Lights, Camera, Caution: The Feasibility of Back-to-Back Filming for Netflix’s Narnia | Opinion

Opinion by Impending Doom

Impending Doom is a NarniaWeb news poster and Instagram manager. He joined the NarniaWeb community in 2013.

Now debunked rumors suggested that the first of Greta Gerwig’s Chronicles of Narnia adaptations would require a filming schedule of “at least” 7 months. This time-frame had many fans and media outlets speculating that Netflix might attempt to film two Narnia movies back-to-back. After all, we know Greta Gerwig has indeed signed on to write and direct two Narnia films.

The idea of back-to-back filming does have its merits. Netflix is known for its ambitious projects, and there is precedent set by other popular franchises undertaking similar production schedules. Additionally, having a highly sought-after writer/director like Greta Gerwig attached to the Narnia adaptations adds weight to the argument for an extended, continuous filming period.

However, a closer look reveals that this approach may not be feasible for Netflix’s Narnia.

Production Challenges & Costs

While the idea of back-to-back filming seems logical for maintaining continuity and saving production costs, the unique nature of each Narnia book presents significant hurdles. Unlike franchises with consistent settings such as Harry Potter or even Netflix’s recent Rebel Moon series (directed by Zach Snyder) which shot two films simultaneously in 2022, Narnia stories span distinct locations and characters, necessitating different sets, locations, actors and production designs for each film.

Even if they follow publication order, the only major factor to consider between The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian is the ages of the Pevensie actors. Is that enough to sway Netflix? The company, seeking to position itself with the larger Hollywood studios/distributors, has developed a reputation for their inflated budgets and overspending to acquire various projects and talent. Netflix spent nearly $200 million to acquire the rights alone for Narnia. Despite Netflix’s willingness to invest heavily, the sheer magnitude of filming two movies consecutively presents a significant financial gamble.

And let’s be honest, while Greta Gerwig directed 2023’s highest-grossing film, the first Narnia release is not a guaranteed financial success. Those familiar with the series’ book sales and the dwindling box office results from the recent live-action adaptations know this. Factor in the considerable financial commitments demanded by consecutive filming—cast and crew salaries, equipment rentals, set construction, and visual effects expenditures—just further compounds the risk associated with filming back-to-back Narnia movies.

How Long Does it Take to Film a Movie?

The rumored production timeline of 7 months suggests that Netflix plans to film only one movie to start. Although this is certainly a long filming schedule, it aligns with industry norms for films of this scale. Past productions of Narnia and Greta Gerwig films offer an example of typical filming durations and show the challenges of filming two movies within such a timeframe;

  • The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
    (7 months)
  • Prince Caspian
    (8 months)
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
    (5 months)
  • Little Women
    (3 months)
  • Barbie
    (5 months)

Despite advancements in production techniques, the logistical challenges of shooting two movies back-to-back are considerable. Securing locations, managing sets, and keeping cast and crew engaged over an extended period pose significant hurdles. Most films opt to approach sequels as individual projects, each with its own dedicated production timeline and resources.

The Gerwig Effect

The strongest reason for filming two Narnia films back-to-back is Greta Gerwig herself. This approach makes sense for Gerwig, as it would allow her to honor her two-film commitment to Netflix within two years rather than stretching it out over four. However, even though Gerwig had already drafted a version of Narnia before filming Barbie, it’s difficult to imagine her finding the time and mental energy to prepare for two separate Narnia films while finishing Barbie.

In early March, Deadline reported that Gerwig had not yet named key department heads.

If another creative were independently working on their own Narnia adaptation and filming them back-to-back with Gerwig’s adaptation, it might be feasible. However, expecting a single director to maintain creative focus and split attention between two major projects simultaneously, without compromising the quality of either, is highly challenging.

So while filming two Narnia movies back-to-back may initially seem appealing, the unique nature of each Narnia book, combined with logistical and creative challenges, makes it unlikely that Netflix and Gerwig would or should pursue such an ambitious approach at this stage. Instead, focusing on ensuring a strong standalone success (both creatively and financially) with film one before jumping to the second might be a more viable strategy for Netflix.


Do you agree with the comparison between Narnia and other franchises like Harry Potter in terms of back-to-back filming? How do you think Greta Gerwig’s involvement as writer and director impacts the feasibility?
Drop a comment below and let us know your thoughts!

10 Responses

  1. It didn’t compute that Harry Potter has a lot of similar sets in each movie. Thank you for that insight.
    I can’t think of many locations in Narnia that are the same in two stories – especially because of the Narnian time jumps (compare the Cair Paravel scenes in LWW and PC).

    So you’ve got a good point there.

    I also think it would be a mammoth undertaking for Gerwig to write and direct two films back to back, but does that not depend on how much time and resources you give her? We know the August 2024 start date for filming was a rumour. But what if she simply spent more months writing both features, more time in preproduction then filmed them all in one go? This would also free her up for other projects sooner, rather than spend an extra year or two on Narnia.

    In my opinion, the only real practical benefit, creativity wise, for filming back to back would be the kids’ ages. If she filmed LWW and PC/VDT, back to back, it would keep the kids younger. However Walden managed to do that with 2 years in between, and it was not the children’s ages that caused issues for their franchise (unless Poulter’s age was a factor in the cancelling of Silver Chair).

  2. J says:

    I still think that she’s gonna do The Magician’s Nephew first, mostly because it’s the better bet at this point: It may not be the best Narnia story to begin with, but it’s a good story to start a Narnia chronology with. And it’s a new Narnia story never before seen in a visual medium, which is a HUGE deal. And because of the stand-alone nature of the MN book, she doesn’t have to quickly follow up with the next installment; She can take her time developing film 2 (and so on, I hope she would stay on for more movies in some capacity.) But whichever book they adapt first, I’m getting more and more excited at the prospect of new adaptations, due to her apparent respect and reverence for the source material and for Lewis.

    And no, filming back-to-back seems out.

  3. Aslan says:

    Ok I can think of narnia in these pairs:

    MN – LWW connect by White Witch
    LWW – HHB connected by 4 Pevencies
    HHB – PC connected by remaining ruins castle, Aslan Howls and history
    PC – VDT connected by Caspian
    VDT – SC connected by Eustace
    SC – LB connected by reappearing of all characters and new narnia

    And lastly all binds by Aslan Himself

  4. Just Queen, not High Queen says:

    When I saw at the top of this article that they’re looking for a seven-month production schedule, I immediately knew that they couldn’t be shooting back-to-back. For context, for the first two films in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequence, which were shot back-to-back, Dead Man’s Chest took about seven months to film. For At World’s End, they shot some scenes during production of Dead Man’s Chest before having its own separate production schedule of over four months. They they were shooting Greta’s two Narnia films back-to-back, that would be a production schedule of about a year.

  5. Eustace says:

    Frankly, if I were shooting two movies back to back, I would do LWW and HHB. I would have some extra scenes with older Pevensies to connect the audience with those actors and use those actors for HHB. We could use the same castle set, and I would add lines talking about what Archenland was doing while the White Witch was in control. I would probably have someone from Archenland show up at the coronation of the Pevensies. I would not have them help out in the battle though. Also, the Beavers would mention Archenland. That’s what I would do if I was shooting two of the books back to back.

    But, personally, I would not shoot back to back, I would rather shoot MN and then LWW.

  6. Impending Doom says:

    @ Jonathan Paravel

    It’s true that Netflix & Gerwig, with a lot more time to prep, could make it more feasible to shoot back to back. Although, I question if they are going to have enough time given the last Deadline report of a “late 2024, early 2025” date.

    But even so, is it worth the financial gamble?

  7. @Impending Doom, I suppose I don’t prefer them to film back to back. But I wouldn’t 100% rule it out, given the limited info we know.

    I assume that Netflix and the new Narnia producers will really want to see what the reaction and viewership is, for the new movie or two… before they invest in further production.

    I think they will film one movie at a time. But I wonder if Gerwig will make a different non narnia film before her 2nd movie, in that case.
    Just because she’s in so much demand now since the success of Barbie.
    But hopefully since her contract is for 2 films, we get 2 by her.
    I hope they make them in chronological order so we get an unfilmed story first. And I think Gerwig would make a very meaningful Magician’s Nephew movie. Given its themes of family and grief. I’ve thought that while listening to its commentary on Talking Beasts.

    I hope the viewership and hype for the first narnia movie is big so we get lots more. I think there’s a lot they can learn from the previous movie franchise

  8. jasmine_tarkheena says:

    @Aslan Well, Narnia isn’t an overarching narrative like Lord of the Rings (though there are some similarities) and Harry Potter. Though I could see that say SC and LB are connected, Puddleglum suspects an enemy to come to Narnia, dragons and flood, and the Warden saying that the salamanders and dragons and Father Time will awake at the end of the world in SC, which all occur in LB.

  9. Master Clinic says:

    As a fan, I hope they go this route because Netflix has a reputation of canceling projects before they finished. Although, I’m sure Gerwig’s two movies are all-but-sure to get made, anything beyond that will completely depend on the success of the first two.

  10. Master Clinic says:

    Also, I’ll put some money on that Prince Caspian is not one of two Gerwig is making. Could be MN + LWW or LWW + HHB