THE KINGS OF SUMMER
About the House
The Kings of Summer's most crucial location is the home built by Joe, Patrick and Biaggio. It was important to Vogt-Roberts that the functional, free-standing structure didn't look like a product of "movie magic." Vogt-Roberts explains: "I wanted it to feel like something that kids could do. There needed to be a sense of awe and wonder to it. As soon as it feels like something that is not realistic, it takes people out of the movie."
Prior to production, Vogt-Roberts sought out the help of an illustrator friend and an architect cousin, requesting that they come up with a couple of sketches that suggested something "structurally sound but impressive." Their drawings eventually made their way to The Kings of Summer production designer Tyler Robinson.
Robinson did his own renderings, "putting the characters' personalities into the house. From there, I went back and forth with Jordan about what it was and what it wasn't," Robinson says. As the design process continued, Robinson made scale models, first out of foam, then out of sticks and wood. "That gave Jordan something more hands-on, so he could push and pull walls around, and it helped inform the construction crew what we were trying to achieve," Robinson says.
"One of the main challenges was making the house believably small, but also creating enough room to work in and around," Robinson says. The filmmakers decided upon a floorplan that was roughly twenty feet by thirty feet. The bones of the house were structurally sound, but the remainder was largely improvised.
After the crew filmed scene in which Joe discovers the clearing, production moved on to shoot scenes with Nick Offerman while construction coordinator Mike Shepley and a team of five built the house in under a week.
Robinson, Shepley and the construction crew adhered to Vogt-Roberts's request that the house appear that it is "pragmatic and real and built primarily out of found materials and stolen materials and then a couple hundred bucks worth of stuff from Home Depot." Indeed, Robinson used salvaged materials, including repurposed windows, a tin roof from an old mill, broken up palates, and a basketball hoop. He incorporated "found objects that spoke to the individual characters" for the interior, acquiring elements from Craigslist and the sides of roads. One major design choice came courtesy of a donated truck bed top that became the loft's roof.
The scenes at the house were shot over a week. The house's makeshift charm proved troublesome when a summer storm soaked the set overnight. "It poured heavy that night," Robinson recalls. "We had an actual practical roof, but it wasn't water tight for a big torrential downpour. We came in the next day and everything was soaked. That was a real situation."
Once most of the house scenes were complete, the crew deconstructed the house as they filmed shots of the boys "building" it. "Tearing down that house was sad," Vogt-Roberts remembers. "If it were our last day of production, that would be one thing, but it was right in the middle of it. It was this weird moment of, 'We're never coming back. There's an end to this.'"
The house became its own character as soon as the actors inhabited the space. "We wanted it to feel as real as possible, to put the actors in the real environment, to let them explore that world and use that world to help them form their characters. To put them into that space and to shoot interiors and exteriors simultaneously was really important. Being out in the woods and putting everyone in the headspace was really helpful," Robinson says.
"We made them feel like it was theirs. They all thought it was theirs," Robinson adds. "We let them add their touches to it. Everyone felt really comfortable in the house and had fun exploring it. It was a fun process, and everyone felt at home there."
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