Fast Facts

96% New Zealand crew

78% New Zealand cast

Production based at Kumeu Film Studios

Post-production took place in Auckland

10 New Zealand HODs

67 shoot days

35 sets built

780 Crew

Our Flag Means Death is executive produced by creator-showrunner David Jenkins and Emmy®-nominated star and New Zealander Taika Waititi. In addition to his duties as showrunner, Jenkins directed the first two episodes of season two. Garrett Basch, Dan Halsted, Adam Stein, and Antoine Douaihy also serve as executive producers. Production for the show moved from Los Angeles to New Zealand for its second season.

Our Flag Means Death stars New Zealanders Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby and David Fane, as well as Madeleine Sami (most recently of the Australian mystery-comedy Deadloch) and Samoan-born Anapela Polataivao.

Many of the key creatives and department heads are New Zealanders, including writer Maddie Dai, production designer Ra Vincent, hair and makeup designer Nancy Vincent and art decorator Megan Vertelle. Together, this talented team elevated Our Flag Means Death, contributing their individual expertise to create a visually stunning and emotionally engaging viewing experience. Of the 780 crew contracted onto the show, 350 worked full time.  

Creative talent and picturesque landscapes were key motivators for the move Down Under. Showrunner David Jenkins said “We were looking at the season two budget and asking ‘How do you get the most money on screen?’ New Zealand was the answer. I’ve seen more of our budget end up on screen than it did in the U.S. in season one.”

New Zealand also added a breath-taking backdrop to the swashbuckling adventures of the crew. The lush greenery and stunning coastline provided the perfect setting for the 67-day shoot in Auckland at the end of 2022. There were around 50 sets involved, including the 30-acre forest behind the Kumeu Film Studio, Piha Beach, Howick Historical Village and the wild, black sand Bethells Beach.  

And there’s one returning figure impossible to miss on the soundstage: The Revenge, the stately ship that Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard (a.k.a. Ed) commandeered at the end of season one. In real life, it was carefully transported across the Pacific Ocean from the show’s original Los Angeles soundstage. The Revenge is approximately 7m x 28m and there were 3x boat sets that were used to create 10 different boats. The production shot in the Dive Tank at Kumeu Film Studios, built a floating market in the Republic of Pirates, and provided storm water effects for The Revenge.

Virtual Production

Given that many scenes in Our Flag Means Death take place on the deck of a ship at sea, virtual production was the most practical and cost-effective way of filming.

Virtual production is the process of generating motion picture or computer-generated photorealistic imagery displayed on a dynamically active large scale LED wall to create a ‘virtual’ environment or location on a soundstage.

Surrounding the ship was a giant “volume” wall comprised of 1700 LED monitors displaying a photorealistic ocean background with rolling waves. As a crane-mounted camera weaved around, the images on the digital display moved with it, creating a seamlessly integrated backdrop.

The New Zealand vendors that worked on the screen were NEP Sweetwater, NEP Big Picture, Riggaz with Attitudes, Theatrical Solutions, Xytech and Disguise.

The creative benefit of shooting on the volume wall was that the production could shoot in multiple locations and times of day all within just a few hours. Additionally, the actors could interact with what they are seeing and the lighting shifted in real time.

Careful planning of scenes and shots resulted in the rapid and efficient deployment of a select number of pre-processed moving plates (backgrounds) on set. Paihia, Bay of Islands, Mercer Bay Loop and Waitakere were among the New Zealand locations featured in the plate shots.

The New Zealand Screen Production Rebate - (International) and 5% Uplift

The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) partnered with Max on season two of the show as a part of the New Zealand Screen Production Grant 5% Uplift.  

The partnership recognised the significant economic, cultural and industry benefits the Our Flag Means Death production brought to New Zealand. This included a marketing partnership with TNZ and NZFC to promote New Zealand as a tourism and filmmaking destination. It also included a knowledge-sharing programme related to the LED Volume Wall used during production, and collaborations with New Zealand-based virtual production companies and a wider industry workshop.   

The 5% Uplift has now been redeveloped:

  • It’s simple to navigate, and the criteria is clearer and more objective.
  • Has increased opportunities to earn points in the test.
  • Has increased weighting on New Zealand screen workforce development and production activity.
  • Recognises repeat business to encourage studios and productions to return.
  • Introduces sustainability criteria to support Aotearoa New Zealand’s shift to a low-emissions economy.

Applications open for the redeveloped 5% Uplift on 1 November 2023, documentation and guidance will be provided before this date.

The New Zealand Film Commission administers the NZSPR for International Productions on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The purpose of the NZSPR for International Productions is to incentivise the production of foreign and domestic large budget films, television and other format productions in New Zealand in order to provide economic and industry development benefits to New Zealand. More information here.

A domestic rebate is also available to New Zealand productions and Official Co-productions. Click here for more information.

About Our Flag Means Death

Our Flag Means Death is based (very) loosely on the true adventures of 18th century would-be pirate Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby). After trading the seemingly charmed life of a gentleman for one of a swashbuckling buccaneer, Stede became captain of the pirate ship Revenge. Struggling to earn the respect of his potentially mutinous crew, Stede’s fortunes changed after a fateful run-in with the infamous Captain Blackbeard (Taika Waititi). To their surprise, the wildly different Stede and Blackbeard found more than friendship on the high seas…they found love. Now, they have to survive it.

In New Zealand, season two debuts on Neon on October 6 and is coming soon to Sky Open.