The first scenes shot took place at the Martin plantation, on 280 acres of land that collectively became known as Freshwater. The Martin homestead, with its crops, gates and adjacent barn/workroom, did not exist prior to filming. It fell to production designer Kirk M.
Petruccelli, art director Barry Chusid and set decorator Victor Zolfo to realize Roland Emmerich's vision of these and the rest of the sets for "The Patriot."
Emmerich wanted to film "The Patriot" so that the scenes were backlit. Therefore, Petruccelli had to select his locations and design his sets with that in mind.
"Every site we selected or constructed was always positioned on an east-west angle so that during the day Roland could shoot in one direction and at dusk, another direction," Petruccelli says.
The crew had 11 weeks to build Martin's farmhouse, a classic four-over-four structure, which reflected the strong but understated nature of his character. Ironically, half of the interior was a hollow shell. The place had to be constructed to burn quickly to cinders when the British torch it in the course of the film. The construction crew assembled the minimum requisite sets against a skeleton of scaffolding and wooden beams. In the distance, the special effects team pumped smoke through a lengthy rubber tube perforated with holes along the top, all of which conspired to create morning and evening "mist" for the scenes.
"Martin's farm was challenging because it is our primary set. It was important that we did
it accurately and gave enough meaning to Mel's character," says
Petruccelli. "The structure had to relate to him. We scouted a lot of locations to find very beautiful pastoral lands that we could modify for Martin's farm. Roland wanted it to be situated in a landscape that would emphasize the pre-war, idyllic nature of the Colonists and of Martin's life."
Crops of tobacco and millet, watered by five wells drilled by the production, were planted around the grounds. Since most shooting was done on converted cattle fields, a massive greens department was utilized for all the locations. Different crops— ground top millet, pearl millet, pumpkin, Sudan grasses, cowpeas— were planted around many of these locations to create different colors for the landscapes.
Martin's house also had to contain interior sets, such as bedrooms, Martin's study, the parlor and kitchen, as well as an exterior porch. A sturdy, unpretentious building, its details were as authentic as possible: high ceilings and long corridors, gray-green walls, dark wooden furniture, light fixtures holding gold tapers, an aged brick fireplace in one room, a marble one in another. It was the picture of Colonial, masculine taste— with a few feminine accents to reflect the lasting importance of Martin's union with his deceased wife.
Petruccelli also had to build his own j8th century town— the village of Pembroke, where a large portion of the filming took place.
"In the town of Pembroke, we built the church first, at the highest point on the hilltop, as the settlers probably would have. From that we built down. Then we asked, what was the basis of
the town? There would be agriculture, so one of the buildings sells goods for farming; there is a blacksmith and place that sells tack, because the horse was the main form of transportation at that time. Then there would be people who began living in the town, so certain other types of businesses would arise, such as a tavern. We examined the social, political and religious needs of the town, and it sprang from that," he says.
Petruccelli notes that perhaps the most colorful set of the movie was the interior of Lord General Cornwallis' headquarters, an elegant turquoise drawing room with gold chandeliers and dark, sophisticated Chippendale furniture. This set, he notes, m
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