I saw 3 of the movies so that counts, right?
By Allison Mazur
June 10, 2016
Harry Potter is one of those movies that has a cult following, much akin to Star Wars, Star Trek, Tarantino films, and so on. I would argue that it is “our generation’s” film and book series. The first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone, was published in 1997, coincidentally also the year I was born. Our generation basically grew up reading the Harry Potter books and watching the movies, so it makes sense why so many of my peers are crazy about the series.
I try to stay away from cults, so I have stayed away from the Harry Potter fanbase. (If you’ve read my past blog posts, you know I’m not a Beatles fan either so you’re probably wondering what do I like. Lots of things, just not The Beatles or Harry Potter.) Yes, I am aware I have no soul (I am a ginger!) and I am a horrible person because I don’t like some movies about wizards. It’s nothing against the movies or books or J.K. Rowling, I just don’t have an interest in fantasy or science-fiction for the most part. (I think this also explains why I don’t care for shows like Dr. Who, Supernatural, Game of Thrones, etc.) I tried to read the first Harry Potter novel once and I think I got about four pages in before I was bored. Sorry. I’ve seen approximately three of the movies (the first two and bits of the others), but again, they never held my interest.
Regardless of my failure to appreciate Harry Potter, we had the opportunity to visit Warner Brothers UK studios and chat with the outstanding Josh Berger, President and Managing Director of Warner Brothers UK, Ireland, and Spain. We got to meet with Josh for about an hour and hear about how he became president of such a large and successful company.
Josh told us about how he grew up in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, and he always knew he wanted to go into that field someday. He told us about how he studied at Harvard University and took a year off to work at a film company in Italy. Although it was cool to hear his story and how he got to where he is today, it was also a little disheartening. Josh got jobs through his connections and circumstances he was born into. His story isn’t really an underdog story of someone who triumphed when the odds were pitted against them, but rather the tale as old as time of “it’s about who you know.” And honestly, that’s usually what it comes down to – your connections and your ability to network. And from there you can make your own luck and maximize the opportunities presented to you. Maybe with a little luck you can get someone to take a chance on you, and get that big break.
Then we got to go on the studio tour, and we got the VIP treatment, meaning we got to cut the long line (probably because we were dressed so snazzy). We entered into the Great Hall after seeing a short video with Harry, Ron, and Hermione (or Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson if you want to get technical). The Great Hall is probably the most iconic set in all of the films because it is shown in multiple scenes and it is such a cool set. Those amazing wide angle shots, the floating candles, and the large gathering of people make those scenes truly magical. (Side note: did you know you could have dinner there? For an arm and a leg probably!)
My favorite part of the tour (besides collecting all of the passport embossed stamps) was seeing all of the props and costumes that went into making the Harry Potter series. There were whole rooms dedicated to the different prosthetics, wigs, and animatronics used. There were countless drawings and paper models of sets. And then to see those same sets built to scale was mind-blowing.
It’s things like the 100,000+ props someone had to handcraft that you overlook when watching a film. Just seeing the amount of handwritten books and potion jars and wand boxes that a team of people had to painstakingly make was insane.
I also enjoyed seeing Platform 9 3/4 because we had just been to King’s Cross Station the day before, and the recreation of it was so spot on. For a second I thought I hadn’t left London! And then I saw everyone posing next to the Hogwarts Express and I remembered I was on a soundstage somewhere near Watford Junction, a few miles outside of London.
The sets were also impeccable. There was so much detail put into every scene. I think the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” should be modified to “it takes a village to make a movie.” At least when it comes to a Harry Potter movie. Because this studio tour has shown me that Harry Potter is much bigger than Harry, Ron, and Hermione. There’s hundreds of workers backstage creating props and costumes, designing sets and characters, writing scripts and directing actors. It’s much bigger than a few actors reciting lines in front of a camera.
My least favorite part of the tour was all of the children. Especially the ones trying to touch me and get in my photos (thanks kids). All kidding aside, I am immensely thankful I am neither a child or a teacher.
It’s incredible seeing how massive the Harry Potter franchise has become over the (almost 20!) years. I liked seeing how the movies and books have become such a phenomenon and almost comparable to a culture. There’s a unique language (if you count spells), type of dress (house colors and robes), mannerisms (wand choreography), and more. I would certainly argue that Harry Potter can be considered its own culture, but that may be the Comm major in me.
Thanks for a magical day Josh Berger and Warner Brothers UK!