You do not have to be a Game of Thrones fan to be in awe at the TV shows’ detailed props, CGI and high production values. However, few know that the workshop responsible for many of the ships visible in the series can be found in the landlocked Czech Republic.
If you are wondering where some of Hollywood’s biggest films and TV shows get their ships, look no further than the small Moravian town of Lipník nad Bečvou.
There a team led by Radim Zapletal has constructed ships for the Iron Fleet, Ragnar Lodbrok and Tristan and Isolde.
He says his workshop really got going in 2012 when, out of the blue, he was asked to build some of the ships for the History Channel’s Vikings TV show.
“I was having a normal day hammering away in my workshop when suddenly I get a phone call. I don’t speak any English, so I put the phone down. But then, half an hour later, they were already calling me in Czech.”
In his early years, Mr. Zapletal focused on historical weapon production.
Then, in the late 1980s, he decided to take part in the 500 anniversary celebrations of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America in proper style – by building a replica ship from the explorer’s fleet and sailing it to the New World.
The ship was built, but he never got to realise the dream of sailing it.
However, his talent was noticed and he was soon contacted by the Barrandov Studio in Prague.
The relatively cheap cost of shooting in the Czech Republic, coupled with its historic towns and skilled film staff, meant that the country was chosen by many Hollywood productions who went on to film there in the early-2000‘s.
Radim Zapletal’s ships started appearing in movies such as Van Helsing and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
But by 2012 business had slowed down in Barrandov and Mr. Zapletal’s team was out of work. The phone call from the Vikings TV Series caught them at the perfect time.
This includes a number of ships for the world famous HBO Game of Thrones series.
For a team that usually constructs historical vessels, he says that building ships for that show was quite different.
“Game of Thrones is a fantasy show, so when it comes to the ships these are always made according to the design of the artist. Due to the scale of the project there are of course many people involved, which can sometimes lead to complications. Everyone wants to contribute their bit. But in the end it has to float.”
While there are only three of them, Kolumbus 92 are a productive team, sometimes constructing three ships in a space of two months.
Asked about what is his favourite ship, he says he holds particular respect towards Viking ships, due to their technologically brilliant design.
He also admits that things can get emotional when the product is finished.
“It is true that you develop feelings towards the ship while you are building it. Not every ship can be constructed easily. Artists, of course, do not respect ships technology and often their designs are quite complicated. Then, when it is finally finished you push it out of the door and the delivery men, although they are professionals, just take it, load it up and drive away.”
Although time and financial constraints mean that the prop ships cannot be constructed with original historical tools, he says his Viking ships are guaranteed to last 10 years.
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