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Netflix & # 39; The Crown caught the attention of critics and audiences alike when its first season premiered in 2016. Elaborate sets and costumes, a remarkable cast, and stately music are part of the drama series that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Beginning in 2018, the 1940s.
The series continues to receive awards with a new season in November. The third season has been nominated for various Emmy Awards this year, including in the categories of production design and contemporary costumes. As you'd expect, dressing up and developing the bigger picture of such a huge production requires a lot of research, as well as some very specific processes, as demonstrated by Fortune's conversations with season three production designer Martin Childs and season three costume designer Amy Roberts.
Childs, who worked on the series from the start, says he developed a system after season one where the main location, where most of an episode takes place – like Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle – is in the middle of one Sheet of paper being outlined. Then he draws some arrows and additional information about them. It has gotten to a point where “almost everyone wants a copy right now. It's like looking at the script in a one-sided guideline, ”he says.
"The way that helps me is knowing when something follows something else in the narrative," says Childs, adding that it helps him decide when to avoid things like the same colors or use window arrangements from scene to scene – visual cues to help the audience understand that the story is moving forward.
Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II. In season three of Netflix & # 39; "The Crown". Sophie Mutevelian – Netflix
Extensive research is required to create the sets. So it is important to make known areas of Buckingham Palace as accurate as possible. Children toured the royal residence prior to season one. But there are also pieces of the set, like the royal family's private apartments – of which there are no public records – that were built with what Childs calls the "informed imagination".
"I have to say that absolutely nothing in The Crown is (an exact) replica of the real thing," says Childs, although the style of the sets stays true to the spirit of the real place.
According to Childs, there are likely to be around 400 different sets used per season. Repeating some of these throughout the seasons, particularly when the cast changed (the Queen is portrayed by Claire Foy in the first two seasons, while Olivia Colman took over the role in the third and fourth seasons), serves as a visual reminder for the audience to see still the same characters on the same show.
However, the use of such sets does not mean that the show will not also be filmed in different locations, both in the UK and abroad. Some locations replace others on the screen. In its early seasons, South Africa accounted for roughly 70% of the show's overseas locations, Childs says.
"But in the third season we almost exhausted our locations in South Africa," says Childs. Instead, the production shot a few scenes in "a small triangle of Spain". This region represented places like California, Arizona, and the Caribbean. The cast and crew also returned to Spain to recreate various locations for the upcoming fourth season.
For his part, Roberts does a tremendous amount of research when designing costumes and delving into photos, books and films with members of the royal family. But then "she finally throws everything away".
"We're not making a documentary – it's a drama," she explains.
The third season, which takes viewers to the '60s and' 70s, was exciting for Roberts because of "those extraordinarily beautiful, punchy colors that the royal women really seemed to enjoy".
Pictured from left to right: Erin Doherty (Princess Anne), Marion Bailey (the Queen Mother), Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret) and Ben Daniels (Antony Armstrong-Jones). While different generations showed different silhouettes in season three of Netflix's "The Crown", costume designer Amy Roberts emphasized the "sugared almond hues" that royal women wore in the 1960s. Des Willie – Netflix
While the queen is generally known for wearing bright colors, there were still so-called “sugared almond colors” such as pink and lilac, which enabled the costume department to “boldly and boldly” represent a new era.
Last season, the differences between the various royal generations were also more clearly highlighted. The Queen Mother's clothes still bear hints of a 1930s silhouette, while Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth sported A-line silhouettes in the 60s, albeit with a modest element. Princess Anne, on the other hand, is actually wearing some mini skirts.
"Again, no outrageous mini-skirts – you know, like inches above your knees, not crazy," says Roberts.
The most challenging project for Roberts was Prince Charles' investment – the ceremony that formalized his status as Prince of Wales. The crown he wears in these scenes was custom made for the series, while the robe in particular presented an ethical challenge.
"All of this had to be done, and we rightly don't use fresh fur, so all of the feed is ermine and we had to get a lot of approved ermine," says Roberts.
Josh O’Connor, left, as Prince Charles and Olivia Colman, right, as Queen Elizabeth II. On season three of The Crown. The prince's investiture attire was one of the most difficult for the series. Des Willie – Netflix
Robert's favorite was the costume of Princess Alice's nun. "You have all the silks and the flowers and the razzmatazz and suddenly you have this extraordinary character who is Prince Philip's mother and simple and honest," she says. "We had to create this from scratch … I had worn it and mended it and damn it."
At the end of the production design, restoring the Aberfan disaster – a tragedy the royal family was not involved in – was a huge challenge, although Childs takes pride in what was ultimately achieved from a storytelling perspective.
"It was a real part of the story and a terrible thing that happened to real people, some of whom are still alive and remembering – I was there when it happened," says Childs. "The responsibility to tell this story well and accurately has never been anything else with The Crown."
"Our responsibility was to show the world this terrible thing was happening," he added.
Communicating with other departments is key to making The Crown. Childs worked closely with Roberts to coordinate what colors should be set in a scene, and often did sketches for the visual effects team to convey what he wanted.
"I prefer never to have too much VFX in one shot," says Childs, adding that he prefers that at least two-thirds of the images displayed on screen are real. “Our VFX employees were more than ready to join in. Their mission is to make what they do part of the set. "
In the coming seasons, the team behind the scenes still has a few tricks up their sleeves.
Childs, who has paced up and down over the course of the series, explains that his approach to a series like The Crown, which he compares to an "epic novel," must be different from treating a two-hour feature film.
"I have to save a few things. I can't use all of my best ideas in the first two hours because it would only be two hours in a movie. In The Crown you have 48 left," he says.
For season four this fall, viewers can “expect three famous women – Queen Margaret Thatcher and, of course, Princess Diana. You can expect real travel there, visual travel, ”says Roberts.
"I think we really improved our game."
The crown has been nominated for 13 Emmy Awards this year. The series, which has received a total of 39 nominations since its premiere, has won eight Emmys to date.
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