16. August 2007

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Following the blockbuster movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, partially shot in the Czech Republic in 2005, The Chronicles of Narnia returned to Prague with its sequel Prince Caspian. On one of the film’s sets, in the forest near Dobříš, Central Bohemia, we caught up with American Producer Mark Johnson.

You have been filming for five months and there is still a month to go. You yourself have already been in Prague for a half a year. What is your assessment of the filming so far and how do you enjoy living here? The filming has gone entirely without a hitch. At the beginning we were a little worried about how such a large and very international team would adjust and how they would cooperate amongst themselves. We have people here from New Zealand, the USA, the UK, Germany and other countries, there are about 150 foreigners in the crew, the other roughly two-thirds of the crew are Czechs. The cooperation has gone completely smoothly. The crew is very experienced and professional. We also can’t praise the work in the studios enough. Barrandov Studios are great, you can feel the filming tradition in the older ateliers and the new stages are also fantastic, modern. And Barrandov has a great back lot, where it was possible to build a huge and wonderful castle decoration. Everything here is in one place, which is an advantage. And as far as Prague goes? It is simply a very international lively city with a high standard of living. It didn’t take long to convince anyone in the crew to come here to work and live, even for several long months. That can’t be said about every destination.

And what were the main reasons for choosing the Czech Republic? The film’s director, Andrew Adamson, is from New Zealand, and of course he would have rather filmed there. The better part of the first Narnia film was filmed there, too. But this time we were looking for a better combination of location and infrastructure, especially as far as soundproof studios are concerned. We primarily needed forests, wooded areas, for exteriors. We went to look at Hungary, Romania, Poland, Germany, Austria and France, and here in the Czech Republic we found suitable locations and wonderful studios. The standard of living I mentioned also decided in its favour. Andrew Adamson also consulted with other directors who have already filmed in the Czech Republic, including Martin Campbell, the director of Casino Royale, and they all recommended filming in the Czech Republic. And I have also had a good experience with filming in the Czech Republic, though that was in the early 90’s on Steven Soderbergh’s film Kafka.

And how are the Czech Republic’s chances for filming the third part of Narnia? According to the book we are going to need an enormous water tank. There is nothing of the kind in the Czech Republic and only a few in the entire world. We would like to film the other studio scenes here. We have a few possibilities and combinations; the final decision hasn’t been made yet. But wherever it will be, the Czechs will certainly be part of the crew for the third Narnia.

Do you think that tax incentives, if they could be implemented, would speak in favour of the Czech Republic? Certainly. Incentives are very important at the current time. Lots of countries have implemented or are implementing them. They have found out that the film industry is a very lucrative business for the regions and the country itself and that the effect that it has on the other sectors is even several times higher. You have a film industry at the highest level in the Czech Republic and introducing incentives would ensure it is preserved and that your competitiveness is maintained.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a Walden Media and Disney production. The Prague based international production company Stillking Films handles the local services and serve also as associate producers. The film's premiere is planned for May, 2008.