filming a song of fire & ice

the Wildlings beyond The Wall...

the Wildlings beyond The Wall…

‘winter is coming…’ is the most famous line in HBO’s Game of Thrones, the globally popular epic fantasy television adaptation of George R. Martin’s series of novels, A Song of Fire and Ice.

filmed in over several locations including Morocco, Northern Ireland, Croatia and Malta, the series follows the struggles of various noble houses in their efforts to capture the land’s most coveted seat, the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms which results in a long and bloody civil war.

each nation of the Seven Kingdoms is as distinct as the other, from the summer-kissed nation’s capital of King’s Landing and the harsh, unforgiving deserts of Eastern Essos, land of the Dothraki to the cold, foreboding lands in the North and beyond The Wall;  a massive fortification that stretches 300 miles across the continent, protecting the Seven Kingdoms from the ruthless wildlings and the mythical, magical white-walkers.

Kit Harington as Jon Snow, a member of the Knight's Watch

kit harington as jon snow, a member of the Knight’s Watch…

in the show, these snow-capped, blizzard-blasting northernmost reaches of the Seven Kingdoms are filmed in our favourite country, iceland, the island of fire and ice. :) (see video below for the making of the show in iceland)

weather, as anybody knows, is highly unpredictable in iceland but the landscapes more than make up for any of it and the production company that is helping the crew film in these intense conditions is one of iceland’s best known in the business, Pegasus Panartica.

Einar Sveinn, the company’s director of marketing, kindly took some time out to tell us a little bit about the shoots for the show as well as the blooming interest with iceland as a location for many hollywood productions.

from a production standpoint, what has made iceland a popular spot for international film crews?
iceland first and foremost has amazing locations, with a wide variety of looks in terms of landscapes.

Game of Thrones is another famous show that is shot in iceland. what has Pegasus’ experience been like working with the crew of that show? is it very different from working on a local icelandic project and how so?
Game of Thrones has been a great experience for us. it´s a group of very professional, hard working and fun people, who we mesh well with, crew and actors alike. it´s also a big-scale production compared to most local shows and a very big, popular show worldwide.

what are the challenges you face as a local co-ordinator for a production on a scale like Game of Thrones for example, securing talented local crews, transporting equipment to remote areas etc.
the first challenge working with them is to find the right locations suitable for the various scenes taking place beyond The Wall. then comes the accessibility to those locations and in many cases, it involves carrying equipment over some distance or carting them all in. shooting scenes for season 3, for example, we had to use snow sleds to get the cameras and a lot of the equipment into areas that were snowed in.

the weather in iceland is so unpredictable. were there any days on the set where the crew had to shut down and just wait for the weather to get better?
we’ve been very lucky with weather on Game of Thrones. in the first year, we got the right amount of snow that was required for pivotal scenes just 3 days before the shoot. the one storm that did come was in fact, really good for these scenes and they kept on shooting right through it while we were pulling vehicles out of snowdrifts right and left. on the whole, though, we’ve had to wait for the weather to clear a bit for a lot of the scenes but i’m glad to say that, so far, we haven’t had to shut any of our productions down for the show.

shooting a scene for game of thrones in iceland...

the Game of Thrones crew on set in iceland…

what’s a typical day like on the Game of Thrones set? for example do you have ridiculous calltimes or any funny, amazing moments?
Game of Thrones decided to come to iceland in the middle of winter, in november, when we have approximately 4-5 hours of daylight. the planning is all done around those few hours but we’d start working just as early as on other shoots, prepping for it and then wrapping the filming in the dark with work lights. there have definitely been a lot of amazing moments and fun times as well on the set.

ciaran hinds plays the king beyond The Wall, mance rayder, in this season of the show...

ciaran hinds plays the king beyond The Wall, mance rayder, in this season of the show…

what’s the crew size like on average when filming large-scale hollywood productions?
we have had a round of 100 hundred people working at any one time, but there have also been times when we have a lot of extras. when that happens, the numbers can go up to 200 people.

where do you see the industry in iceland heading to in the future?
the industry in iceland has developed tremendously in the last 10 years, to the point where foreign crews feel confident about coming to such an extreme place. the locations are number one, but the crew is really resourceful and hard working, english speaking, and we’ve managed to increase the availability of equipment, so most productions will not have to experience the hassle of bringing such equipment into the country. we generally understand that we are still a small nation, with limited production resources at times, but we’ve managed really well despite those limitations. accommodation can also be a problem sometimes since  tourism has been on the rise each year. fortunately, for us, more accommodation keeps getting added, making it easier for production crews, big or small to put up for longer periods of time for their shoots. i feel overall, with these improvements, the future for production in iceland, is definitely looking bright.

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