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The Welsh craft and talent that brought His Dark Materials to our screens

The highly anticipated finale of His Dark Materials launched to global acclaim on 18th December. The production was created by Bad Wolf and received support from the Welsh Government via Creative Wales, working in tandem to bring the epic fantasy to life.

Key actors in the series have praised the Welsh craftsmanship that went into the production, from the full-scale sets built in Wolf Studios by Executive Producer Joel Collins and his design team, to the costumes designed and made at the studio by award-winning designer Caroline McCall.

Pulitzer Prize and Tony award-winning actor and songwriter Lin Manuel Miranda, who plays Lee Scoresby in the series, hailed his character’s styling: “I have never dressed more badass in my life… going cowboy is very much my aesthetic. I’m very much enjoying it.”

Star Ruth Wilson, who plays Mrs. Coulter, said of her costumes: “They’ve always been vital to the character of Mrs. Coulter and in the first season she mentions that the first impressions you make and what you wear is incredibly vital and important. The costume designer, Caroline McCall, has always done an extraordinary job throughout the three seasons.”

Caroline McCall, the award-winning Costume Designer for the series, said of her department’s work: “The clothing on this show was a labour of love for the whole department. The production was a huge undertaking with the usual tough scheduling demands but brilliantly managed by a fantastic team.” 

The trilogy has drawn on the ambitious interpretations of the award-winning Heads of Department as well as the extensive skills of Welsh creative talent and took advantage of the space available at Wolf Studios Wales.

In series two, one of the biggest and most complex sets conceptualised and crafted for the show was the city of Cittàgazze – a fully realised city built on the back lot of Wolf Studios Wales and featuring streets, shops and houses across four floors, with fully working coffee shops and barbers on its paved streets. For the series three, the team created The Land of the Dead, one of the most ambitious constructions ever made in Wales.

Executive Producer and Designer Joel Collins said: “I always thought that Wales, where we are based, would hold the key to some brilliant opportunities for His Dark Materials season three. I’m consistently impressed with the quality of work in Wales, the quality of the technical talent and the tech teams and the prop making, the puppet department are brilliant, the construction are second to none, and we’re very lucky with the special effects and the props team who have been here working on many shows so it’s so vast.”

Thanks to additional support from Creative Wales’ Wales Screen service, Bad Wolf were able to access logistical and locations support to help production staff find the perfect locations across Wales.

Wales’ beautiful bays, beaches and valleys provided the perfect backdrop to Lyra’s adventures, with filming took place in many locations across Wales – from the beautiful Dunraven Bay in the Vale of Glamorgan to the iconic Llyn Fan Fach in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Other locations included Wentwood Forest in Monmouthshire and Blaenavon Ironworks in Torfaen.

As well as locations across Wales, a majority of filming was shot at Wolf Studios Wales in Cardiff. The studio has six sound stages, which were used to bring Sir Philip Pullman’s fantasy worlds to life.

Elements of the monumental design for Cittàgazze as well as the Magisterium and Arctic Institute – along with many of the finest costumes, props and pieces of concept art that create the jaw-dropping world of His Dark Materials – are currently on display for fans at a 77-piece exhibit at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea.

Gerwyn Evans, Deputy Director of Creative Wales, commented: ‘It’s very exciting to see the final chapter of His Dark Materials arrive onto our screens. This unique creative project really is a celebration of all the excellent facilities Wales offers to Film and TV companies – a highly skilled workforce, trainees, to studios and stunning locations. Creative Wales and Bad Wolf’s fruitful partnership over recent years really demonstrates how important it is for industry and Welsh Government to work together to support the screen sector and help it realise its full potential. His Dark Materials trilogy is a huge achievement for all involved, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the epic journey concludes.’

Executive Producer on His Dark Materials and Co-Founder of Bad Wolf, Jane Tranter, said: ‘From giant ice bears to dæmons, airships and angels, it’s been a privilege to showcase the best of Wales on the world stage in His Dark Materials. With support from Creative Wales, we filmed at Wolf Studios and on location across Wales with several industry professionals and trainees in our cast and crew – it has taken teams of highly skilled, passionate people to bring this beloved high fantasy saga to life over a number of years. We know that the quality of the series sets a high precedent for Welsh productions going forward, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Creative Wales to keep raising the bar as the screen sector grows.’

Welsh Government has supported Bad Wolf since its establishment in Wales in 2015. Since its launch, Creative Wales has brought £155.6m of production spend into the Welsh Economy since and hopes to welcome more of the world’s most iconic franchises to Welsh studios.

Outside of His Dark Materials, an ambitious outreach programme has seen over 5,200 people get experience of working in the Creative Industries from Bad Wolf’s Cardiff base.