A+E Networks-owned History Channel is set to examine one of the last great mysteries of World War II as part of its latest factual series, Lost Gold of World War II.
Legend has it that there is a treasure of immense value buried in the Philippine jungle — now a team of American experts, with the help of the only surviving witness, try to uncover the clues to solve the greatest mystery of WW2.
Produced by Ample Entertainment, the 8 x 60-minute series will follow a team of American investigators and engineers, with the help of the only surviving witness, as they journey deep into the Philippine jungle in search of gold worth hundreds of billions of dollars buried by Japanese forces as they were pursued by Allied forces.
Legend has it that Japanese soldiers, led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita and Allied prisoners of war, had constructed a system of secret underground tunnels scarred with booby-traps and ancient Japanese symbols – before Yamashita had the entrances blown up trapping the soldiers inside – to keep his secret.
The search for gold commences on March 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.
Ahead of the premiere, Realscreen caught up with Lott, executive producer and AMPLE co-founder, to discuss the origins of Lost Gold of World War II.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
What made you go on this journey?
This is a story that’s fascinated us both for years. Lost treasure, a World War II mystery protected by a secret society set against the backdrop of this epic jungle littered with strange markings — what’s not to love? But, we needed an original way in. Finally, we found a guy known as “Grandpa” deep in the mountains of the Philippines, where this story is meant to have taken place, who claimed to know something. “Grandpa” didn’t have a phone, so we knew if we were going to get him to speak we’d have to go see him in person. So a few days later we left a pitch in Los Angeles on a Friday and by Sunday we [were] in the Philippines meeting an old man who we hoped might have seen something 70 years ago. We filmed with him and as soon as we started seeing it come together it felt like a brand new way into World War II, so we were incredibly excited when Dolores Gavin at History got it immediately and became as enthusiastic as us. For a story as layered as this, you need a network partner that understands and can lean into mystery storytelling. Between Dolores, Mary Donahue, and Mike Stiller we couldn’t have partnered with folks more brilliant in that area.
What was the most challenging part of this production?
Let’s start with presenting a sizzle reel centered around an 86-year-old rice farmer speaking the local language, Tagalog. And once we got into production, that was a whole new set of challenges — from working with the amazing local families and officials to get access and permissions we needed to film — to getting our crew out there. While we’ve had a lot of experience setting up productions in harsh environments — in this case the area we were shooting was so remote that we had to build everything we needed out there: accommodation, production offices, clean rooms for all the equipment and even a medical room because we were miles from the nearest hospital. Luckily, we had a great field team led by showrunner Ed Gorsuch and the safety team from SO3 who shepherded the intrepid cast and crew safely through record temperatures, dengue fever and, most scary of all, a category five “mega-typhoon.” And to protect the site we had to achieve all this with as much secrecy as we possibly could.
How does this series fit into the AMPLE brand?
This series is a big swing for us — mostly because of the ambitious central promise, the complexity of production and the unexpected characters, and, because of that, it lines up perfectly with the AMPLE brand. Also, because of our love of off-the-grid, can-do filmmaking this series shares something else with all of our shows: authenticity. From our self-shot series 9 Months with Courteney Cox on Facebook Watch to our crime series The Night that Didn’t End or Murder in the Heartland on ID, all our shows lean into various ways of capturing something real and unvarnished and then adding layers of the cinematic visuals people expect from us.