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First came the short stories and novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. Then, something as enormous as the Conjunction of the Spheres, the fictional cataclysmic event that created the world of the Witcher novels: in 2015, CD Project Red released The Witcher 3 videogame to widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike.
Now, in 2019, having only released one 8-episode season, Netflix's The Witcher, based on the novels, is TV's biggest show, having recently dethroned Disney's The Mandalorian.
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While the world of The Witcher already had a huge following before the series was released, the show's tight choreography, production, and filmmaking have undeniably played a great role in its popularity. Here are a few behind-the-scenes clips that show the process in action.
1. Choreography by the Night King
Before The Witcher was even released, it was almost constantly compared to Game of Thrones. As The Witcher showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich put it on Twitter, "it’s different than GOT. Not better, or worse. Just different. But we know what we are."
One undeniable link The Witcher does have with Game of Thrones is that the choreography is brilliant, possibly even surpassing that of the 8-season giant.
Perhaps that won't come as a surprise to those who know that the choreography on The Witcher was led by Game of Thrones' very own Night King actor, Vladimír Furdík. The following clip shows him in action, prepping fight scenes for The Witcher.
Fight preparation for #TheWitcherpic.twitter.com/0mhDqDLS54— Vladimír Furdík (@VladimirFurdik) December 22, 2019
It is incredible choreography and planning like this that creates the bone-shattering, exhilarating results we see on our screens.
Inject #TheWitcher fight choreography into my veins pic.twitter.com/AhjEHos0vW— Mike (@IAmMovieMike_) December 20, 2019
Now, unfortunately, it seems that Furdík won't be taking the reins for season 2. We look forward to seeing who steps up to the mantle. They certainly have big shoes to fill.
Wolfgang Stegemann, who has done choreography for the Mission Impossible franchise was also involved in reshoots for the big Blaviken fight scene in episode 1. It remains to be seen whether he will be back on board.
2. Stunt work filmed by James Frater's steady hands
While stars like Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, and Freya Allan are deservedly receiving plaudits for the great job they did depicting Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri respectively, it's easy to forget some of the amazing work that goes on behind-the-scenes.
Steadicam operator James Frater did a great job making the audience forget he was there by helping them to be completely immersed in the action on-screen.
James Frater’s BTS look at some of the fun stunt work on @witchernetflix. ⚔️ See more of Henry Cavill and how the scenes came together on his IG ✨ https://t.co/P57kbJwk2g#thewitcherpic.twitter.com/jj7YTwf8vy— Henry Cavill News (@HenryCavillNews) January 6, 2020
A lot of ropework was used for The Witcher's action sequences. Take for, example, the Striga fight scene in episode 3.
Behind the scenes, Geralt vs The Striga. #TheWitcherpic.twitter.com/CyJtdsG6q1— Witcher Stuff (@WitcherStuff) January 5, 2020
When Henry Cavill and the Striga stunt actor went crashing through the floor into another room, James Frater had to go through with them — as can be seen in the above clip — and keep his camera steady while he was at it. The impressive tracking shot was made possible by a combination of carefully calibrated camerawork and ropework.
3. Preparing for the big Striga fight
The Striga scene, in episode 3, is the biggest monster fight in season 1. The creature, almost a match for Geralt of Rivia, is a sight to behold.
Geralt vs Striga fight previs. #TheWitcherpic.twitter.com/6kIrw4EqFT— Vladimír Furdík (@VladimirFurdik) December 30, 2019
As with most of season 1 of The Witcher the choreography was planned by Vladimír Furdík.
Geralt vs Striga fight previs part 2. #TheWitcherpic.twitter.com/Fa39X2BDLj— Vladimír Furdík (@VladimirFurdik) December 31, 2019
Once choreographed, the costume team and special effects team, led by Julian Parry, gave the monster its final makeover, turning it into the grotesque abomination we see in the show.
Anyone who knows the source material knows that season 2 and beyond promises many more monster fights from the likes of Wyverns, Drowners, and Wraiths.
4. Geralt and Yennefer taking on an army
Episode 6 of The Witcher culminates with an epic fight in which Geralt of Rivia and Yennefer of Venderburg fight alongside each other. Once again, choreograph duties were undertaken by Furdík.
Geralt and Yennefer fight prep. #TheWitcherpic.twitter.com/4oi6jdImPX— Vladimír Furdík (@VladimirFurdik) January 1, 2020
However, as special effects lead Julian Parry points out, fight sequences aren't all choreography.
Subtle efficient Vfx at work for this sequence #[email protected]@witchernetflix#checkthedetailhttps://t.co/MvpVHUy28p— Julian Parry (@Jpvfx) December 27, 2019
Subtle VFX work gives these scenes their finishing touch, whether it's a splash of blood, or an arrow bolting into the distance. A huge amount of planning, and teamwork, goes into these types of sequences.
What's more, while Geralt and Yennefer seemingly take on an army made up of real actors and stunt performers in episode 6, not all armies are physically present, and some are added via CGI.
As Julian Parry told SFX Magazine, “we’ve got the Nilfgaard armies, which can’t exist because there are 10,000-plus of them. Same with the Temerians and the Cintrans. The armies physically can’t exist here on set.”
5. Behind-the-scenes magic ropework illusions
Magic plays a big role in The Witcher's world. Whether its enemies being blasted away with a telekinetic Aard sign, or explosions sending people flying, ropework was used extensively throughout production to achieve the desired effect — as can be seen in the video below.
Marc Jobst, The Witcher director even tweeted his appreciation to actors Anya Chalotra and Therica Wilson-Read for the time they spent being yanked about and dangling in mid-air for the final battle sequence in episode 8.
These two were thrown and dropped and yanked and bloodied for the explosion in the tower during the final battle sequence for episode 8 @witchernetflxtv @witchernetflix #anyachalotra @ThericaWR pic.twitter.com/NLe4VISZfL— Marc Jobst (@marcjobst1) December 26, 2019
A look at these behind-the-scenes clips shows the immense dedication that the showrunners, actors, choreographers, and production team put into getting their vision of The Witcher onto screens. It makes us excited for what's to come in the story of Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri.
Now all that's left is to wait at least a year for season 2. We think Geralt of Rivia's one-word catchphrase sums up our feelings best:
“Fuck” - Geralt of Rivia— NX (@NXOnNetflix) December 28, 2019
Indeed. Guess we'll have to start up that 200-hour video game while we wait.