Throughout season three of “The Last Ship”, we were taken on something of a wild ride throughout south-east Asia, and middle America. We saw everything from the St Louis White House, to a Chinese president’s mansion, to a prison camp in the middle of nowhere. However, what we often don’t realise is the amount of work put into making these areas come to life. It’s not as simple as just setting up a camera with a few props dotted around. The sets that we see on screen are the result of days, if not weeks, of work from a dedicated team, and that is no exception, even for a location shoot.

In order to make things as authentic as possible, without travelling to far-flung portions of the world, the crew goes to great lengths to find the right places to represent wherever they are transporting the action to. Location scouts, along with the art department, will spend weeks and months getting things just right.


In episode three, “Shanzhai”, we see the team, with a hostage, pinned down by the MSS on the cliffs, before Jesse, in her helicopter, comes to the rescue. At first glance, this looks like the ubiquitous Point Dume at Malibu, where you can hardly take a step without tripping over a film crew. This was not, however, shot at Point Dume, but on the bluffs at Palos Verdes, near San Pedro. This was a wise choice, given that this area is far less utilised, both by tourists and film crews, giving a more unique vista to represent China.


Travis Van Winkle posted a video on Instagram from this location, showing the helicopter hovering over the bluffs.

#TheLastShip #Wednesday

A video posted by Travis Van Winkle (@travisvanwinkle) on

Eric Dane also shared this BTS video from more filming with ‘Jesse’s Helo’.

Little piece of my day at the office. #TheLastShip #BandofHorses #Navy #katyperry

A video posted by Eric Dane (@realericdane) on


On to episode five, “Minefield”, which, on the face of it, gives us little of interest – in terms of location – other than the ship. However, the underwater sequences were phenomenal. Filmed in a water tank in San Pedro, the production teamed up with Tank One Studios to create the eerie underwater minefield. Built in 1998, Tank One is a 233,000 gallon water tank, designed and built specifically for underwater film, TV, music video, print and commercial production.

In honor of #TheLastShip ‘making of’ panel @cine_gear_expo LA today – my #Underwater Electric Mike Schillings clearing his mask, while floating midwater and knee-grasping a litepanel from #Hydroflex. I would do a long camera move (WS swimming backwards, dropping deep to reveal a ******, into MS profile swimming sideways, to OTS push-in, arcing around a ******, and push in to CU and hold dialogue). Mike would sneak in and seamlessly add an eyelight / fill. For: @cortfey (Cort Fey, ASC) ••••••• TODAY!!! CineGear! @society_of_camera_operators SOC & Making of: THE LAST SHIP ••••••• @cine_gear_expo 5:15-6:15 Screening room 5 ••••••• Panel: —–David Sammons, SOC @bittertweetla —–Bud Kremp, SOC @budkremp —–Steve Kane (creator & EP)

A photo posted by Ian S. Takahashi, SOC (@iantakahashi) on

At sixty feet in diameter, and sixteen feet deep, the tank can be heated to any temperature from 50 – 110F, and has been used in productions such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, “Jonah Hex”, “Without A Trace” and many more. It is also being used in the sequels to “Avatar”, although in what capacity, we don’t yet know. The tank also has wave machines installed, so a production can control whether it’s still water, or something less benign.

photo credit: www.tankonestudios.com

While some scenes are shot out on open water off San Pedro – all the scenes with the RHIB, for example – everything underwater, including the scenes with Wolf inspecting the mine – were all shot at Tank One. Using such a facility ensures the safety and comfort of the actors, and creates a controlled environment in which the production can be certain that few unexpected variables will affect the shoot.


Responsible for much of the underwater camera work on “Minefield” was underwater photographer Ian S. Takahashi, who shared a few behind the scenes shots from the episode on his Instagram.


“Dog Day”, the sixth episode in the season, gave us a wider view of the pirate village and its surroundings. All filmed at the Sanna Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita, the village was, by now, looking well aged due to inclement weather over the holidays, and became even more challenging to film in. As you can see in the episode, the ground was wet and somewhat soggy, and this will have presented its own challenges.


Sanna Ranch provided the perfect backdrop to the pirate village, due to its dense bamboo stands, making it a convincing stand-in for south-east Asia. Combined with practical effects, it gave us an eerie location for the final standoff between the crew of the Nathan James, Takehaya’s pirates, and the MSS. The bamboo cover made it all seem possible that a network of tunnels ran underneath the jungle, and, coupled with the earth cellar underneath one of the huts, gave real depth to the world-building.

credit: facebook.com/operationlionclaws/

Quite possibly one of the most impressive feats on this location was the machete fight between Wolf (Bren Foster) and Alezan the pirate (Ron Balicki). Held in real close quarters, and bound by the restrictions of the location itself, it must have been almost claustrophobic filming the scene. Bren Foster shared a behind the scenes video on Instagram a few weeks ago, which shows the real brutality of the fight.

Since filming on “The Last Ship” wrapped, the location has been used on a number of other productions, but, perhaps most surprisingly, as an Airsoft venue, representing Colombia and, soon, Vietnam!


(photo credit: Operation Lion Claws Military Simulation Series)

Once more, these locations aren’t available to the public, so please don’t try to visit! We’ll bring you more location goodness soon, including exclusive video interviews!