Saturday, 10 June 2023

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Homes on screen: how scouts find the perfect film locations

Homes on screen: how scouts find the perfect film locations

Brian Cox as Logan Roy in ‘Succession’ at his weekend retreat, the Summer Palace — in real life, a mansion built for the grandson of Henry Ford © Landmark Media/Alamy

Prestige TV megahit Succession is careening towards its conclusion after five years of satirising the lives and legacy of the Roy media empire family. The show’s glimpse into the world of the one per cent has ignited viewers’ curiosity around every choice made by the people who could buy anything — would a real-life Shiv really wear a Ted Baker dress, for example?

Its locations, though, have arguably become the most discussed detail of all. Collectively, they’re as much a character as any of the Roy scions. Take the Summer Palace, Logan’s weekend retreat — in real life, a 20,000 sq ft 1960 mansion built for the grandson of car magnate Henry Ford — which Succession’s set-decorating team reconfigured to reflect the taste of a man like Logan, whose first successes came in the late 1960s.

Whatever locations the production team selects, watchers eagerly identify them: Nan Pierce’s mansion, for example, was quickly clocked as a Belle Époque-era home in Montecito owned by Google’s former chief executive Eric Schmidt. Endless guides offer fans the lowdown for visiting the show’s various locales — the Tuscan tourism board couldn’t have managed a better bolster than having its countryside act as a backdrop to a Succession wedding.

It’s a sign of our obsession with the current rash of wealth-spotlighting shows and films — curiosity around the real-life locations is insatiable. And it’s up to location wranglers to identify and manage authentic sets for the production: they will liaise with creatives such as the director for a brief, then handle admin such as permits and logistics, while also smoothing any ruffled feathers during filming.

For the most impressive houses, daily fees can be up to $50,000 for filming, with scaled charges for set-up and break-down days, usually 50 per cent of that fee. It’s easy to see why a business or a suburban homeowner might welcome the extra income, an unexpected boost to the bottom line. When a shoot requires more highfalutin homes, though, how do location experts persuade owners to open their doors to productions like Succession?

Shooting a scene from ‘The Gilded Age’ in Newport, Rhode Island
Shooting a scene from ‘The Gilded Age’ at The Ledges, in Newport, Rhode Island

Damon Gordon, a location scout and manager who worked on Succession and Revolutionary Road among others, says one answer…

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