Medieval drama Knightfall shot Croatia as Holy Land
History Channel’s scripted historical drama Knightfall filmed Croatia as the Holy Land city of Acre over the course of a six-month shoot.
Set at the beginning of the 14th century, the series recounts a fictionalised version of the persecution of the Knights Templar by King Philip IV of France.
The production used stage facilities at Barrandov Studios in Prague for set-building but also filmed extensively throughout Croatia. Regular pre-production spanned around six weeks.
“Dubrovnik, Croatia, [doubled for] Acre in the Holy Land, which opens the series as the Templars fight a losing battle,” says David Minkowski, head of production at Stillking Films, in comments to KFTV.
The shoot was scheduled during the Croatian summer, meaning the production team faced a challenge minimising disruption to the regional tourism industry.
“Exciting challenges also included building a couple of seaworthy ships (Crusader and Merchant) and transporting them from two remote shipyards to the set by sea,” says Ana Starcevic of Pakt Media, the show’s Croatian service company.
“[We relocated] existing businesses in our chosen port to a satisfactory substitute location, [built] a functioning jetty able to withstand the changing sea conditions and obtained all the permits required when filming in a UNESCO protected site.”
Extensive location filming took place throughout the Czech Republic.
“Czech Republic was shot all across the country in castles, forests, and battlefields,” says Minkowski.
“Castles included Krivoklat, Lipnice, Tocnik, Zvikov and Kost. We also built a large back lot set of Paris, and four stages’ worth of interiors.”
The castles’ existing architecture minimised the need for set construction outside Barrandov, with weather being the producers’ biggest challenge.
“Our schedule forced us to shoot in winter on location with battles that included hundreds of extras, stuntmen and horses,” says Minkowski.
“We had mud, rain and snow, and freezing temperatures. The crew had to fight the elements to build base camps, access locations and keep everyone as warm as possible.”
Croatia originally benefitted from an international profile boost when Dubrovnik became a stand-in for Westeros city King’s Landing in HBO’s drama series Game of Thrones.
Since then the city’s high-profile production roles have seen it double for an alien planet in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and host a set of medieval Nottingham in Otto Bathurst’s upcoming version of Robin Hood, due for release later this year.
Filmmakers are also increasingly turning their attention to Croatia’s islands. Anthology TV drama The Terror filmed the flat visuals of Pag as the remote landscapes of Canada’s North-West Passage and musical Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (pictured below) shot the island of Vis - a couple of hours from the city of Split by ferry - as a Greek story setting.
Knightfall is not the first drama series with a Middle-Eastern setting to film in Croatia. The short-lived show Dig used the country as a stand-in for modern Jerusalem when the production team was considered at risk from flaring violence between Israel and Gaza in the summer of 2014.
Malta and Morocco are both popular filming locations regularly used as doubles for Middle Eastern settings. Kenneth Branagh used Malta as a stand-in for period Jerusalem in his feature adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express and Kevin Reynolds also chose Malta for his biblical film Risen.
Amazon’s upcoming spy drama Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan chose Morocco as a double for multiple Middle Eastern settings including Yemen and Iraq.
Knightfall images: History Channel. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! image: Universal Pictures