26. March 2020

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We headed to the set of the Norwegian film Dragon Girl, a children's fairytale fantasy co-produced by the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The small Norwegian-Czech crew, with its calmness and concentration, fit in nicely with the picturesque, quiet town of Dobřichovice near Prague, where the shooting was underway.

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Dragon Girl | Photo: Zuzana Panská, Evolution Films

It's the penultimate day of the shoot and the crew is working on a scene that takes place in a Christmas market. It's almost spring in Dobřichovice, so they've had to reverse the clocks a bit, turning the entire street into a market filled with Christmas spirit with stalls offering wooly Nordic sweaters, mulled wine, and sausages. “This film is tough to shoot because there are three lead characters: a boy, a girl, and a dragon… and the dragon doesn’t actually exist,” laughs Norwegian producer Petter J. Borgli. "We have to shoot the film in a particular way. We'll create the dragon in the computer afterwards and then insert it into the film. The Dutch are taking care of the postproduction and computer graphics," he adds.

This is far from the first time that the Norwegian producer has worked in the Czech Republic. "I know the Czech Republic. I've made two other films here before. I saw most of the country during location scouting because then you get to see a lot of places all over the place. I love it more than being a tourist. Especially when we were working on Amundsen. I thought it was fantastic because we were shooting in those beautiful old castles." 

In addition to the epic film about the first conqueror of the North Pole, the Norwegian producer also made the children's family film Magic Christmas in the Czech Republic. Czech co-producer Pavel Berčík of Evolution Films is no stranger to fairytales and children's movies in general, so they've worked together several times before. 

We caught up with Borgli during a short visit to the set in Dobřichovice, where he told us that he loves coming back to the Czech Republic, highlighting the excellent technical skills as well as the practical and capable people he works with. Pavel Berčík added that an essential aspect of working well together was the human aspect and the similarities in character between the Czechs and the Norwegians. 

A 70-member team is working on Dragon Girl, headed by Swedish director Katarine Launing. It's the story of a ten-year-old girl who finds herself alone at Christmas, so she breaks into a house and traps a baby dragon. But it escapes, and she decides with the help of a friend to find it and return it to its mother - a dragon. In the end, the girl is not alone at Christmas and spends it together with her friend at his house. The producer emphasizes that it's not a fairytale per se, but rather a children's fantasy film because, in his opinion, fairytales take place in the “olden days” and are based more on tradition. But in Dragon Girl, the kids use Instagram and YouTube – basically living in the modern world.

The Norwegian crew spent 35 shooting days in the Czech Republic on Dragon Girl, and thanks to the Silvershot location agency, filmmakers found their ideal locations in Dobřichovice, Beroun, Líbeznice, the Koněprusy caves, and Prague. Smaller towns like Dobřichovice are very attractive for film crews because they’re just a short distance from Prague yet filled with the atmosphere and locations of a fairytale town. During the drive to the set, crew driver Boris Mellion spoke to us about Dobřichovice and working with the locals: “People gradually get used to us and understand that we’re bringing their town benefits, even if it sometimes inconveniences them,” he adds with a smile. He also revealed that Norwegian filmmakers have a different work schedule - the crew works five-day weeks, while in the Czech Republic crews generally work six-day weeks on international productions, with Sunday off.

The town’s mayor Petr Hampl, who loves to see filmmakers in his town, commented on the cooperation between the town and the film crews: “The revenue from leasing spaces and locations are a welcome addition to our budget, and working with filmmakers in Dobřichovice has so far always been satisfactory for both sides.”

In addition to financial benefits, another important aspect is that international productions employ local filmmakers, and Czech names held senior positions on Dragon Girl. The film’s costume designer is Michaela Horáčková Hořejší, who has worked on such projects as the Czech TV series The First Republic, the fairytale films The Crown Prince and The Princess and The Scribe, but also on the above mentioned film Amundsen. Tomáš Pavlacký holds the position of first assistant director, the film’s art director is Jiří Sternwald, and the music is in the good hands of well-known producer and musician Jan P. Muchow, who has composed for more than 30 Czech films.

During our final chat on the set, the Norwegian producer emphasized how vital the cooperation between the co-producers is for him, as it offers producers greater financial opportunities and the use of incentives from multiple countries. "Without the support of the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, it would have been extremely challenging to pull together the necessary financing for Dragon Girl."

The film is supported by the Czech minority co-production scheme and received production incentives from the Czech Film Fund.