23. January 2015

The Musketeers is back on BBC1 and I hope you’re enjoying it. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of recreating 17th-century France as a backdrop to all the action. But I wonder if you’ve stayed to the end of the credits and noticed where it’s filmed. Because it’s not France, or even the UK. We actually make the show in the Czech Republic and I’d like to explain why. Firstly, it’s a way of making quality BBC drama for £1.4 million per one-hour episode. It’s less expensive than Britain and tax incentives mean we can claim back 20 per cent of our outlay, which then goes back into the production.
But money is far from being the only reason. I’ve been working on this show for two years and I’m in the Czech Republic a lot. Each series I check with my wife and family that they’re OK for me to spend six months in Prague and they nod, knowing I’m going to love every minute of it. Plus they get to visit this beautiful city throughout the shoot.
For anyone in TV, the Czech Republic is a joy – it understands film-making and caters for the needs of a production employing 120 people. The expertise comes from hosting countless international feature films, including Casino Royale and Mission: Impossible, and BBC dramas such as The Scarlet Pimpernel and BAFTA award-winning Charles II: The Power And The Passion. I work with a local film company called Czech Anglo Productions which helps with everything from sourcing our crew to location scouting to liaising with the Czech Ministry of Culture. Should we need a 17th-century boat by next week, they have an artisan boat builder who will make one to order. The local specialists are all here and they all speak fluent English. Then there are the locations which give our production a grand, feature film scale. We don’t use studios – the backdrops and cinematic vistas give us so much for free. It’s the equivalent of the locations David Lean had while making Lawrence Of Arabia in Jordan, Morocco and Spain. We’ve even had the joy of filming in Pilsen, this year’s European City of Culture. Plus, the buildings in and around Prague are stunning – and among the cheapest in Europe to hire. So much of the architecture is unspoilt by modern development. It helps the actors feel they are in the 17th century.
So there you have it – the extraordinary locations, film-friendly landlords and skilled workforce; why wouldn’t we choose the Czech Republic? Oh and the beer is only £1 a bottle and excellent too. That keeps a crew happy!

- Colin Wratten, producer, BBC