Not long ago, this quarry, 40 kilometers from Prague, housed a carefully constructed fake town called the Two Rivers. Then, a few days ago, the producers and decorators of Amazon The wheel of time burned it. The town inn, an intricately-rendered two-story building, is now blackened, its left side plunged into spiky rubble: the smoke machines make it look like it’s still smoldering. There are holes in the roofs, cleverly destroyed beams. Every house, inside and out, has been charred enough to be visible on camera. The actors who travel through the Deux Rivières are made up to match. Rosamund Pike, who starred in Missing girl, is stained with soot. The rain began to fall in earnest, building up in the muddy streets and sending the extras and stunt performers shivering. Michael McElhatton, who played Roose Bolton on Game Of Thrones and play a character called Tam al’Thor on The wheel of time, sits on a stump in the middle of it all in a big puffer jacket, not looking at anything in particular.
It’s November 2019, and the production – made up of hundreds, and on some days nearly a thousand – is filming the end of the first episode of what everyone hopes is a TV show that lasts, well: six. seasons? Eight? A spectacle as epic, sensational and ubiquitous as Game Of Thrones once was. On one side of the green, a camera sits on a long dolly track; another cameraman crisscrosses the stage, taking various close-ups. The episode’s seasoned television director Uta Briesewitz arranges four of the series’ main cast of relatively unknown young actors into one counting moment: the character of Pike, a woman with mysterious powers, has arrived to wake them up and put them in their way. “Your life won’t be what you thought it was,” Pike intones, as various cameras surround him. Pike goes through his speech, which is heavy on exposure for both the characters and the audience, a few times. “Can I do one more?” She asks Briesewitz, apologizing to the scattered extras. “I think that one has gotten a little wrong.”
Finally, Briesewitz calls it “cut”. Pike retreats from the weather to a nearby tent. “It’s not like working with David Fincher,” she told me, referring to the Missing girl Director’s penchant for filming 70 takes of a scene. The production is huge and is moving at high speed. Pike must know things back and forth. She has to get out her lines as dozens of crew and background actors soak in the cold rain and real live horses wander around as makeup artists with clear plastic bags come in and out to touch up pictures. extras and guys with cans of smoke paddled the edges of the planes in the haze. This set they’re on – not just a few hollow facades put in place to create the impression of reality, but real buildings, in all directions – is giant, immersive, and won’t last after this episode.
Want to do the next Game Of Thrones? This is how it begins. Viewers have become accustomed to a kind of scale, or realism, that comes close to the real thing. “It’s not like we can go and say ‘Oh you know Game Of Thrones, the first season they only spent that, ”” Mike Weber, executive producer of The wheel of time, said. “The public’s expectation comes from the last season of Game Of Thrones, not the first season. For the first season of Thrones, HBO spent around $ 6 million per episode, a figure that steadily grew from there. Amazon and The wheel of time? They start at over $ 10 million per episode – for eight in total, the first of which will begin airing in November – just to get out the door.