Our Digital FilmMaker Magazine Article

Recently we had the privilege of getting a 6 page spread in Digital FilmMaker Magazine. As it’s not currently available online we thought we’d share it with you here, and give everyone a chance to read up a little more on how the series came to be made. Click on the images for a larger view.

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No Spoilers Please!

So what is The First Musketeer actually about?

The First Musketeer is a mini series, to be released in 2014. It is a prequel to The Three Musketeers, set around 6 years before Alexandre Dumas’ novel. It is an origin story for the three main characters and uses the back stories provided throughout Dumas’ Musketeer books to track back in time to when the Three Musketeers first met. Similarly to Dumas, we have also used real historical events to inspire the adventures that our young Musketeers go on, the first of which leads them to the younger Richelieu, who has been banished from the court in Paris to Avignon.

For those of you not as familiar with the books here is a character breakdown for the original characters in Dumas’ books, to explain where they are when we first meet them. Be warned; there may be the occasional book spoiler if you read ahead!

Character Breakdown:

Athos: Athos is a troubled young man, who has run away from his old life as the Comte de la Fere, after a tragic event involving a mysterious young woman named Anne.

Porthos: Porthos is a contradiction. He likes nothing more than to show off, but keeps his real life a mystery. He hides behind a gilded exterior, and wishes for nothing more than to one day become a rich nobleman.

Aramis: Aramis is studying to take his Holy Orders in the church. Unfortunately his penchant for attractive women has a tendency to get in the way of his religious path.

Richelieu: Most people will know this character as the powerful Cardinal Richelieu, but in our series he is not yet a Cardinal, and is the Bishop of Lucon. King Louis XIII is currently on the throne, but ascending to the throne at such a young age meant that his mother, Queen Marie, had to act as regent. Growing angry at the Queen’s hold on power, King Louis XIII and his favourite courtier, Charles D’Albert, The Duke of Luynes, had the Queen banished to Blois, along with her closest allies, and due to Richelieu’s close relationship with Marie he too was sent off to Avignon.

Anne de Breuil/Milady De Winter: Anne is a character from Athos’ past. He meets her in his village and falls in love with her. After marrying her he discovers that she is not all she pretends to be, which causes a tragic event leading to the fall of Athos (then known as Olivier, the Comte de la fere) as he runs away from his old life in an attempt to escape the memories of his past.

 

How the Dordogne, the Lot, and the Lot-et-Garonne became 17th Century France

Rocamadour Sanctuary

Written by Harriet Sams – Writer and Director of The First Musketeer

Trying to make a film on a low budget is tricky enough, but when your series is set around 400 years ago in France it becomes a monumental challenge. I always knew that I would film this series in France, after all, our iconic heroes are a part of their rich history, but I regularly get asked why I chose to ship nearly 50 people to a different country with next to no money.

The answer, for me, was simple. If you want to make a series set in 17th century France, go to places that were around in 17th century France. Although I’m from the UK, I was fortunate enough to grow up in the Lot region of Southern France, bordered by the Lot-et-Garonne and the Dordogne, areas that are somewhat equivalent to British counties, and named after the grand rivers that flow through them.

Le Lot

The beauty of these regions are famous worldwide, and I certainly never took for granted the fact that you are only ever a few miles away from the nearest castle, or “Chateau”. So began a year long location scout, trying to find places that were not only beautiful, but barely touched by modern life, and would have been around in 1619. These are some of the places I found:

Rocamadour – Lot

Rocamadour is a stunning town built into the side of a cliff, and one of the most famous tourist attractions in France. It has a massively rich history, and is also a major religious site for pilgrims across the globe. Not the most accessible location for a film shoot as the Sanctuary where we shot our scenes is only accessible by walking up their famously steep and copious steps, or by taking a large lift/elevator down. It was certainly worth it in the end though as this location turned out to be one of our most beautiful. The sanctuary where we shot is the first image pictured at the top of this post, and below is one of the many scenes we filmed there.

Ghislain is saved by Athos

 

Chateau de Losse – Dordogne

Chateau de Losse

The Chateau de Losse is a bit of a hidden gem. A Renaissance Manor set along a river, it plays the part of Richelieu’s private estate. Not only did we choose it because it has been exceptionally restored to it’s original decor, and the space it provides for a film crew to work, but also because the real Cardinal Richelieu once visited the Chateau, with some damaging consequences. It is beautiful both inside and out, famous for it’s historic gardens that are worth the visit alone.

The Pilgrim waits in The Chateau de Losse

 

Chateau de Bonaguil – Lot-et-Garonne

Chateau de Bonaguil

The Chateau de Bonaguil is an epic Castle that sits atop of a charming little town, one which I remember fondly as a child as the place I used to be treated to ice cream. Although the castle itself is an intimidating image, we actually used it as the streets of Paris. Having fallen into a state of ruin, although by no means indiscernible from how it might once have looked, the fact that the majority of the roofs are missing makes it look like a medieval town of stone from the inside. We used multiple areas of this castle, including the cavernous passages that run beneath it, and it became like a second home to the cast and crew, at least until the Make-up team heard some of the Ghost stories that surround the mysterious Chateau.

 

The Chateau de Fumel – Lot-et-Garonne

Chateau de Fumel

The Chateau de Fumel, rather than being a privately owned castle, is actually a municipal building for the local area. It does however have some stunning gardens and a dramatic sheltered walkway that doubles up as a Parisian street in our series. A great location that only suffered once during a set up for one of our scenes, when an unexpected wedding party crashed the site to have their photos taken before seeing off the happy couple on their honeymoon. What they thought of a group of people running around with cameras and swords I don’t know.

Duke de Luynes in Fumel

These are just some of the places we used in September, and if we get the opportunity to return for Season 2 we hope to use many more, and wouldn’t shoot elsewhere if given the choice. In the end, the expense of getting to France was more than worth it. The accommodating representatives of Film France welcomed us to their country, and we were able to film on locations that were not only historically accurate, but also way beyond anything we could have achieved by building streets as sets. And after all, I think it’s finally time that a film about The Three Musketeers is actually shot in the country that produced them.

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Costuming the First Musketeer

Marion's Red Dress

One of the most important elements of any Historical adventure is the costumes. Jessica Ozlo began designing and making each of the character’s costumes nearly a year before departing for France, with each actor having their own custom made outfit.

Just the two main gowns alone contain over 100 metres of fabric, presenting a monumental task for our team of talented makers.

Milady de Winter

But it wasn’t just our femmes fatales who’s costumes presented a challenge. The sleeves on Athos’ doublet were hand embroidered, as well as many of the musketeers’ numerous shirts, which were decorated with beautiful embroidery based on historical patterns.

Athos, Musketeer

Being such an important source for an actor to get into character, we had to make sure that each costume suited not only the actor, but the role they were playing, with everything having to be discussed, from the colour, right down to the specific fabric used.

And of course they had to be practical. Choosing a beautiful silk that rips as soon as the actor gets on a horse is an issue, so our team had to make sure the fabric was reinforced, as well as keeping a member of the wardrobe department on hand at all times, equipped with needle and thread, just in case. And who was the worst culprit for splitting his trousers? Unsurprisingly, it’s our nimble Porthos.

Porthos, The First Musketeer

Horsing Around

Musketeers on Horseback

As the main method of transport for any self respecting Musketeer, the noble horse was an important addition to The First Musketeer team.

Duke de Luynes on horseback

But it’s not quite as simple as turning up on set and asking your horses to be patient with the crew while they set up. This is why it was essential for our actors to learn how to ride before embarking on the series.

Fortunately a number of of actors were already expert riders, including Charles Barrett who can regularly be seen in the UK with the stunt riding team Atkinson Action Horses.

The Musketeers find a horse, Athos, Porthos

On our series we were assisted by the very talented team at Centre Equestre du Passe-Temps, who lent us the use of their beautiful horses for the duration of the shoot.

But of course, the horses don’t just stand around all day waiting for us to make a film, they have their own day jobs teaching people how to ride, and taking them out on adventures across the southern French countryside.

If you fancy learning to ride like a Musketeer, there are a number of packages to choose from, whether you’re a beginner who wants to enjoy the views of the Dordogne on horseback, or an expert looking for something a bit more adventurous.

If you’re interested in booking a riding holiday, or in finding out more information, you can contact the centre directly at this address: info@dupassetemps.com

And in the meantime, meet Athos’ horse:

Athos on Horseback