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THE PROPOSAL

Discovering Alaska In Massachusetts
Filmmakers Take the Production to the Wilds of Massachusetts Except for day of exteriors in New York City, "THE PROPOSAL” was shot almost entirely in the state of Massachusetts. The filmmakers were pleased to find great locations along the rocky shores north of Boston in the towns of Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Gloucester, and on Cape Ann—all needing relatively minor adjustments to be transformed into the small Alaskan town of Sitka.

"The script was written to take place in Sitka, because Pete, the writer, had spent a summer there and knew the town pretty intimately,” says producer Lieberman. "I thought it would be a great setting that we haven't really seen before, especially in a comedy.”

While their Massachusetts locations were extraordinary, production designer Nelson Coates still had his work cut out for him. "Anne and I were particular about making our Alaska feel as if you were really there by making it evocative instead of trying to mimic it exactly,” says Coates. "But to turn the town of Rockport into Sitka, we had to deal with almost 30 storefronts, their window dressing and signage; it was fairly extensive. It felt more like working on a period movie where you have to cover so much to create a sense of place.”

One of the filmmakers' greatest finds was the magnificent home along the coast in Manchester-by-the-Sea that would become the Paxton estate. Little was required to dress the exterior of the house except for the addition of First Nation art, including totem poles, and building an enclosure over a large swimming pool that would become the planned site for Margaret and Andrew's wedding.

"One of the things that is very particular about that part of the world, from British Columbia all the way into the Panhandle of Alaska, is the First Nations tribes,” says Coates. "Early on, Anne and I talked about incorporating their very specific paintings and carvings, especially because our Betty White character has Tlingit heritage.”

But the interior of the house, built in the early 20th century and distinguished by a bright, Early American decor, proved a challenge. Using the existing floor plan, Coates designed new rooms of dark wood tones and stone walls with a fireplace that would be more evocative of the Pacific Northwest.

"One of the things that makes this particular area of Massachusetts so similar to Alaska and a great place to shoot is the rocky coast and the feeling of isolation that you get with some of the houses,” says Coates. "Since almost three weeks of our filming takes place at the Paxton house, we needed something that felt like it was on an island, and this house is on a peninsula, so we can get that feel of the water. And because of the rocky nature of the coast, it really does feel like it is in the Sitka area where a lot of the mountains are plunging right into the water.” Filmmakers bridged the gap between the Massachusetts exterior and the real Sitka by traveling to Alaska to capture the mountainous, tree-filled area on film.

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