20. November 2020

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In March, during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a Dutch fantasy series was launched on Netflix without a major promotional campaign due to the exceptional situation at the time - The Letter for the King, filmed largely in the Czech Republic. It is quite possible that this six-part adventure for the whole family has escaped your attention. The series is ideal for long cold autumn evenings. With Czech castles currently closed, check out The Letter for the King and see how some of our monuments were transformed for the story by Czech filmmakers. At least you won't be cold.

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The Letter for the King | Photo: Netflix / Julie Vrabelová

The Netflix kids and family series The Letter for the King is based on the 1962 adventure fantasy novel of the same name by Dutch writer Tonke Dragt. The novel, which was published in English in 2013, is the first Dutch book adaptation for Netflix. The story takes place across three fictional medieval kingdoms.

Young squire Tiuri longs to become a knight. However, his fighting skills evoke more laughs than respect. His stepfather also distrusts his knightly abilities, even bribing Tiuri's opponent to lose to him in a tournament. To make matters worse, Tiuri hears invisible voices. During his contemplations in a tomb the night before he is to become a knight, he is interrupted by the dying Black Knight, who makes him swear to deliver a sealed letter to the king of the Unauwen empire. Fleeing the enemy Red Horsemen, Tiuri has only two weeks to deliver the secret letter to save the kingdom from the dark threat of war.

Television rights were purchased by the UK-based production company FilmWave and executive producer Paul Trijbits (Sing Street, Saving Mr Banks, Fish Tank), who partnered with showrunner, executive producer, and author Will Davies (How To Train Your Dragon, Puss in Boots), and series producer Chris Clark (All the Money in the World, Legend) to steer the project's development and production.

After initial filming in New Zealand, production moved to the Czech Republic for a full 14 weeks, from February 25 to May 31, 2019, for a total of 70 filming days here. Filmmakers spent a total of CZK 281 million in the Czech Republic and received incentives in the amount of CZK 56 million.

During filming in the Czech Republic, the crew worked on location at the Pernštejn, Bouzov, Křivoklát and Kost castles, as well as in forests and meadows in the Central Bohemian region. Interior scenes were created on stages at the former Siemens factory halls in Prague, which in recent years have often served as filmmaking studios. The spacious site also housed the production office and base camp.

Half of the shooting took place in the studio, where we built twelve different sets over the course of filming. In addition to the decoration for the ceremonial hall for filming the final scenes, there were, for example, sets of an ancient chapel and a life-size ship,” said Silvie Michajlova of Film Kolektiv, which together with Unit+Sofa provided production services in the Czech Republic. “We also made hundreds of props, costumes, riding harnesses, and historical weapons in the Czech Republic. This work involved local leatherworkers, saddlers, tailors, glassmakers, metalworkers, carpenters, patiners, locksmiths, and many other specialized professions.”

Approximately 150 local filmmakers in the Czech Republic worked on the production. “Including set construction and other work, however, almost 300 local crew worked on and around the set. Foreign filmmakers, on the other hand, numbered only 20, and seconding them in key positions were Czech filmmakers, such as supervising art director Jan Hák and costume supervisor Stáňa Šlosserová. Also, the entire stunt team and equestrian crew were Czech - from the renowned company Filmka, who also took part in filming in New Zealand,” said Michajlova.

The international crew was led by directors Felix Thompson, Alex Holmes and Charles Martin. The cast included Amir Wilson as the lead Tiuri (The Secret Garden), Ruby Serkis (National Treasure), Thaddea Graham (Curfew), Islam Bouakkaz, Jack Barton, Jonah Lees (Tale of Tales), and Nathanael Saleh (Mary Poppins Returns).

Whether the series will have a sequel has not yet been decided. If it does, filming will return to the Czech Republic according to executive producer Paul Trijbits: "We had a great experience with filming the first series and it doesn't make sense to start the whole circus elsewhere when it worked so great here - both creatively and in terms of great production facilities and service. You also have good studios and great building decorations. And your locations, especially medieval castles, are perfect for our story. Next season we have to shoot at the amazing Lipnice Castle, I only know it from scouting. It’s my favorite castle in the Czech Republic!”