20. August 2021

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August 18 saw the launch of the German-Canadian series The Defeated, which was filmed entirely in the Czech Republic. Most of the crew were Czech filmmakers, and Czech suppliers were involved in the entire production process from pre-production to shooting to post-production. Foreign producers shot on locations across the country and spent CZK 635 million.

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Photo: Stanislav Honzik

This eight-part thriller set in post-war Berlin was shot in the Czech Republic under the direction of Film United. It was co-produced for ZDF by German producers Tandem Productions and Canadian Bron Studios. In Germany, the series was broadcasted on ZDF television under the title Im Schatten der Mörder – Shadowplay. It's been running on Netflix since August 18th under the title The Defeated.

Foreign production spend in the Czech Republic: CZK 635 million

The foreign producers spent a total of CZK 635 million (USD 29.2 million / EUR 24.9 million) during pre-production, the 90 shooting days between April and September 2019, and for post-production. The huge inflow of foreign capital was stimulated by production incentives from the Czech Film Fund, which in this case amounted to more than CZK 112 million (USD 5.15 million / EUR 4.4 million).

Filming took place all over the country

The series avoided film studios, shooting entirely on location. The crew used numerous sites across the country, including Karlovy Vary, Doksy, Ploskovice, Lenesice, Usti nad Labem, Mlada Boleslav, Kladno, Slapy, and Prague.

Photo: Stanislav Honzik

"We had very good experience shooting in Lenesice," says producer Veronika Lencova of Film United. The Czech producers leased a former sugar factory from the municipality. Completely isolated from its surroundings, it provided an undisturbed location for filmmakers. The production even used part of the set from another World War II series, World on Fire, which the BBC filmed here earlier.

“We built on an additional section, creating a highly variable set where we shot many different motifs,” says Veronika Lencova.

Regional film office provided full support

“We worked with the Usti Region Film Office and the cooperation was excellent. If the opportunity arises, we will certainly take advantage of the services of other regional offices in the future,” says Lencova with praise. The Usti Region Film Office has plenty of experience with foreign and Czech productions and is known for actively looking for ways to contribute to film shoots.

Which Czech filmmakers worked on the series?

As with most foreign film projects shot in the Czech Republic, much of the crew was made up of Czech filmmakers. The production designer of The Defeated is Martin Vackar and the costume designer is Michaela Horejsi Horackova. Nora Sopkova, who was nominated for an Oscar and a British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) in 2020 for her work on Jojo Rabbit, was the set decorator on the project. 

Photo: Stanislav Honzik

Martin Sebik took the position of first assistant director, the stunt coordinator was Pavel Bezdek, and the head accountant was Marcela Zachova. Czech filmmakers were also involved in the construction of sets, props, costumes and make-up.

Thanks to the fact that the Czech Republic is a popular film destination, several foreign photographers have even relocated here permanently. This time, however, the role of set photographer was played by Stanislav Honzik, with whom Czech producers Film United have collaborated several times, and his photographs from the shoot accompany this article.

Czech suppliers were involved in all phases of production

Since the entire series was produced in the Czech Republic, local suppliers were involved in all stages of the project, in addition to Czech filmmakers. These included renting offices and vehicles, leasing camera and other technical equipment, catering and much more.

First-class post-production

Post-production and visual effects were handled by Universal Production Partners, one of the largest post-production and visual effects companies in Europe.

Photo: Stanislav Honzik

The music for the series was recorded by the acclaimed FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, which has extensive experience in recording film music with producers such as George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and Quentin Tarantino, and with directors Jodie Foster, Robert Redford and Werner Herzog. Sound post-production was provided by Czech company Soundsquare.

This incomplete list of those who participated in the production of the series in the Czech Republic gives an idea why foreign productions often choose the country for filming.

How foreign producers rate the cooperation

“We had the most incredible experience shooting in the Czech Republic two years ago on Shadowplay, and particularly with Film United. The Czech people are hard workers, very friendly, will go above and beyond to help you achieve your production goals, and are some of the most experienced and reliable crews working in the industry today. But beyond that, they care, not just about your show, but about you as human beings, and this unique quality is what sets them apart from the rest,” says executive producer David Davoli of Bron Studios, describing his experience.

Photo: Stanislav Honzik

Executive producer Rola Bauer of Tandem Productions confirms his words: “We always found a wonderful variety of locations and the professional crew makes Czech Republic one of the best places to shoot in. As I always enjoy shooting in the Czech Republic, I am looking forward to producing more series here in the future."

Will we see Czech actors in the series?

Companies that worked on The Defeated include the casting agency Myrnyx Tyrnyx, whose director Maya Kvetny was personally involved in the casting. In the series, alongside Taylor Kitsch, Nina Hoss, Sebastian Koch and Mala Emde, you’ll see Ivan G'Vera in an important role of a Russian officer and Jan Budar in another supporting role. And if Czech actors can improve their language skills in the future, we’ll see Czech names in the acting credits of foreign films even more often.

Another casting agency, Robin Film, provided extras for the series, which kept them quite busy. A total of 1,600 extras took their turns on the set.

Photo: Stanislav Honzik

For the actors, working on the series was an invaluable experience. The directorial duo Måns Mårlind, who is also the screenwriter, and Björn Stein were present during script read-throughs. Further rehearsals with the actors took place right on set before the shooting of individual scenes.

When the most challenging scene – the bank explosion – was filmed in a set built near Kladno, the filming itself was preceded by careful preparation in the form of special effects testing and safety training for the entire crew, actors, and extras. And now we can look forward to seeing how the scene turned out on Netflix.