Sunday marked marked the premier of the first non-teaser trailer for season two of Game of Thrones, HBO’s hit new fantasy series based on the books by George R. R. Martin. It was worth the frantic page refreshing – from Joffrey pointing a crossbow at Sansa to the Hound bashing someone’s face in with a morning star, it looks like a swanky new season. Season two will also mark the return of Peter Dinklage as the snarky dwarf Tyrion Lannister. Dinklage won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the role.
The trailer had another star: the sets, spanning the series’ capitol city to the frigid north beyond the Wall. Though still filming in Northern Ireland, this season film crews hoofed it to Iceland and Croatia, two countries with tremendous natural beauty but relatively little film action.
Kings Landing, the seaside capitol city of Westeros, found a real-life replica in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Dubrovnik is unusual – it possesses the balmy beauty of a Mediterranean city, but also features towering walls from the Middle Ages. With walls pre-built and spanning almost two kilometers, camera crews have the perfect set for the massive naval and land battle at the end of Clash of Kings, the book season two follows. The Croatian government has been very supportive of filming and hopes the season brings more tourism to Dubrovnik.
Season two also features Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch riding north to face the White Walkers. The crew found the frigid beauty they needed in Iceland, specifically the Svinafellsjokull calving glacier. The crew relied on a local film company, Pegasus Pictures, to scry for fresh snowfall – 2010’s volcanic activity left some of the glaciers sooty. Ultimately, the snow came, and the set pictures look perfect for the icy north.
In film, sets can often become a entire character. The job of a location scout is crucial, both to find the best sets and to balance aesthetic appeal with budget. Films, however, can often boost interest in a country. For this reason, Croatia and Iceland both offer discounts and rebates for film production crews. Peter Jackson made New Zealand known as the Land of the Hobbits for people who couldn’t find it on a map. Perhaps Game of Thrones will bring similar notice to Northern Ireland, Croatia and Iceland.