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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Celebrating our return to England!

The Musketeers

At long last we’re home, after a month of filming in the beautiful South of France. It’s been an amazing experience but one of the hardest of our lives. Now we’re straight into post-production in the attempt to get the series released early next year. In the meantime enjoy some selected stills from our shoot.

The Pilgrim and MarionAbove; The Pilgrim threatens Marion. Below; Athos recognises a face from the past…

Athos Sees Marion

Start The Year As You Mean To Go On…

They say you should start the year as you mean to go on, so I’m starting the year in the stunning south of France at some of the locations we’ll be using for the web series.

As our series is being shot entirely on location the importance of finding the perfect “Musketeer” look is paramount. Fortunately the area we have chosen to film in is by no means lacking in suitable landscapes and architecture.

Image

So where is this magical area we have chosen to film? For those of you who know the south of France you may be unsurprised to hear we are shooting in and around the Lot and the Dorgodgne, famous for their beautiful medieval towns and Chateaux.

If you’re interested to see more about the locations take a look at our latest Pinterest Board, where I have gathered a number of photos of the locations we plan on using next summer: Pinterest Lot and Dordogne Locations

Rehearsals 12/12/12

Yesterday was a particularly exciting chapter in The First Musketeer’s story, because it was the first day of fight training! There is little I enjoy more than a clash of swords first thing in the morning and yesterday morning was right on the mark.

With Choreography by the very talented Charles Barrett aka Porthos, who happens to be a prize wining fencer, the routine he and Edward Mitchell rehearsed was thrilling to say the least. Keep your eyes open for footage from the day to be uploaded soon…

The second half of the day was slightly less energetic, with scenes from next year’s series being worked through.

It was a day of first meetings. We rehearsed when Porthos first meets Athos, and when Athos first meets Marion, both with rather violent consequences. I won’t give too much away but watch the rehearsal video to be uploaded soon for more sneak peeks into the world of The First Musketeer…

And of course, no day is complete without a bit of Dirty Dancing.