The technical difficulties of shooting On Chesil Beach at the actual location

Naturally, for a movie called On Chesil Beach, the filmmakers wanted to shoot on the actual Chesil Beach, particularly a long shingle outcrop surrounded by water on all sides, in Dorset. It may have looked cool on screen, but it was practically very difficult.

Producer Elizabeth Karlsen described the practical challenges of the shoot during a Q&A at Curzon Mayfair with Billy Howle, Saoirse Ronan, author/screenwriter Ian McEwan and director Dominic Cooke (L-R in the picture below).

Here’s what she had to say:

“I thought it was like our sort of mini Revenant because Dominic and (DP) Sean Bobbitt made the absolutely correct decision to film on a promontory, a slip of land surrounded by water on all sides, and the only way we could get to it was by a flat-bottomed rowboat that held five people and go across a folly of water which was closed during the summer months for nesting birds, it’s a nature sanctuary. 

The line producer turned to me (during the recce) and she said, ‘What?! We can’t film out here. You can only get here five people at a time by flat-bottom boat!’ and (I was like), ‘It’s fine, it’s fine, Dom and Sean said it’s just going to be handheld’… Anyway, cut to when Dom came to my office (and said), ‘I think we need a crane’. So I said to the line producer, ‘Umm there’s been a slight change of plan’. The crane weighed five tons and it had to be taken over piece by piece on the rowboat and assembled, and poor Billy and Dominic and Saoirse were really out on that piece of land for about six days, I think, with nothing; there was no loo, it was just them and this pebble beach and this crane and Sean Bobbitt – and it was the right decision.”

Billy also chipped in, calling it a “real bonding experience”.

On Chesil Beach is released in selected cinemas on Friday 18th May. You can read my review here.

SEE ALSO: Saoirse Ronan didn’t want to make On Chesil Beach an abuse story

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