When Daniel Dabbs packaged and sent out his first subscription box with a handful of survival tools in 2015, he had no idea that five years later, his BattlBox company would be the subject of a Netflix original series.
“Southern Survival,” the reality show that debuts Friday night on Netflix, was filmed almost entirely in Portal, with the exception of a few episodes.
The show that asks the question “What good is surviving disasters if you can’t have fun doing it?” boasts this description: “Laugh along as the BattlBox crew prepares for the worst, testing products designed to help people survive dangerous situations, including explosions, natural disasters and intruders.”
BattlBox CEO Daniel Dabbs, COO Patrick Kelley and CMO John Roman first met while in school at Milledgeville and then joined forces when Dabbs’ creativity brought forth BattlBox. Dabbs, who owned a screen print company in Statesboro, was familiar with mystery-type subscription boxes and decided he wanted to invent a subscription box that pertained to his interest. That interest happened to be survival.
Each package that arrives monthly to subscribers contains survival tools or gadgets, specifically picked out by the BattlBox crew, to help subscribers prepare for a variety of disasters or challenges.
“We take a practical approach to being prepared via our monthly subscription service, unlike many of the so-called ‘doomsday preppers’ that have a negative connotation,” Dabbs said.
BattlBox tools and videos relate to such survival techniques as water purification, shelter building, self-defense, food preparation and more.
Shortly after Dabbs started the business, Brandon Currin joined the team. He was experienced in filming outdoor and hunting shows and, starting a new YouTube channel, Currin was seeking fresh content. One of Currin’s shows was his hosting the “unboxing” on his YouTube channel of each Mission box, and soon, Currin moved his family from North Carolina to Georgia.
“Our audience gravitated towards Brandon’s personality,” Dabbs said.
The start-up of Dabbs’ invention moved much quicker than the production of the new television series.
“From the time I came up with the BattlBox concept and created a website in March of 2015, within two weeks, I was shipping to all 50 states,” he said.
When Currin moved south a year later, BattlBox launched its YouTube channel.
“The reach that BattlBox was getting and Brandon’s quirky, fun personality caught the attention of others, and after several phone and video interviews, a production company, High Noon, came out and shot a pitch reel,” Dabbs said.
Shooting ‘Southern Survival’
That initial contact began three years ago, and with some back and forth communication, the BattlBox group soon learned that Netflix was interested in their concept.
Last July, Los Angeles film crews descended upon Portal and the filming began. Dabbs, Kelley, Roman and Currin had to keep that info to themselves.
“Contractually, we couldn’t say anything until last week,” Dabbs said.
Keeping filming under the radar wasn’t easy with explosions and car crashes and other wild stunts taking place on the northern edge of Bulloch County.
“We turn the volume up on our product testing,” Currin said. “The show is unscripted. We filmed 12-hour days from July until just before Thanksgiving.”
Though paramedics and fire trucks were usually required to be on set, Currin jokingly said they weren’t really needed for any of the episodes.
“We’ve been elbow-deep in this for three years now,” he said. “We’ve put so much work in that it’s not a surprise, but it’s been a lot of fun, quite an experience.
“There’s a lot more work that goes into a show than you realize; makes me appreciate the people that do that. The crew busted their butts from sun up until sundown to have a hit show.”
That’s exactly what the BattlBox crew is hoping for — a hit show.
“Being able to look back, to say ‘we did that,’ is thrilling to us,” Currin said. “To think, ‘We did some pretty cool stuff, helping out people and meeting some really cool people along the way.’”
Dabbs said that though the show is the highlight of their career, the purpose of his company is being prepared for a number of contingencies.
“The ultimate takeaway — you’re responsible for preparing for your safety, and we help you get there quicker,” Dabbs said. “We find out what these cool new products are, and BattlBox does the legwork for you, testing the products, sending them to you.
“We know a fair amount about survival. It’s hard to know everything about survival, but we know enough to put it into practice, and our motto is ‘let’s learn together.’”
And now, everyone who tunes into Netflix’s “Southern Survival” can watch the Portal BattlBox crew learn as they go, try out new products and explode a few things along the way.
“There’s nothing out there like our show,” Currin said. “It’s different.”