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TV drama Jamestown doubled Hungary for Virginia

JamestownHistorical drama Jamestown doubled Hungary for early 17th century Virginia, building an immersive, 360-degree set near Budapest.

The series follows English settlers in Jamestown, which in real life was the first permanent American settlement established in what was then the Colony of Virginia.

London-based Carnival Films produced the series for Sky in the UK and NBC Universal International. 

Producers considered locations around the world for Jamestown. America was found to be too expensive, while the weather was too unpredictable in Canada and South Africa presented incentive and exchange rate challenges, Carnival executive producer Gareth Neame revealed in a podcast interview with Broadcast. 

“When looking for feasible places to double as Virginia, Hungary didn’t automatically spring to mind, what with it being a landlocked country,” said Nigel Marchant, an executive producer on the drama. 

“However, with its amazing plains, diverse topography, and the hot summers, we soon realised it was a viable option." 

For more on filming in Hungary and for local contacts see our production guide.

“We had an extraordinarily skilled production designer, Donal Woods, who worked with us on all the series of Downton Abbey, who created the Jamestown settlement, blending it in with the local landscape, and giving the directors and cast a 360-degree playground to explore."

The set was designed and built near Budapest with complete interiors to complement its exterior spaces and allow the series directors to have greater flexibility in their shot selections.

“The whole set has been built using the traditional techniques that English settlers of the early 17th century would have used,” says Neame. 

Jamestown“It has been constructed as a composite - which means you can follow a character right around the town and in and out of the interiors, through a door and into a house and out again and this gives it a very real, three-dimensional feeling. There is never a cut to a set.”

Given that the setting is America’s eastern seaboard, the Jamestown inhabitants meet Native Americans through the course of the story. These characters were cast in the US using agencies who specialised in period projects and had worked on films like 1830s-set survival story The Revenant. 

A second series of Jamestown has been commissioned by Sky.

Hungary has become an Eastern European production hub with a 25% filming incentive and top studio facilities. London-based Left Bank Pictures has started shooting a new series of its military drama Strike Back in the country and recent high-profile features have included Ridley Scott's sci-fi survival story The Martian and Blade Runner 2049. 

Images: Carnival Films/Sky