Curated by the IndieWire Crafts team, Craft Considerations is a platform for filmmakers to talk about recent work we believe is worthy of awards consideration. In partnership with Netflix, for this edition, we look at how the crafts team behind “The Crown” evolved its visual language and storytelling for Season 5.
From the series’ inception, “The Crown” has been structured to evolve as the story of Queen Elizabeth’s reign unfolded. The most notable change, of course, has been the rotating cast, with first Claire Foy, then Olivia Coleman, and finally Imelda Staunton brought in to play the British monarch who stoically bore witness to seven decades of national crises. But the team behind the camera has also kept up with the decades, making adjustments that give Season 5 a weight and poignancy: this is the period where everything’s going wrong with Diana (Elizabeth Debicki), but we know just how much further wrong it will go.
“Seasons 5 and 6 now are a tiny bit more observational,” cinematographer Adriano Goldman told IndieWire. “Because of Diana and the paparazzi around her and also because of the period, I think. It’s a little bit more cutty and a tiny bit more observational in the sense that it feels like, even subconsciously, we stepped back a little bit and lensed up, so we’re a little bit [farther] away from the actors.”
That distance mirrors the growing rifts in the royal family; in the videos below, Goldman, production designer Martin Childs, and the costume and hair design departments led by Amy Roberts and Cate Hall, respectively, discuss how they adapted their techniques in Season 5 to tell a sometimes grander, sometimes weirder, and definitely sadder story.
The Production Design of ‘The Crown’
Production designer Martin Childs has always kept “The Crown” up to the standards of grandeur that the Royal Family takes for granted. But Season 5 gave Childs the opportunity to reflect and refract the environments the Queen lives in through a set of delicious contrasts: the Kensington Palace suites where the ceilings are so low that Diana feels practically like a prisoner, a vision of old King George V (Richard Dillane) and Queen Mary’s (Candida Benson) Buckingham Palace during World War I, and Russia at both the beginning and close of the 20th century. Childs and his team built a number of worlds in Season 5 that make Queen Elizabeth look more vulnerable and put her choices into sharp visual relief.
For the Russian State palace that appears in Episode 6 and serves as an overly lush background to the brittle state of Elizabeth and Philip’s (Jonathan Pryce) marriage, Childs had to first find and then dress a room that would cow the British Queen. “In effect, we had to copy its opulence because [the space] was almost literally a blank canvas,” Childs told IndieWire. “It was the kind of flatage we could never have afforded: the height of the ceiling, the width of the walls, the size of the basic box was enormous, but it was completely bare because it had absolutely no dressing in it. So our dressing then had to come up to the standard of the room itself.”
In the video above, watch how Childs and his team designed each of the worlds through which the royal family moves, both in the show’s present and its distant past.
The Costumes of ‘The Crown’
The one character on “The Crown” who escapes the weight of having to appear timeless and constant is, of course, Princess Diana — especially once she’s freed from the weight of marriage to Charles (Dominic West). But costume designer Amy Roberts had to do much more than copy the famous Revenge Dress for Season 5.
“What’s she gonna wear lurking about and her flat, playing with the kids, eating hamburgers, watching the telly? There’s a whole different Diana this season that is more normalized. She’s still imprisoned in that flat. I love the way that’s written with people [like] Margaret [Lesley Manville] watching her comings and goings behind curtains, and when she does go out, it’s quite cloak and dagger,” Roberts told IndieWire. “It’s kind of baseball caps and sunglasses and puffer jackets, big coats over tracksuits and cowboy boots. It’s more relatable perhaps. But I love the way it’s almost like she’s in disguise when she goes out.”
In the video above, watch how Roberts creates contrasts with the more casual and fashion-current world of Diana and that of the royal family, as well as how she evolved the clothing of businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw) to draw as close to the royals as he wants to be, yet still speak to his irrepressible Egyptian heritage.
The Hair Styles of ‘The Crown’
The hair work on “The Crown” has a somewhat thankless task: Cate Hall needs to get the stylings and wigs for the cast right enough that it suggests our image of the real people but also leaves room for the actor’s interpretation.
Like Roberts, the place where Hall really got to experiment and push the boundaries on “The Crown” was for Diana. “I think Diana was our vehicle for saying this is the ’90s. And particularly in Episode 3, where she has that very iconic Sam McKnight crop, which is not particularly flattering, I would say, for any lady, but it kind of rocked the world,” Hall told IndieWire. “The hair color was evolving into a slightly more glamorous blonde [that] was silkier and shinier and straighter, whereas at the beginning, it’s permed.”
In the video above, watch how Hall and her team subtly traced the passage of time and ’90s trends through the hair choices, with Diana visibly changing styles over the course of Season 5 as she becomes freer to do so.
The Cinematography of ‘The Crown’
Even if the visual language of the series shifts imperceptibly from episode to episode, it does shift. Cinematographer Adriano Goldman has been part of that evolution since the beginning and relishes that audience can really feel the visual changes in Season 5 as pressure is exerted on the royal family. There’s been an evolution of lenses on the series, with the Claire Foy years shot on a much more vintage set that gave a very classical feel, the Olivia Coleman seasons inching towards modernity with more clarity and sharpness, and now Season 5 shot on Cooke S4s that are tuned to capture the anguish on all the royals’ faces.
“We knew that once the period and the cast changes, we [needed to adjust] to keep us on top of things instead of just relaxing and finding your comfort zone,” Goldman said. “Updating the gear was not done just as a kind of conscious artistic choice, but more like, because they [the royal family] were modernized.”
With more distanced and less stately cinematography, Goldman and his fellow Season 5 cinematographers create a world that is less comfortable for the Queen, one in which everyone in her orbit, from Prince Charles (Dominic West) to business mogul and possibly the Royals’ No. 1 fanboy Mohamed Al-Fayed have to fight for their place. In the video above, watch Goldman discuss the changes in equipment and technique that make Season 5 feel more modern and jagged than previous seasons.
READ MORE CRAFT CONSIDERATIONS