Hogwarts is my home.

By Camille Douglas

June 10, 2016

We spend our life telling stories, each of us with thousands of our own. Whether fact or fictional, many of our best stories hold rich characters, deep meanings and convey significant lessons. But there are some stories that are so good, that we will go without sleep just to hear a little more. They are so captivating that we wish they would never end. Some stories cause us to laugh while others make us cry. For me, that is what makes a great story; they make us feel things. They allow us to open our minds and let our imaginations run wild. We are able transform ourselves, others and things into anything we want. The stories that are enchanting, compelling and powerful stay with us forever. The Harry Potter series is a set of stories that will forever hold a special place in my heart.  Author J.K. Rowling brilliantly crafted a story of a young wizard who is trying to make sense of the new, magical world around. She filled the books with daring wizarding duels, spellbinding adventures, detailed magical places and created a mix of enchanting characters. It’s a story that conveys the importance of friendship, details the challenges of self-discovery, stresses the significance of strength and courage, and the importance of facing fears and enemies. It is a tale that I will never get tired of hearing or watching the film adaptations.

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The Hogwarts Express.

Like millions around the world, the Harry Potter series have impacted my life in a such an enormous way. So when the time came to tour the set of Warner Brothers, where the pages of the Harry Potter books were brought to life, and to meet with the man who had been there since the very beginning back in 1996, I couldn’t help but be a little more than ecstatic.

Josh Berger, president of Warner Brothers U.K., in my impression of him during our hour-long meeting, was was very opened, personable, humble, yet confident as he told us his story. His impressive resume extends from him having a degree from Harvard University, and holding the titles of being the president or Warner Brothers U.K., Spain, and Ireland.

Josh’s love for working in the entertainment industry started out at a very young age as he grew up California and was surrounded by family members that were a part of the industry.

It was during his speech about his year-long journey in Italy, taking a break from Harvard, did I notice that Josh’s career story wasn’t like a poor-to-wealth kind of thing. In Italy, he landed an internship at a TV station from the help of a family friend. Upon fellow research, my colleagues and I discovered that Josh’s family friend, who he mentioned several times and credited with helping him throughout his career, was none other than former Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi. It’s no question that Josh was very fortunate to have connections like Berlusconi and other successful individuals that guided him throughout his career.

Although some may think that Josh may have been handed his career, I think the opposite. His connections were just one part of him formulating his career, as it is with everyone’s. I think Dumbledore said it best, “It is our choices that show who we really are, far more than our abilities.” Josh chose to utilize the resources he had established while also working very hard to advance himself in the industry and land the job as the president of Warner Brothers U.K. Josh’s story exemplified that establishing and maintaining relationships with mentors, teachers, colleagues and bosses can possibly open countless of future opportunities.

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Headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s costume in the Great Hall.

One can say that it was the connections and the collaborations between the production teams that led to the success of the eight Harry Potter movies. From the screenwriters, the casting crew and the directors to the people in wardrobe, set design and the art department, all had to be capable of working well together in order to create eight blockbusting films.  It’s a team effort, even the runners were a vital part to the production movement. Without the communication between the departments and heads of the production, the eight movies most likely would not have been so successful as they turned out to be. Even J.K. Rowling worked closely with the four appointed directors over the span of the movies as she wanted to make sure her books were being told as true to her writing. Furthermore, the books served also a vital part for each department to reference as the film was being created. In the studios, printed on displays that explained each prop or artifact showcased, there was a quote from the books. This quote detailed to the viewers what exactly J.K. Rowling wrote to describe the prop, character or room. By taking exact descriptions of each prop, room or character from the books, fans touring the faculty can connect and understand the logic behind the choices the production crew made when constructing art direction for the movie.

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The Triwizard Cup and the Golden Egg. Onlookers can see the details on what these props actually look like up close.

Touring the studio, it occurred to me that there were many details that I overlooked while watching the films.  As an audience member of any film, its your job to just relax and take in the film for what the story is. In a way, you are escaping reality, and most of the times, analyzing just how special effects or a character’s outfit came together is lost and overlooked. Here in the studio, the secrets of all the behind-the-scenes productions were revealed.

For example, Harry’s Advanced Potion Making textbook that appeared in the sixth book and movie, was full of markings and notes made by the mysterious “The Half-Blood Prince.” For the making of that particular prop, each page had to be delicately inscribed with handwritten notes as one could not have predicted at that time what pages Daniel Radcliffe would be turning while the camera focused on him. The worker there who showed me this said it took a team weeks to complete. Even the wands of each character were carefully handcrafted, the designs doing the best to reflect each individual. Though the wands may appear to look as if everyone is holding the same wooden stick on screen, there was a lot of vision and imagination that went into the process of creating these props.

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Each major character’s wand displayed for viewer’s to look closely at the designs.

Together, whether it is a prop or the way the lights were dimmed, the costume of a character or the special effects of an action scene, each aspect of production ultimately helped advance the story for the viewer.

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The large clock that hung in one of the towers in Hogwarts.

There is definitely a lot of work and thought that goes into the making of a film. It’s the crew’s job to all collectively work together to make it possible that audiences feel transported to a whole new world and story. The Harry Potter films do just that and it wouldn’t have been possible without all of the behind-the-scenes components being the foundation for the success. Similar to way broadcast media works, I believe that those who work behind the camera are the true leaders of the production and success of the outlet. Though their roles tend to be forgotten, they are the heart of the network. Without all of the behind-the-scenes work that created the Harry Potter franchise, I don’t think that the movies would have been as successful and impactful as they are.

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No truer words from J.K. Rowling.

 

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