Where is His Dark Materials’ Cittàgazze, and how was it filmed?

CEO Tam DT
"The research for Cittàgazze, both environmental and for real towns, was exhausting," explains Craig Collins, the production designer for the acclaimed TV series His Dark Materials. The challenge of finding a location that matched the...

"The research for Cittàgazze, both environmental and for real towns, was exhausting," explains Craig Collins, the production designer for the acclaimed TV series His Dark Materials. The challenge of finding a location that matched the streets described in Philip Pullman's books was impossible. That's when Collins and his team made the decision to build the entire town from scratch at Bad Wolf Studios in Cardiff.

Creating Cittàgazze in a real town was not an option. Collins explains, "What town's going to let you take over the whole town to do a show, change lots of details, and own it for six months in summer?" The practicality of building it from scratch became evident.

Within the world of the show, Cittàgazze is a city in another world, acting as a gateway to different parallel universes. Despite the on-screen portrayal of a sunny Mediterranean destination, the set for the town was actually built in Wales, in a less-than-glamorous location. Dafne Keen, who plays the lead character Lyra, recalls her surprise when she discovered the set, "I thought 'no way' - but then I came back and there was this entire town, which was built in a parking lot basically."

The town set, constructed using plaster, wood, and metal, took approximately six months to build. Some streets were built indoors on separate sets as a weather failsafe. The attention to detail was remarkable, with fully-filled shops and houses, complete with working ovens. The virtual reality version of Cittàgazze, created by VFX Art Director and Previs Supervisor Dan May, allowed the cast and crew to experience the town months before its physical construction. This technique ensured that shots and techniques could be decided before the physical set even existed.

The immersive nature of the set had a profound impact on the cast. Keen expressed her awe, "You went into shops and it had, I remember there was this one bread shop which actually had real bread, and it was just so realistic. It actually felt like you were in this different city, in a different world." The realistic and detailed set played a crucial role in the actors' performances, helping them to fully immerse themselves in their characters and the storyline.

Collins wanted the set to feel experiential for the actors, allowing them to get lost in the streets of Cittàgazze. He explains, "If you can get lost in the street, then the camera can get lost - and you can suddenly make the town go from a certain size to massive." The set's immersive nature even had an interesting effect on the cast and crew, making them feel warmer despite the chilly Welsh weather.

The attention to detail extended beyond the physical set. Throughout Cittàgazze, the team hid various Easter eggs for fans to discover. From magpies to angels and even The Subtle Knife itself, these hidden elements added depth and intrigue to the town's design. Collins describes the town as a puzzle, with every corner holding a piece waiting to be unraveled.

As His Dark Materials continues to captivate audiences, Cittàgazze remains a central location filled with secrets and surprises. The town will continue to unfold its mysteries as the series progresses, offering viewers an immersive experience like no other.

His Dark Materials airs on BBC One on Sundays at 8:10pm. Want something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.

Cittàgazze Image: Cittàgazze set at Bad Wolf Studios, Cardiff.

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