You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Location Manager Found the Best Places to Shoot ‘Lost City of Z’

For location manager Andrew Wilson, the toughest part about working on director James Gray’s biopic of explorer Percy Fawcett in “The Lost City of Z” was finding early-20th-century aesthetics in modern-day Northern Ireland.

“It’s exciting when you see the 1800s or 1900s in a script, but it’s always a challenge when it comes to finding the right locations,” admits Wilson, who was shooting “Morgan,” starring Kate Mara — also in Northern Ireland — when he learned he’d gotten the Amazon Studios’ project as well.

With just days to prepare, Wilson scouted Belfast and the surrounding countryside to fulfill the unique settings of “Lost City.” “On a practical level the script is fine, but it doesn’t give you the mood or the style or the emotion of the piece,” he observes. Wilson got a better idea of what was needed when he confabbed with production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos, who arrived shortly before shooting started. “Traveling with Jean-Vincent, who’s a very vocal and descriptive person, I was able to tap into the type of tone, the feeling, and the character — the complete backstory — so when James came we could scout right away.”

The Northern Ireland part of the shoot illustrated the life of the British solider-turned-explorer played by Charlie Hunnam. “Being a period film, we had to change everything — the color, the décor — anything modern had to be removed and redressed,” explains Wilson. Gray’s decisiveness made things easier. “He had one of the clearest visions of any director I’ve worked with,” says the location manager.

Gray grounded the narrative using very little CGI, so Wilson had to hit upon a place to re-create the French battlefields of the Somme, one of the bloodiest clashes of WWI. “It was a difficult location to find because we needed an area where the camera could move 360 degrees,” Wilson says. They settled on the rolling valley of Antrim Hills, and dug trenches.

When the story journeys into the Amazon, the action takes place deep in the jungle near Santa Marta, a city in northern Colombia. Gray and his team filmed on the Don Diego River of the Tayrona National Park. Producer Anthony Katagas, part of the team overseeing the Colombia locations, says the tight budget required a quick turnaround. “When we landed from Belfast, we started shooting six days later,” he notes.

The crew, including many locals, traveled by foot and by boat. At times the water rose to 12 feet, washing away sets. But the location — and casting of three ingenious tribes — lent the story authenticity.

“Important to us besides the jungle and the river and the great locations were the people,” says Katagas. “I think we did a really good job casting actors who played a significant role in a picture that keeps the exploration of Percy Fawcett real.”

More Artisans

  • The Old Man and the Gun

    Ohio’s Midwest Locations and Flexible Tax Credit Lure Producers

    With its small towns, rolling farmlands and industrial cities, Ohio embodies the American Midwest. Other location lures for filmmakers include the shore along Lake Erie, the campus of Ohio State University, the striking skyline of Cincinnati and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Buckeye State also provides producers with a 30% [...]

  • Nancy Schreiber Mapplethorpe Cinematographer

    DP Nancy Schreiber Captures Life of Artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Grimy Gotham

    Don’t tell cinematographer Nancy Schreiber that she’s having a renaissance. That would imply there’ve been slumps in her long career, and she won’t have any of that, even if for a time she was taking smaller jobs as the gaps widened between larger gigs. “It’s never been about the money, for me,” says Schreiber over [...]

  • What Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga Share:

    LeRoy Bennett Keeps Top Acts Like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande in the Spotlight

    You might say that LeRoy Bennett is a shining light among lighting and production designers for pop music. Doing double duty creating both touring sets and their illumination, he started out with a 14-year run as Prince’s collaborator, went on to work with Nine Inch Nails and Madonna and has counted Beyoncé’s and Bruno Mars’ [...]

  • Us Movie

    How 'Us' Pulled Off Subtle Differences in Costumes, Design, Music for Parallel Characters

    “Us,” Jordan Peele’s second outing as a director, following his 2017 critical and box office success “Get Out,” revisits similar psychological horror-thriller territory. But this time the stakes are, well, doubled.  In the new film, to be released by Universal on March 21, Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, returns to her childhood beachside home [...]

  • Ben Davis Cinematographer Captain Marvel Brie

    Cinematographer Ben Davis Helps Create the Look of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    Since 2008’s “Iron Man,” the Marvel cinematic universe has continued expanding, now numbering more than 20 films. Along the way, the company has developed a reputation for solid technology choices with the large-format ARRI Alexa 65 camera and the Codex Vault 65 on-set media management system as cornerstones of its workflow. Earlier in the series, [...]

  • Costume Designer Betty Pecha Madden on

    Betty Pecha Madden Looks Back on Four Decades of Costume Design

    Dressing dolls as a child at her parents’ Wisconsin farm, future costume designer Betty Pecha Madden created stories using clothes. By age 17, her interest in costuming having grown serious via high school plays, she left home upon graduation and went to Chicago to find work in the industry. Madden clothed rock groups and college [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content