overlooked the Lourensford Wine Estate, where the Settlement set was built. (HBO Max / Coco Van Oppens)

The first thing that struck the production team about the location was the remarkable flow of clouds that rolled over the mountains from the north each morning, seemingly constantly spilling over, says Zucker. "Ridley loved that," Seagers notes. "He was standing there, on his iPhone, photographing it and sending to the editors and saying, 'Just cut that together.'" Notes Wolski, "Because of where it's located, between two oceans, there's a huge temperature difference, creating those clouds. So there's always this fantastic visual there for us to play with." The cinematographer would start each day, before doing anything else, placing one of his cameras just aimed at the mountains, filming in time lapse, imagery which is seen throughout the series.


SuicideSquid's picture

Haven't had a chance to watch the show yet, but this was an extremely interesting article.

MCFGPurpleSpeed's picture

I connected to HBO Max when ROKU finally opened up the site. Fighting with HBO over $$ and

Made a deal of some sort, OK got it. Get it free with my HBO deal on DirecTV scrip.

I have not seen a wilder and more intense Sci-Fi show in many years, amazing. Of course

It’s by Sir Ridley Scott so what would one expect.

As I watched the first episode I was, at first, not too into it – seemed somewhat slow, 60 minutes or so.

Then all at once, and bang - all of a sudden the second episode banner had popped up on the screen. I totally

Lost all track of time during the first one. I can not recall watching anything, recently that this has happened.

Maybe with The Expanse and the first SGU ones, but just time and the show zoomed by, intense would be

An understatement to say the least, wow. OK - this may be fighting with the best overall Sci-Fi to hit the tv screens.

Just wonderful and the acting is prime some of the best I have seen in many years, Mother is just over the

Top in her performance should win everything