We’ve enjoyed our fair share of location filming here at Eastnor over the years and have featured in many different  productions from documentaries to dramas and music films. One of our most memorable filming projects however came in February and March 2018 when we had the pleasure of hosting a 350 strong cast and crew for HBO’s ‘SUCCESSION’ as they filmed all over the Eastnor Estate during one of the coldest winters for years (remember the ‘Beast from the East’ brrrrr?)

Succession Directors Chairs

Succession Director Chairs set up in the Long Library 

Succession - Chairs for the stars
Chairs for the stars!

HOW IT CAME ABOUT…

Award-winning Supervising Location Manager and industry veteran, Sue Quinn, whose impressive back catalogue includes family favourite films such as Notting Hill, Love Actually, and the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, has an enviable reputation for knowing her historic houses and flagged Eastnor Castle as a potential location. After multiple recces of the castle interiors, grounds and the wider estate, Eastnor was chosen to be the location for Succession Season 1, episodes 9 and 10, to be directed by British Director, Mark Mylod (Game of Thrones, Cold Feet and The Affair).

SUCCESS FOR SUCCESSION

Little then did we realise just how successful this brand new HBO TV satirical drama, Succession, would become (the clue was probably in the title!). As the Succession team proudly won 2 coveted awards at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards earlier this week (‘Best Television Series – Drama’ and ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series (Brian Cox) – Drama’), we’re looking back at some of our highlights from when Succession filmed at Eastnor Castle.

THE BEAST FROM THE EAST

From the day the location team arrived, temperatures started to plummet, and soon blizzards, strong winds and drifting snow caused widespread disruption throughout Eastnor as the ‘Beast from the East’ combined with storm ‘Emma’, to give us some of the most testing weather conditions ever experienced.

Despite what the weather threw at us though, it did not deter the highly professional cast and crew who battled against the elements both day and night to ensure that filming stayed on schedule.

Succession - Ice on the Upper Terrace
Ice on the Upper Terrace

Succession - Hats and warm coats for all the crewHats and warm coats for all the crew

EPISODE 9 – “PRE-NUPTIAL’ AND EPISODE 10 – ‘NOBODY IS EVER MISSING’

Eastnor has played host to hundreds of weddings over the years and we’ve seen some pretty spectacular sights along the way (décor, entertainment, dresses, flowers), but nothing could prepare us for the stunning glass marquee that was erected on the castle’s Lower Terrace (courtesy of Good Intents Marquees) for the star-studded ‘wedding’ of Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) in episodes 9 and 10.

The huge glass structure, which took a week to build, filled the Lower Terrace, and the night shoots with in-bound helicopters, crowd scenes and glamourous setting, soon became the talking point of Eastnor.

Succession - The stunning glass marquee on the Lower TerraceThe stunning glass marquee on the Lower Terrace

The glass marquee setting for ‘the wedding’, dressed by an amazing Props Team and food stylists, was spectacular!

Succession - The equally stunning marquee interiors (image from Good Intents)The equally stunning marquee interiors (image from Good Intents)

EXTRAS, EXTRAS, EXTRAS

“We need lots of extras and fast” was a cry early on in the project. So we did what we do best at Eastnor Castle, and rallied the local community (friends, waitresses, students, gamekeepers daughters, sons of staff) to help! This created a real buzz in the community as everyone enjoyed their 15 minutes or more of fame, and even kick-started a film career for some!

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD

Never had we seen so much food! We were surrounded by food villages, rolling hot and cold buffets, and 24/7 smoothies, chocolate and artisan coffee in the Tea Room, Courtyard and Visitor Car Park. Some days we were invited by the locations team to enjoy the ‘leftovers’ and as a team of foodies, we were more than happy to oblige!

Succession - Good Food! Succession - An Outdoor Winter Café!

FILMING TRUCKS

Location trucks, production trucks, crew trucks, catering trucks, prop trucks… there were hundreds of trucks! Everywhere we looked there were trucks and temporary marquees housing the stars of Succession, the location team, production, costumes, props and make-up. The huddle of Movie Makers trucks in our Woodyard, in full view of passing traffic, was the cause of widespread local curiosity. Despite countless calls to the Castle office asking what was being filmed, our lips remained sealed, even when someone claimed to have spotted Tom Cruise in the vicinity!

Succession - Trucks in the Woodyard

Succession - Movie Maker Trucks in the Courtyard

Succession - More Trucks in the Courtyard

Succession - Even More Trucks in the Courtyard

Succession - Trucks on the Overflow Car Park

Succession - Trucks on the Lower Terrace Trucks on the Lower Terrace

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

From the warmth of the Castle Office we were able to see plenty of filming action! In fact, we could barely move for cabling, lights, cameras, rigs and props, not to mention people! Even the boss’s office doubled up as Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) hotel room for 6 weeks, including the erection of a temporary 6ft false wall, forcing our General Manager to climb over his desk every morning to get to his computer!

Succession - Filming Scenes in the Courtyard

Succession - A Glass Bar set up in the Octagon Room

Succession - Cameras Everywhere!
Succession - Ready for a Night ShootReady for a Night Shoot

A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

With over 350 cast and crew onsite for nearly 8 weeks, plenty of overnight accommodation was needed in the local area! As the Castle Bedrooms were being used as sets, our self-catering holiday cottages were in demand. The Director of Photography stayed at Golden Gates Lodge in the Eastnor Deer Park, whilst the location team stayed at Hillend House prior to it being renovated into a 9 bedroom/bathroom rental property. Other members of the cast and crew stayed in hotels in Ledbury, Malvern, Cheltenham and Hereford.

Succession - Hillend House EastnorHillend House

FORGING FRIENDSHIPS

It is fair to say that once the full complement of cast and crew arrived on site, we were initially shell-shocked by the sheer volume of people and the level of activity. But after nearly 8 weeks of working alongside the whole team, we all agreed that they were one of the best film crews we have had the pleasure of hosting at Eastnor Castle.

Everyone working on Succession, without exception, from the carpenters to the sparks, to props and the locations team, to the Director, were all incredibly friendly and professional, respecting the heritage and integrity of the castle for the duration.

By the time we said our fond farewells, lasting friendships had been forged. As the last of the locations team headed out of Eastnor onto the next shoot location, our Filming Co-ordinator Charlotte, admitted to missing the daily frenetic activity that a full-on shoot of this scale brings with it.

Succession - Charlotte feeling star-struck!Charlotte feeling star-struck!

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE!

As a dog-loving team and a dog-friendly venue, we couldn’t have been happier to dog-sit the dashing Dachshund, Louis, whilst his ‘Mummy’ was busy on set. Louis settled in very quickly, swaddled in his very own cashmere dog blankets and cuddling his red bouncy bone, and become part of the Eastnor Castle office team!

Succession - Louis

Louis!

A NOTE OF THANKS

Feedback is very important to us so we were thrilled to receive this feedback from Sue at the end of the filming project:

“120 miles from London and well worth the fight to be out of the 25-mile radius. Eastnor is a magical and wonderful location to film at, it has everything. One of the very few intact and privately-owned castles that is a rare Gothic Revival stately dream. Because it is a working home it is not too precious and is, therefore, more ideal for working with film crews. The owner James is very accommodating and so are all the amazing staff that work for him, it is a “can” do environment in which they work. Anything is possible. Apart from having a very happy time filming in every kind of weather, snow, ice, floods and high winds we were able to able to continue. The castle itself is also a star, it is nestled into the Malvern valley with the beautiful surrounding countryside, but the interiors are a dream with rich colours that are set off with the beautiful interiors by Pugin. I can’t wait to come back and hope I am involved with another project that I can use Eastnor for.”

AND FINALLY…

Congratulations Succession on your tremendous success; we are so proud to have played a small part in your incredible journey!

#succcession #season1 #hbo #skydrama #goldenglobes #filming #filmlocation

 

ITV approached us to ask if we could host an episode of Ant & Dec’s Red or Black programme. Luckily, there was space in the diary, so we quickly said we would be delighted to have them. They have written about it on their blog though we are not quite in the Cotswolds but can see them on a clear day in the distance.

We love having TV and filming at Eastnor. They are challenging and different, but a great way to use the house and to get ourselves known to a wider audience. In an earlier TV film of a ghost story, my brother, George, was used as an extra and had to stick his big toe out from behind a cupboard door, which was the limit of his exposure, but apparently he enjoyed it and did not need an Equity card for the work, which I suspect was unpaid.

We have had a good run with TV programmes this year, after a visit from John Craven on Countryfile,  Ruth Watson on Country House Rescue and Dan Cruickshank on the Country House Revealed. We have only had brief appearances, and so we have not enjoyed the surge in visitor numbers enjoyed by Highclere Castle as a result of Downton Abbey, but one day perhaps…             JH-B   25th June 2011

 

We have been lucky to have a number of famous visitors to Eastnor, often here for filming, TV, the Big Chill or to drive Land Rovers.  But the one most remembered is Fred Dibnah, the world-famous steeplejack who came here after we met and became friends at the Welland Steam rally, where I was showing my Fowler B6 Heavy Road Locomotive, “Atlas”.  Fred came over to admire the engine as it had been well known in Lancashire where he lived, and I invited him to drive it back to Eastnor with me.

Fred was passionate about engines and, as I then discovered, old buildings, especially those of the 19th century, where elements of Victorian engineering and craftsmanship survived. Eastnor filled the bill nicely. Late, after he had repaired “Atlas” in his Bolton workshop, he returned the engine here as part of one of his TV series, and then came back to film under the roof where we examined a huge cast iron beam, used over the Great Hall in the construction of the house to support the Keep. Fred was a natural broadcaster, enthusiastic, articulate and professional, he kept his cap on throughout.

Fred then generously came back to attend our steam rallies and sign books, videos and photographs for visitors. He certainly drew the crowds and had time for a chat with everyone who was prepared to wait. He sat in the shadow of “Atlas”, drinking beer steadily throughout the day. Being a celebrity did not change him: he was always himself, and he was loved for what he was.

We display photographs of Fred dangling from one of our towers in his bosun’s chair, scraping the remains of the Virginia creeper off the walls and swinging about with a long hoe trying to finish the job. If I ever meet strangers who say they recognise me, it is always because they remember my appearing on Fred’s programmes. He was a great man, and we miss him.                                               JH-B    7th January 2011

About 25 years ago, we had the chance to be the location for a BBC film of John Masefield’s story, The Box of Delights. It was a very appropriate choice as Masefield was a Ledbury poet, and now local people in the Ledbury area will have the chance to see the film again – see the Ledbury Reporter

It is fun having a film at Eastnor, but hard work.  We are with the crews all the time they are on site, and they start early. The BBC crews in particular are used to working in historic houses and treat the contents with care. They usually have everything they want in the way of props, but occasionally we can help with more authentic items form the collection.

I will always remember the Box of Delights filming, because one night we arrived from London to see the North Wall of the house in flames. As we arrived in the Courtyard, our fears were further increased by seeing a number of fire engines parked there. But all was well. It was a special effects fire, created well away from the wall but not obviously so from a distance. The fire engines were there just in case – fact took over from fiction.                 

JH-B       20th November 2009