In spite of being a Norwegian movie, Journey to the Christmas Star (now in cinemas) was filmed almost entirely in the Czech Republic in central Europe. The small country has become an attractive venue for foreign film productions, due to the low cost of labour and skilled crews.
Earlier this year, Czech crews assisted Norwegian production company Moskus Film on fantasy adventure Journey To The Christmas Star. Directed by Nils Gaup, the film tells the story of young girl’s perilous journey to help a broken-hearted king. Sirena Film was the film’s Czech line production company. Moskus Film producer Jan Eirik Langøen spoke to the Czech film commission about the Czech portion of the shoot.
Q: Why did you choose to film in the Czech Republic?
Langøen: There are several reasons for this. We quite early on decided to work with Barrandov Studios for the costumes – their range of fantasy costumes is just incredible. Barrandov also came highly recommended from some friends of mine. Then we started location scouting for our main location, the castle, and when I was taken to Pernstejn, there was no doubt. This was the castle for our film.
Q: What gave you confidence that the Czech Republic could deliver the look you wanted?
Langøen: We were going for a kind of magic realism. The Chronicles of Narnia was definitely a reference for us. It was important to us that we created a fantasy world. Our story takes place in a kingdom, somewhere far north, a long time ago. It was important for us that we found a castle with a kind of Nordic fairytale look to it. And Pernstejn fulfilled all the criteria.
Q: What was your impression of Czech crews?
Langøen: Ten out of 10! Everything was on the mark from day one. All the crew members were extremely dedicated to their jobs and showed a genuine interest in the project.
Q: What were some of the more interesting sets you built?
Langøen: We built a super-oversized foot of a tree in the studio, Santa Clause’s office and the Forest Elf’s home. The quality of the work was of the highest standard. The level of detail really made all sets come alive.
Q: Did you have any trouble dealing with the remarkably cold temperatures on location?
Langøen: I’m Norwegian [laughs]! The actors and the extras had some tough days at work since we couldn’t heat up the castle, but we got through it OK.
Q: How did you and the crew unwind in your free time?
Langøen: When we shot on location, we pretty much stayed at the hotel. Nothing like 30 minutes in a sauna after 12 hours in the cold. We had shorter days in Prague, so we know have a fairly good knowledge of the excellent bars and restaurants that can be found in Prague.
Q: What Czech companies or individuals were the most helpful?
Langøen: The Czech Film Commission was very helpful from our first contact. Our Czech line production company, Sirena Film, was fantastic to work with. Whenever there was a problem (and we didn’t have many) they always came up with a solution that worked. I really hope I get a chance to work with them again. Mrs. Kratka at the costume department at Barrandov also did an amazing job with the costumes. And Czech Tourism was also very helpful.
Q: Have you secured any international distribution deals for the film yet?
Langøen: Yes, we have. So far the film has been sold to 40 countries.
Q: What other projects are you lining up for the near future?
Langøen: I hope to be back in the Czech Republic next year with one or two projects.
The Czech Republic is one of the world’s top destinations for international film productions, and a country with an esteemed film history as well as a robust local film culture. In the last 20 years, major studios and independents from all over have brought their films here for awesome locations, world-class facilities, and exceptional talent. In 2011, Prague saw production on Missing, a 10-part series for U.S. broadcaster ABC, starring Sean Bean and Ashley Judd. The previous year, we were very excited to host Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in 2010 when Paramount Pictures returned with the latest instalment in the franchise, which originally shot in Prague in 1996. In addition to other Hollywood films such as Lucasfilm’s Red Tails, the Czech Republic has seen production on Nikita Mikhalkov’s Cannes title Burnt By The Sun 2 and European co-production TV series Borgia. Other film and TV projects filmed there includes Frankenstein’s Army, Henri IV and G.I.Joe.
Courtesy of the Czech Film Commission.