Servicing company Pegasus Pictures planned to film on calving glaciers – the name given to glaciers that end with an abrupt cliff-face – on the south-east coast of Iceland, but the effects of the country’s 2010 volcanic eruptions caused a problem with ash. The Game of Thrones production team needed clean snow and many of these glaciers are still greyed with volcanic ash remnants.
Set-building was minimised as construction of any kind is susceptible to storm damage during the Icelandic winter.
Svinafellsjokull calving glacier in Skaftafell became the main filming location, followed by shooting days near Smyrlabjorg and then in the mountains by Vik on Hofdabrekkuheidi. Pegasus was relying on fresh snowfall to cover the remaining ash on Svinafellsjokull, which did arrive, if a little late.
Einar Sveinn Thordarson is with Pegasus Pictures: “There was a lot of snowfall, to the point that on the second-to-last shooting days roads were blocked and vehicles were stuck in snow and sliding off the road. We managed to get to the location though. Ironically, on that day, the scene being filmed looked great in a blizzard, so we were happy we ordered it!
“The main challenge, I’d say, was the weather. We were filming for three weeks in winter and during that length of time you can expect blizzards. The likelihood of snowfall is high, but not guaranteed, which would have meant going onto the glacier itself, which is slower and more expensive.”
Filming involved a crew of 200, as well as 15 horses. Set-building was minimised as construction of any kind is susceptible to storm damage during the Icelandic winter. Stairs and guard ropes were installed in some places as a safety precaution, while trained mountaineers were also on hand for tricky climbs.
Another challenging aspect of the shoot was how little daylight we had. The days had to be planned really well and all prep for the day took place in the dark.
Einar Sveinn Thordarson, Pegasus Pictures
Thordarson adds: “Another challenging aspect of the shoot was how little daylight we had. Due to scheduling issues we weren’t able to start earlier than 25th November, so the days had to be planned really well and all prep for the day took place in the dark. We had to put up work lights on the locations in the morning in order to be able to work.”
Game of Thrones is based in Northern Ireland at Belfast’s Paint Hall Studio, and in addition to Iceland has also filmed on location in Croatia for the second season, where it was serviced by Embassy Films.
(Images courtesy of Pegasus Pictures)