When I heard that a book was coming out about the making of the first two seasons of Starz’s Outlander, I was over the moon. No I really jumped over the moon that’s how excited I was!
Tara Bennett’s book, “The Making of Outlander”, hits my sweet spots:
Production + Outlander = How my favorite TV show is made!
Here’s the thing – my day job is working in film/TV production as a Production Coordinator. It means that I work in the office and coordinate a lot of things (so many details that I won’t bore you). I enjoy learning how movies and TV shows are made so I can become a big successful Producer like Maril Davis and Ronald D.Moore. Oh hey and the other thing – I love Outlander!
(Side note: Production Coordinators are also known to swoop in and sometimes “save the day” and I noticed a nugget in the book about the show’s Coordinator doing just that!)
I feel like the book is an ode to the complicated process of shooting a TV show of this magnitude. There is so much that happens behind the scene to create the image on the screen. It’s like a big train of crew, actors, producers, writers, and equipment that hurdles at top speed down the tracks. Every day when you hear “That’s a wrap!”, it’s a miracle. It takes a tremendous amount of people with fortitude to wake up every day and work at least 12 hour (considered “light”) up to 16 hour days (pretty average) on location (in the raw elements) or on a stage (a little more forgiving). All of this for a crew to pull off a show as rich and rewarding as Outlander.
Talent and Producers typically get to walk down a red carpet at award shows and not everyone is as public about thanking their team as the show’s cast and crew. I appreciate a book like Tara’s because she took the time to talk to a few of what we call the “below the line” crew – the laborers whom are separate from the “above the line” such as actors, producers, and writers – who tend to be unseen and forgotten but are critical. These are people like the Set Decorator, Location Manager, Prop Master, Hair and Makeup, Stunt Coordinator, all of the assistants, and additional colleagues who make up each department. Let’s also not forget other departments that make up a shoot of this caliber: Accounting, Production Office, Assistant Directors, Set Dressing, Construction, Transportation, Locations, Camera, Grip, Electric, Catering, Craft Service…the list goes on. Also, I haven’t even mentioned Post Production! A whole other Pandora’s box.
The saying is “it takes a village” but in Production, it takes an army.
And crazy people. People who work incredibly long hours but who are so passionate about the creative and technical demands of their job that they want to see a project through to its completion and see their accomplishments on the screen. That part can be exciting! Especially when a project turns out great. You see, we tend to work in a vacuum and focus so much on our own details that the bigger picture (literally and figuratively) gets muddled in our minds.
This industry is not for everyone. Yet for those of us that are committed we know what it takes to get the job done.
I was happy that Tara’s book answered a few of my burning Outlander questions! Some of my questions weren’t answered but they are more specific Producer questions that I hope to someday ask Maril Davis over coffee (Maril, I’ll be in Scotland at the end of April/early May!).
Finally, go and buy Tara’s book! It opens a door into the making of this incredible, big, beautiful show and shines a spotlight on all the hard work that goes into it.
Below are some (there were many) of my fave insights from her book! All quotes and ideas are from the book though I add an occasional dash of commentary at times.
(Being inspired by the book, I had some more thoughts about other Outlander-fandom related things that really push my buttons! If you’d like to read, the link is after the list.)
Wise words from Executive Producer Ronald D.Moore:
“You have to trust and empower the people who work for you to carry out those plans and to trust their creative takes on individual pieces.”
“I liked that season two was going to evolve and it wasn’t locked into this romantic ideal.”
“You want to do that, not just for your own sanity but to open up creatively to other points of view and other inspirations and insights.”
Fun things I learned!
Director of Photography, Neville Kidd is Scottish! What a love letter of a show for him to be on! I really loved learning about his vision and what kind of lighting he uses.
Director John Dahl about Scotland in the 1740s: “It’s always filthy but lit beautifully.” Yes it’s true!
Tobias Menzies going a bit too far lashing Sam Heughan in a few scenes!
Tobias explaining the relationship between BJR and Jamie and a hint of what Jack was like before the war and how it affected the character.
The making of Sam and Tobias’ custom swords!
Graham McTavish and Gary Lewis’ (“Dougal” and “Colum”) off screen banter fueled their onscreen relationship.
Richard Clark, Director of “The Reckoning”, talks about building tension for a long scene. I like how these minute details are subconscious for the viewer but is meticulously planned out by the Director.
Caitriona Balfe about Claire and Frank’s relationship: “It really is so layered and so complicated, with two people who are experiencing their own tragedies and are unable to bridge that gulf.” ←SO MUCH FODDER FOR S3 I’M BURSTING WITH EXCITEMENT!!!!!
Director Metin Hüseyin was involved with French casting! How cool is that?
A comment about Season 2’s costumes: What Costume Designer Terry Dresbach does is monumental! I thank my stars that I don’t have her job on a period show. Her dedication is a great example of what it takes to pull off that quality of work. It takes incredible insight and experience to know what is needed to get the job done.
Also her mentioning working on the weekends and getting limited sleep? Yup. That can be Production life.
Can I just say how I would do anything to be on set and see Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan sword fight each other as they did in Season 2? ANYTHING.
The “Dream Sequence” that would’ve opened the “Best Laid Schemes” episode, Season 2: YES! It will forever live in a corner of my imagination: How would Jamie and Frank interact if they met? I wish they shot it and I realize that may put me in a small group within the fandom. I’ll continue dreaming.
Laurence Dobiesz (“Alexander Randall”) had people comment about how he looked like Tobias Menzies before he was cast as his younger brother! Love that!
Fascinating historical tidbit:
At the battle of Culloden, the Redcoats had strength in numbers but were not skilled in hand to hand combat so Dominic Peerce, Stunt Coordinator, made sure this showed in “Prestonpans” fight sequences. Really interesting, right?
Those are only a few of the many gems in “The Making of Outlander” by Tara Bennett! Did I say get the book? Go get it!!!
Already have it? What did you like learning about?
(Being inspired by this book and all the hard work a film crew does, you can check out some more thoughts about a few Outlander fandom related things that really push my buttons here!)