In a new interview held by Polish site antyweb.pl during filming, The Witcher‘s Executive Producer Tomek Bagiński discussed the upcoming Netflix hit starring Henry Cavill. Though the interview was held in Polish, we were able to translate it with help from two of our Polish friends. In the interview, Bagiński addresses the show’s deviation from the novels and teases the first season’s magical battle sequence.
“We quickly managed to build trust,” said Bagiński, a long-time fan of the novels, when asked about the show’s deviation from the source material. “Andrzej Sapkowski [the author of the novels] knows that some things are different than he wrote, but he trusts that it’s being worked on by professionals and that what will come of it will be very good. I also discovered that same thing, because scenes that I had some doubts about in script form shine incredibly on the screen, thanks to the interpretation of the actors and things which you just don’t see on paper. Suddenly, something that seemed controversial no longer is.”
“Even though I’ve known the Witcher for 30 years, I have to admit there were some surprises while working on the show. We realized that some of the storylines can be presented in many different ways, just like certain situations and characters. We were considering what were the characters’ pasts, as there are some which appear in the books just for a few moments. In the show, you need to give the characters backstories that will interest the viewers. The show can’t be exactly like the books. It’s an adaptation. It’s a version of this world and this story from Lauren [Hissrich, showrunner] and the writers. What’s more, it’s a very coherent vision.”
The Executive Producer insists that fans should not worry, and promises clarity will come as the season unfolds. “After the first episode, many viewers will think ‘that didn’t happen in the books’ or ‘that’s not how this scene went’. They will ask ‘why was it done this way?’ and I suggest watching until the end, then it will be obvious that everything fits The Witcher‘s tone very well.”
This interview was held in Poland, during the show’s brief filming at Ogrodzieniec Castle in April 2019. There, various members of the Polish press were invited behind the scenes. The embargo on these articles was only lifted last week.
“We’ve wanted to shoot [in Poland] for some time and we were trying to figure out what scene would fit the place. Film or tv productions depend on so many different factors, including the weather, that are outside of the filmmakers’ control. Sure, maybe you want to shoot in Poland or somewhere else, but then it all depends on many different things. This season we didn’t shoot much in Poland, but the idea to use Polish landscapes has been around for a long time, since Lauren visited Poland and met Andrzej Sapkowski. The story was created here. “
That should come as no surprise, given that Poland is The Witcher‘s homeland. Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of the novels on which the series is based, is Polish and his series is considered a national treasure.
“We only planned to shoot in Ogrodzieniec, but we did look at other castles. Ogrodzieniec, so far, is working perfectly and I hope you’ll be able to see that in the finished product. If I recall correctly, those are probably some of the biggest castle ruins in Europe. Twenty years ago, when I was here for the first time, the castle was still closed to visitors. Since then, I visited it multiple times, including after it became a tourist attraction. This is an issue for filmmakers as there are lots of fences, stairs and other things built for the tourists’ safety. All those elements have to be somehow hidden during shooting.”
When asked about computer-generated effects, Bagiński reiterated that The Witcher will use procedural effects as often as possible to create a world grounded in realism. “We try to do a lot of the effects on set, also those that will later be supported by special effects. And not only Platige Image [Baginski’s animation company] is working on these effects, there are several other companies. Because it is a really big series and even with our modest approach, rarely using computer effects, there will be a lot of effects shots anyway. “
Some sequences, especially those involving magic and monsters, cannot be done without CGI. Bagiński mentions that the sequence filmed at Ogrodzieniec is one of them. “This is a series in which we wanted to shoot as many things as possible [rather than use CGI]. These effects that appear are only there because they must appear. Not everything, of course, can be filmed. One of these situations will occur in this location [Ogrodzieniec Castle], where the scale of the event that must happen, the level of destruction and magic and spells, is so spectacular that it must be done using computer effects.“
Indeed, it seems that the sequence filmed in Poland will be an interesting one. Previous leaks and reports hint at a battle involving mages and Nilfgaard, which alludes to a famous moment in Sapkowski’s novels.
Even in Poland, The Witcher‘s comparisons with Game of Thrones could not be avoided. Bagiński explained that two important elements will set The Witcher apart from Thrones. “What differentiates us is the presence of magic and humor. There’s not much of it in Game of Thrones. Magic is rather subtle there, while we use it heavily. It’s intertwined with the story and we’re doing our best not to make it into a gritty medieval drama. Sometimes there is humor, there are laughs, and I think it will be very much appreciated by both the book fans and new viewers.”
“Beyond the narrative, it was also important for Netflix to create a world that looks different from what we have seen before. “We really wanted to make sure that the show has a different look that won’t bounce off the games or previous shows but will offer something new that’s not ‘the Netflix’s Game of Thrones’. Our goal was to find something new and it took us a while, not gonna lie. We have a great production designer [Andrew Laws] and he’s constantly discovering the world with us. We were looking for a key to this world and I think we got it. What was the inspiration? Many things. We obviously wanted to incorporate as many Slavic motifs as possible, but even in Sapkowski’s books the ‘Slavicness’ isn’t very obvious. There’s equally as much inspiration from the Anglo-Saxon culture and legends. We decided that there’s no way to have just one specific aesthetic.”
The Witcher is launching on Netflix on December 20.