The Episodes | The partners | The crew  

The Making of Below the Belt

In the early part of 2002 director Lars Schwinges and executive producer Luiz DeBarros, at Underdog Entertainment, embarked upon a brainstorming session to develop the concept of Below the Belt. Lars had known the Baroness for some time and felt that she was perfect to host a television show. But what was it to be? Between these two Underdogs, the BTB concept was hammered out.

The idea for Below the Belt was officially introduced to the world in November 2002, when the Baroness and Underdog’s Producers appeared at Cape Town’s Sithengi, Africa’s premier film and television market. It was said that she brought with her a “much needed glamour and style to the shores of South Africa”. This was the Baroness’ opportunity to create a buzz around her proposed TV debut and meet with the media who were curious to discover what Below the Belt was all about. Just a few months later the Baroness would make a return trip to Cape Town, this time with a full crew armed and ready to begin production on Below the Belt.

At Sithengi and then into 2003, in Johannesburg, Underdog initiated and continued negotiations with SABC 3, who was interesting in being the broadcaster to take the Baroness to South African television audiences. Finally the deal was in place and the show was a “go”.

Once the series structure was finalised it was straight into pre-production and research. Those associated with aspects of alternative culture weren’t difficult to find, but the challenge began when it came to finding nudists, porn stars, S&M enthusiasts and strippers who would agree to appear on national television. (In some caces it took over two months for the director to persuade the owners to allow The Baroness and her crew entry into their venues.) But through the process the research team was able to find an enthusiastic and extremely interesting collection of people who were keen to share their experience with TV viewers.

At the same time the team approached well-known faces from South Africa’s celeb society (aka the rich ‘n famous), inviting them to appear as the Baroness’ thirteen celebrity guests. No easy feat, as many were wary of the Baroness’ forthright and probing interviewing style. Ultimately the Underdogs put together a sparkling array of celebrity guests who were all willing to submit to the Baroness’ cheeky and sometimes risqué line of questioning. Meanwhile, as the production schedule was finalised, the host and the production team were assembling her wardrobe, to ensure that the Baroness looked her absolute best.

And then it was time for the cameras to roll…

The thirteen episodes of Below the Belt came to life in a remarkably tight shooting time of just fifteen days – six days in Cape Town and nine days in Johannesburg. The Cape Town shoot kicked off on Sunday 13 April, where the weather managed to behave accordingly and allow the shoot to go ahead hiccup-free (as far as the moody climate of the Cape may be trusted, of course). There were concerns amongst the production team that the Baroness might be rained out or blown right off the beach at any time, but thankfully the crew was able to work with the best of Cape Town’s autumn climate.

It was an experience of extremes for the Baroness and her crew in Cape Town, shooting in locations from the chic beachfront of Camps Bay to the heart of Langa township. The team often worked into the early hours, following the Baroness as she ventured into un-chartered and intriguing locations - taking her production team, as she will no doubt take her viewers, into places they’d never even thought of before. There were also, of course, locations that are well known and well loved to Capetonians, such as the gay hotspots of Bronx and Club 55.

The team headed back to Jozi with just a few days rest before the shoot picked up again in the City of Gold. This time the crew didn’t have to worry about unpredictable weather – only the mornings that were growing ever chillier as winter started creeping into Gauteng. A good deal of the Joburg shoot took place at the trendy new hotspot, Melrose Arch, where the Baroness conducted her candid (and sometimes naughty) celebrity interviews in restaurants such as Foo Moon, and the venue’s hot new club Kilimanjaro, a stunning playground for Africa’s most beautiful people. Other less well-known locations included a leather bar, a ‘swinger’s’ party venue and a sex store.

The Baroness, of course, is accustomed to traveling in style, utilising only the best transport as she traveled from place to interesting place. The BTB shoot made use of two limousines, two Rolls Royces, a sexy pink Cadillac, a helicopter and a private jet. Whether cruising through the streets of Joburg in her limo or gliding down the beach roads of Cape Town in her Cadillac, the soon-to-be TV star proved that she had the tastes and the essence of true aristocracy.

The star of the show had a vast collection of costume changes to accompany her. (Fortunately her jet-setting background had given her, and her personal assistant Gino, a good grounding in the best ways to pack.) The Baroness wore thirty outfits during the fifteen-day shoot, including pieces by JJ Schoeman and De Patri. The star of the show adorned herself with everything from leather and diamonds and cubics in the constant pursuit of glamour and style. The hats, the boas, the slinky black dressing gown and the evening gown a la Marilyn Monroe are sure to be conversations pieces. Outfits ranged from classy understatement to those venturing on the outrageous, but whatever the apparel, the Baroness was always able to carry it off.

As the production came to a close the Baroness was finally able to kick back her high heels and relax, but for the post-production team the work was only just beginning. ZSE was the scene where hundreds of hours of footage were cut down and shaped into the TV episodes. Thirteen weeks of post-production were scheduled - a week per episode for the run of the show. By now the buzz had started to circulate and SABC3 was already offering titillating glimpses of their latest exciting show… Below the Belt

In June 2004 Below the Belt was sold to Foxtel's Comedy Channel via its agent Verve Entertainment.