21. August 2020

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Prague, August 24, 2020

In the Czech Republic, the clapper has just fallen on the most financially beneficial foreign production since the introduction of production incentives. The neo-Victorian fantasy television series Carnival Row starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, a joint venture between the American companies Amazon Studios and Legendary Television, has completed two weeks of remaining production in Prague, after filming was interrupted at the beginning of March due to the spread of Covid-19.

Image carnival_row_season_1_photo_courtesy_of_legendary_television__amazon_studios_small_1.jpg

Carnival Row - Season 1 | Photo courtesy of Legendary Television & Amazon Studios

“Carnival Row represents the most amount that foreign filmmakers have ever spent in the Czech Republic and has earned a significant incentive for both seasons filmed. Bear in mind that this is a direct financial injection into the Czech economy, of which more than 60% goes to non-film SMEs in not only the fields of construction, real estate, hospitality and catering, tourism and transport, but also healthcare, energy, fashion and cosmetics, financial and legal services, and the like. These businesses are often also regional suppliers, not just based in Prague,” emphasizes Helena Bezděk Fraňková, director of the Czech Film Fund.

“The creation of audiovisual works for foreign productions in the Czech Republic has had a clear positive benefit for the Czech economy, as audiovisual production is one of the country’s largest creative industries. Maximizing the supply of goods and services by local self-employed and small to medium-sized enterprises - i.e. employment - in return for foreign capital is currently more desirable than ever. This production is also of undeniable cultural and promotional importance," says Minister of Culture Lubomír Zaorálek with regard to the restart of the economy in connection with coronavirus.

The second series began filming on November 11, 2019, with plans to spend multiple shooting days on locations and in studios. In addition to Prague and Barrandov Studios, it was filmed in Liberec and at the Sychrov chateau, in Doksany, Nelahozeves, Tousen and Libochovice. "Around 900 people worked on the production, of which only about 10% were foreign crew members. Of this number, 400 were craftspeople employed in the construction of the complicated sets that went up at Barrandov Studios. The first and second seasons spent a total of three years at Czech locations, and pre-production began as far back as 2017,” adds the head of the Czech Film Commission Pavlína Žipková.

The foreign crew could not praise local suppliers highly enough. The Czech Republic is known for the quality of artistic craft professions, as the season two showrunner, Erik Oleson, confirms: “The craftsmanship of our Czech crew is second to none, among the best I have ever seen in 30+ years in the business. The massive sets of Carnival Row are built out in such meticulous detail that you wouldn't know you’re on a back lot. You can walk its streets and alleys and directly into buildings that are functional working sets of their own. What would be prohibitively expensive to construct and film elsewhere is not only possible in the Czech Republic, the locals make it happen for a reasonable price and with a smile. Filming there is a pinch-yourself fantasy for any producer.” The first season of the series has just been nominated for three Emmy Awards: Outstanding Fantasy / Sci-fi Costumes, Outstanding Main Title Design, and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music.

Multiple directors have taken the helm throughout this series, ­including Andy Goddard, Thor Freudenthal, Julian Holmes, and Wendey Stanzler. The series takes place in a Victorian fantasy world filled with mythological immigrant creatures whose exotic homelands were invaded by the empires of man. This growing population struggles to coexist with humans — forbidden to live, love or fly with freedom. The first season follows the investigation of a series of murders that leave the city on edge and threaten the fragile peace. Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) star in the one-hour fantasy drama.

The Primacy of the Czech Republic

The Czech Film Commission, together with its parent institution the Czech Film Fund, as well as the Audiovisual Producers Association and the European Institute for Health and Safety in Film Industry, began work on the possibility of restarting audiovisual production immediately after the state of emergency was announced on March 12. The result of their efforts was the first self-regulatory guidelines on the European continent, which led to the restart of audiovisual production on May 7 - the Czech Republic thus becoming the first country in Central Europe to reopen to filmmakers.

“The Czech film industry was hard hit due to the global coronavirus shutdown. I appreciate that the Czech government acted fast and provided great support in order to restart film production. Since the country re-opened May 7th, international production has returned quickly. It's a testament to the amazing cast and crew of Carnival Row that it was one of the first global shows to get back on its feet and complete filming. To be sure, we adopted strict health and safety protocols even though the presence of the virus in the Czech Republic is low,” said producer David Minkowski from Stillking Films, the Prague-based production company.

Despite the still ever-changing conditions of various countries for cross-border transport of crew, the Czech Film Fund is working hard to accommodate foreign filmmakers and, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, issues documentation, on the basis of which filmmakers can travel to the Czech Republic from countries more affected by coronavirus. Before boarding the transport, it is recommended that crew members present a negative Covid-19 test result and be tested again immediately after arrival in the Czech Republic; foreign crew members should remain in quarantine until the test results are available. Test results are currently available within 2 to 6 hours after sampling. The duration of the quarantine, therefore, is a matter of hours, and at a maximum up to the next day after entering the country. Amazon Studios and Legendary Television took additional precautions including testing the cast and crew multiple times per week to ensure safe and effective set practices and protocols while in production.

With a significant number of filming days over the course of both seasons, Carnival Row is the longest and most demanding project shot in the Czech Republic so far and is indelibly written into the history of audiovisual production in the Czech Republic. Although relocation for such long shoots might not be easy for foreign stars and crew, Prague is praised for its safety, as well as the variety of ways to spend free time - including rich opportunities for sports and cultural activities, such as concert and theater performances, and a high standard of restaurant and hotel services. Orlando Bloom published a story on his Instagram account at the end of the filming of the first series, in which he briefly expressed his relationship to the country: “I love Prague! I love the Czech Republic!” “Such messages have a positive effect on the PR of our country,” added the new Consul General in Los Angeles, Jaroslav Olša, Jr.

Czech audiovisual production started almost immediately after the announcement of the restart on May 7 and shortly afterwards the pre-production of other suspended projects started back up, such as the high-budget series Wheel of Time (Amazon Studios), The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios), the third season of Haunted (Netflix), and Das Boot (Bavaria Fiction), as well as the feature films Transatlantic 473 (Netflix). The European co-production Margrete - Queen of The North, the family film Hui Buh (Constantin Film), as well as the sequel to Zurich Krimi (ARD), are even finished.