Bulgarian Film Commission

The Outpost - Set in Afganistan, Filmed in Bulgaria

Recreating the deadliest US Outpost in Afghanistan - in a Bulgarian quarry 

In the fall of 2018 Bulgaria hosted an extraordinary project to be entirely filmed here. What was unique about it was that for the first time it was going to show on the big screen the tragic story of the deadliest US war outpost in Afghanistan.

In 2006, PRT Kamdesh – later renamed Combat Outpost Keating – was one of several U.S. Army outposts established in Northern Afghanistan. Located in a remote valley surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountains, the base was regarded as a deathtrap; the troops stationed there faced regular Taliban attacks, culminating in one of the bloodiest American engagements of Operation Enduring Freedom. The film tells the story of the 53 U.S. soldiers and two Latvian military advisors who battled some 300 enemy insurgents at the Battle of Kamdesh.

The Behind-The-Scenes Featurette for The Outpost

Nu Boyana Film Studios was used as the unit production base for The Outpost. It is currently one of the leading filmmaking facilities in Europe, providing script to screen services. It is owned by Nu Image and Millennium Media.

The whole camp Keating was constructed in an empty quarry situated approximately 100 km from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The surroundings on spot were pretty much the same, compared to the real location in Afganistan, except for two major points - the river, flowing on the side of the real camp and the height of the mountains. The river scene for the movie was shot at the Struma river in Bulgaria. The mountains were extended twice their height via CGI. 

The various locations at the camp were build inside the quarry. The script dictated where a few of the elements had to be placed differently than they were in real life. All the big pieces are pretty accurate to where they were: Tactical Operations Center (TOC), Aid Station, Red Platoon Barracks, Mess Hall, Mosque. Those were the big elements production designer P. Erik Carlson and his team used as building block to stage from.

The Production designer’s team received photos and videos from the veteran soldiers and it’s because of these pictures that they were able to recreate as accurately as possible the real Outpost Keating.

Explaining about the location for the set in Bulgaria, producer Jonathan Yunger says: “The real Outpost sat in the bottom of a valley surrounded by three mountains pushed up against a river. So the idea was to have it in a place where when you walk in and look around the first reaction is: This is a really stupid place to put a military base. Because all the enemy had the high ground.”

The place they found for the shoot felt like you were in a fish pool and you weren’t safe. The same terrain as in Afganistan.

“The quarry we found in Bulgaria looked perfect for our goals - more accurate to Afghanistan - the kind of rocks, the color of the rocks, the vegetation. The proof in the pudding was when the actual soldiers who lived in that camp came and saw it they had chills and some of them even broke down in tears - it is so real, nothing has been exaggerated.” - producer Mark Frydman explains.

On choosing to film the project in Bulgaria, Frydman says: “To be honest when we were in Los Angeles and talking about shooting in Bulgaria. I was very nervous. When we started working with the people here, I saw it was like walking into an American set.”

The Outpost is a 2020 American war film directed by Rod Lurie, based on the 2012 non-fiction book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper, about the Battle of Kamdesh in the war in Afghanistan. It stars Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom, Jack Kesy, Cory Hardrict, Milo Gibson, Jacob Scipio, Will Attenborough, and Taylor John Smith. Produced by Millennium Media.

The film was scheduled to premiere at the 2020 South by Southwest Film Festival, but the festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was released via Premium VOD and in selected theaters on July 3, 2020. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the battle sequences and respectful depiction of the soldiers.

Watch the special CNN report from set: On location in Bulgaria as 'The Outpost' becomes a feature film

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