It never ceases to amaze me how completely realistic backlot sets can look on screen. Films ranging from Gone with the Wind to Back to the Future have used beautifully constructed facades as three dimensional backdrops to film scenes against. But why go the trouble and expense of building such large and elaborate sets?
In the case of Wind at my Back, the first season was filmed almost entirely on location which worked quite well. However, when the show was renewed we needed a small town that we could film in continuously over the course of several years. Regardless of how friendly and accommodating businesses and residents can be, eventually we would wear out our welcome and that would be a major problem for everyone concerned. The solution: build the Wind at my Back backlot!
Filming on location offers a very authentic look, but it is never ‘turn key’ especially when shooting a period show like Wind at my Back. Inevitably, store windows have to be dressed, modern fixtures have to be concealed or removed and modern vehicles have to leave the street.
When shooting on location, traffic and pedestrian control is also always an issue which is usually solved by hiring numerous police officers and security guards.
Night filming can also be challenging on location because you normally have to get special permission to film after 11:00 PM which can sometimes be difficult to get.
Filming on a backlot offers a level of logistical and creative control that can never be achieved on location. Logistically, backlot scenes can be scheduled when it works best for the production; pedestrian and vehicular traffic are never a concern; and filming can happen around the clock. Travel time is also not an issue because usually the backlot is attached to the studio, so the crew only has to report to one place.
Creatively, sets can be dressed permanently and only changed when required; facades can be modified to suit the vision of the production designer; and the director can ‘own’ the street so actors and extras can go wherever he chooses.
Backlot filming also has downfalls because there is limited space and creating sets from scratch can be costly and time consuming. However, with some imagination and a lot of talented people, shooting on a backlot can be a film makers dream come true.
All of your favourite Wind at my Back Episodes are available on DVD at shopatsullivan.com