Hotel Portofino
Eagle Eye Drama

Last year I was invited to take a trip to the Hotel Portofino, the fictional setting of the television drama by the same name. I had been asked to shoot the international key art for season two of this glamorous series, which follows the stories of a British family running a grand hotel in 1920s Italy. Hotel Portofino is being released worldwide, so it’s really exciting that the poster will be popping up in Italy, Australia, and beyond.

Full of characters, costumes, and covert love triangles, the production company Eagle Eye asked me to come up with a way of showcasing the character dynamics for their key art. I soon discovered that a scene in Season 2 takes place in a casino, and instantly my visual mind got excited – could we get all the key characters around a poker table, plotting, scheming and cheating? That would make an awesome poster wouldn’t it? Thankfully the production team agreed, and the planning started.

Planning a shot like this is complicated, especially when the first time you’ll visit the set is on the morning of the actual photography… The location we chose was in Croatia, inside a stunningly ornate hall dripping with gold and artwork which I recced remotely, scouring pictures from our scout. I decided it would be best to place our poker table and cast against  a green curtain to frame the leading actress, the gold and red walls beyond fading off into darkness.

I was inspired by tableaus in classical painting and brilliant TV and film visuals – Da Vinci’s Last Supper was an obviously strong reference, but so too was imagery from Casino Royal and The Sopranos. One of the biggest challenges was logistics – we weren’t sure if the whole cast would be present at the same time, so I had to plan ways of getting lots of interaction between the characters whilst capturing them separately in small groups. The best way to work anything out is to test, so I mocked up the scene in my studio here in London (see below) – a green colorama taking the place of the ornate curtain, and a tired old table the poker table. I asked my studio mates, assistants and others (me) to sit in for the cast – this not only allowed us to test the lighting approach, but also to play with the interactions between the cast and to find the best composition. It split easily into three groups incase we couldn’t get everyone together (but fortunately, we were lucky on the day).

To make the most of all the wonderful characters in the series we were eager to also capture individual and smaller group portraits, simpler pictures that would still reference the feeling of the series. We designed and built a beautiful deep blue art deco wall, against which to show off the amazing costumes. Working closely with each actor, we took key moments from the script and recreated the emotions and dynamics of those scenes. From shock, to mischief, to complex love triangles, we had great fun capturing the many layers of Season 2.

Massive thanks to Eagle Eye for asking me to create this artwork, it was so much fun working with you all.

Hotel Portofino - Eagle Eye Drama — Charlie Clift
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