2nd November Part 2 – Sarah Greenwood Masterclass

On Friday the 2nd November I went to another BAFTA Masterclass, this time at the BFI. If you are interested you can see what is coming up here and I also recommend joining the mailing list.

BAFTA Masterclass – Production Design with Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer

At the masterclass Sarah and Katie began by talking about their backgrounds, which both started in theatre and then moved to the BBC where they met and began to work together. They talked about their work on Pride & Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2006), The Soloist (2009), Sherlock Holmes (2009), Hannah (2011) and their eighth collaboration with director Joe Wright, Anna Karenina (2012).

Pride & Prejudice

The most interesting part of their process for me was that the sets were built on location inside the grade 1 listed buildings. This meant they could not do anything to the walls of the building and the set ‘walls’ were built to be self-supporting and away from the actual walls. This still allowed for the inside/outside sequence at the beginning of the film that work so well to establish the location and the daily life of the Bennet family. The Longbourn Bennet home was created inside Groombridge Place, Kent.

The only set built for the film was the Meryton Assembly room where Darcy and the Bingleys are first introduced, because assembly rooms of the type no longer survive in England. The assembly room set was built inside a potato warehouse in Lincolnshire, and ‘Rosings’ was filmed at Burghley House, also in Lincolnshire.

I really loved all the ‘through-the-door’ shots and use of natural light. I think the use of real locations really helped the mood of this film. Co-producer Paul Webster noted that “it is quite unusual for a movie this size to be shot entirely on location. Part of Joe [Wright]’s idea was to try to create a reality which allows the actors to relax and feel at one with their environment.”


For Atonement Sarah Greenwood used a colour theme that she usually avoids, the most important colour in this film was green. The colour was copied from Titchfield Manor, which was their original choice for the setting. Instead they used Stokesay Court in Shropshire, which has not changed some of the rooms since the film company left them.

They also used a lot of different farbics to to create the right feel for Tallis House. In some cases they even used fabric in the place of wallpaper.

Green is an uncomfortable colour in film, except in natural landscapes. It is often used to make the audience feel unsettled. I thought it was used really well in this film.


They didn’t talk about the Soloist for very long. The subject matter was a little difficult to film and a version of ‘Skid Row’ was built a few blocks away from the real site. Homeless people were employed as extras and one lady decided to live in a car onset for the duration of the shoot. Even though it was a very different style of film, I still thought the light was still very well used.

Sherlock Holmes

This was Sarah and Katie’s first collaboration with Guy Richie and was very different to their previous work. Sarah Greenwood described the locations as the grounding for the more ‘off-kilter’ version of Sherlock Holmes. I love the clutter in Sherlock’s home, which was apparently requested by Robert Downey Jr. who wanted it to be filled with objects from all the Sherlock stories.

The image above is concept art for Sherlock by Eva Kunst. She uses a loose collage style which really suited the style and Sarah Greenwood said that she preferred the method as it was closer to the actual look for the film rather than the high finish of most concept work.

It wasn’t actually until I was looking for the screen-captures of this film that I realised how much I liked the styling. I enjoyed the film and remembered the look for Sherlock’s rooms but had forgotten some the other really interesting sets.


When Hannah was first pitched, it had heavy fairytale themes, most of which were dropped from the film’s plot but remain in the production design.

The biggest build of the production was the gingerbread house which you can see above in Eva Kunst’s concepts. I again really liked the styling of the film even if I wasn’t really a fan of the plot.

I did love Saoirse Ronan in this film, who actually requested that the studio ask Joe Wright to direct the film.

Anna Karenina

I haven’t actually seen Anna Karenina, but after learning it was set in crumbling theatre I really wish I had. It sounds like an interesting version. The theatre is meant to represent the ‘world of artifice’ that is the society of the film.

2 thoughts on “2nd November Part 2 – Sarah Greenwood Masterclass

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