Behind-the-scenes of Let Them All Talk with LS Productions
Steven Soderbergh’s new comedy drama Let Them All Talk is set between London and New York, as much of the action happens on board the Queen Mary 2 Cruise ship during its Atlantic Crossing. LS Productions serviced the UK portion of the feature film shoot, which began from the moment the ship docked in Southampton. TLG talks to Location Manager, Amy Morement, about the English locations where the film takes place.
Let Them All Talk is a new comedy on HBO Max with a star-studded cast. The films tells the story of a celebrated author (Meryl Streep) who takes a sea voyage with old friends (Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest), as well as her nephew (Lucas Hedges) and her new literary agent (Gemma Chan), who is desperate to find out about her next book.
LS Productions provided the local service for the film in England from 24 – 31 August, 2019. The LS team began liaising with the port authorities and QM2 luxury cruise operator Cunard two-months prior, meticulously planning and scouting locations.
“We had quite a tight window in which to get all the shots we needed and we knew we had to make it work on that day, at that time.” explains Location Manager, Amy Morement. “We were also tied into quite a strict scouting schedule that worked around when the QM2 was docked in Southampton. On the day itself, we would be getting shots of the characters coming off the boat and needed to work out the right camera positions.”
To add to the pressure, the film crew were working around a thousand disembarking passengers and the QM2 crew making preparations to the ship for its return voyage.
“Filming in a port is similar to working in airports,” says Morement. A unit base was created at the port and the filming location was in a highly restricted area. All crew had to bring passports to get through border control, as well as clear kit and equipment in customs to access the location. Arrangements with the port authorities ahead of filming included not only clearing equipment to be brought in by LS Productions, but the kit being brought into the country from the US production arriving on the QM2.
The remainder of the UK shoot took place on solid ground. A key location for filming was a quintessential British inn with the traditional “chocolate box ” village shot. LS began to scout with a wide search criterion. Locations anywhere between Southampton, where the shoot began at the Port, and London were considered. “We started to look at villages and towns that had an inn, but also had a graveyard church kind of close by, as that was also a key component of our filming. We managed to narrow it down to a few options”.
The chosen inn was situated close to Elstree to the north-west of London, meaning that crew could easily travel in and out. “It had the right aesthetic and the management were happy to do a buyout for us, so we took all 49 rooms. The talent and many of the key crew stayed at the inn during the shoot and we shot in the dining area, bedrooms and outside,” says Morement. “Where we actually ended up shooting was slightly more isolated than many of the options: it wasn't on a high street or it wasn't along the main road of the village, but the fact that they could offer us so much control made it such an amazing option”.
Close to the inn, a local church hosted filming. “We had to ensure we satisfied the church that the dialogue and action were appropriate for filming in their graveyard and would not bring any disrepute to the church in any way. So, we worked closely with the church to ensure they were happy. We also arranged traffic control outside the church, liaised with local residents and had our base in the local pub”.
The final location that Morement was challenged to source was a London publishing office that could double for New York. “It was tricky. Although it is London and there are many offices, it can be very difficult to film in a working office. However, it was important to Soderbergh that it be a genuine publishers or agents office - there's a big sense of authenticity to the way that he works. We drew a map of all the publishing offices in London, and used a common sense approach to whom we got in touch with”.
The big concern was that no discernibly London city buildings were visible from the windows of the publishers office so that the space could double for New York. “We were looking for an office with a generic, tight view of the buildings opposite, and no identifiable London landmarks or architecture. We contacted multiple publishers until we found the right one”.
The whirlwind UK shoot encompassed an eclectic mix of locations and shows what is possible to accomplish within an 8-day schedule. “This is the second time we’ve worked with Steven Soderbergh and Producer Gregory Jacobs providing the local UK service. The first support LS provided was a smaller role sourcing a London nightclub location for The Laundromat. Our involvement on that film lead to working on a much larger scale with Let Them All Talk.” explains LS Productions Executive Producer/Managing Director, Sarah Drummond. “Film & TV is a huge opportunity for the company in 2021 and we will continue to support and promote the UK’s brilliant locations and talent for high-end film and TV work in 2021.”
Incoming feature films to the UK can claim up to 25% incentives for high-end TV and feature films. Projects must qualify as British via a cultural test and spend at least 10% of the films core expenditure in the UK.
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