About The Production
Principal photography began in early June 2012 in the picturesque town of
Shelburne Falls, MA. This quaint New England town created a serene backdrop for
the fictitious town of Holton Mills, NH. Lush green mountains envelope the
village as natural water falls carve their way through its heart, adding to its
splendor. The team decided upon Sherburne Falls a year before principal
photography commenced. "We were looking for a town that was beautiful but not
cute. It had to be a working town that had gone undiscovered and was not a
tourist attraction. It had all the bones of a beautiful town but nothing too
shiny and it had to look like real people lived there," explains producer Russ
Smith. Jason Reitman along with Lianne Halfon and Helen Estabrook then took a
road trip from Boston to see the location and immediately knew they found the
home of Adele and Henry.
While the town exterior scenes took place in Shelburne Falls, 80 miles east,
in the Boston suburb of Acton, is where a majority of the movie was filmed as a
private residence served as Adele's house. The house underwent a massive
transformation to distress it, affecting an overall sense of neglect and
dilapidation, echoing its owner's emotional state. The grass was overgrown, the
front porch had cobwebs and peeling paint, and the back porch had holes in its
screens. The inside also underwent a complete overhaul. The kitchen was
completely gutted and redone to date it back to the 80's, torn wall paper
strategically hung, and dark, dingy window coverings helped to create the somber
mood of the environment. As a rule, Reitman prefers practical locations that can
be transformed to building sets on stages. "I like shooting in real places. I
don't want to show up on a lot and walk up to a soundstage and walk into a fake
set. I like to play in the real thing. I like to drive through a neighborhood,
drive up to a house, walk into the house and feel it. I want to look out the
windows and see a neighbor's home. I want to be confined by the location that
I'm in," explains Reitman. "I've always believed that directing is more
reactionary then creative. It's the job of the director to react to the
screenplay, react to a performance, a location, a piece of wardrobe, anything
and directors are measured in what they do in those moments so I like to feel as
though I'm breathing in a real house when I'm shooting in one."
In fact, all of "Labor Day's" 300 scenes were filmed entirely on location
without the use of stages, an especially great challenge for production designer
"Eric Steelberg, the DP, and I made a case for Jason to consider seriously
putting our main house on a soundstage where we could build a two-story set with
backings around the outside of the window that would be correct for day, for
night, for cloudy, for sunny. We could create any weather condition he wanted.
We could pull away the walls where the camera needed to go past a wall. We could
give him the exact ground plan, the architectural details, that he wanted from
the get go and we made a case for it before we had found a location but it fell
on deaf ears," laughs Saklad. "Jason shot us down because he felt in his heart
of hearts, that the juice of a real location would make the story come
alive...that the limitations would actually feel more like real life so the actors
would soak up the sense of reality in a way that they never could on a
soundstage. And he was right."
Saklad and his team were in charge of transforming all of the pre-existing
spaces chosen by Reitman into the environments seen on screen. "We have to
convey so much through the tiny details in that one house," explains Saklad.
"We're looking at the fine details of how Adele has created this house and how
it has changed over time." Since there are so many flashback scenes in the film,
that house was also shot during different stages in time so even the principle
set had to be altered many times. "It's all about the small details. It's all
about fans going in the background of the shots so that we can feel that we're
in the middle of a heat wave. It's about the way the paintings hung on the walls
have aged the walls. We see the stains where the sun has bleached around the
walls. We want to find ways where the house can feel very lived in, very
personal and then can change," details Saklad.
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