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In the early days of filmmaking, before many of Hollywood’s elaborate sets and soundstages had been built, it was common for movies to be shot on location. Decades later, Hollywood filmmakers rediscovered the practice of using real locations and documentary footage in their narrative features. Why did this happen? What caused this sudden change?
Renowned film scholar R. Barton Palmer answers this question in Shot on Location by exploring the historical, ideological, economic, and technological developments that led Hollywood to head back outside in order to capture footage of real places. His groundbreaking research reveals that wartime newsreels had a massive influence on postwar Hollywood film, although there are key distinctions to be made between these movies and their closest contemporaries, Italian neorealist films. Considering how these practices were used in everything from war movies like Twelve O’Clock High to westerns like The Searchers, Palmer explores how the blurring of the formal boundaries between cinematic journalism and fiction lent a “reality effect” to otherwise implausible stories.
Shot on Location describes how the period’s greatest directors, from Alfred Hitchcock to Billy Wilder, increasingly moved beyond the confines of the studio. At the same time, the book acknowledges the collaborative nature of moviemaking, identifying key roles that screenwriters, art designers, location scouts, and editors played in incorporating actual geographical locales and social milieus within a fictional framework. Palmer thus offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood transformed the way we view real spaces.