Director Alexander Payne’s latest comedy-drama “The Holdovers” envelops viewers in New England holiday nostalgia circa 1970 with stellar art direction transporting us into a quaint Massachusetts boarding school standstill over Christmas break. But what actual locations facilitated the movie’s palpable period feel and charming personality? This deep dive explores various pivotal Massachusetts shoot sites utilized across schoolrooms, skating rinks, restaurants and more that suspended practical reality bending it back five decades.
Deerfield Academy – The Fictional Barton Academy Foundation
While a boarding school named Barton Academy genuinely exists in Alabama, production designer Ethan Tobman (#Stranger Things) opted to foreground the illustrious Massachusetts institution Deerfield Academy as a foundational shoot location, establishing the movie’s primary academic setting and architecture.
Founded in 1797, Deerfield Academy’s gorgeous New England brick buildings exude Ivy League reality, fitting the elite boarding school motif. Numerous pivotal scenes relied on Deerfield’s external buildings and pastoral landscapes, conveying credible scope.
“Deerfield epitomized old-world educational refinement with stately architecture interwoven into natural splendor that transported you emotionally into this prestigious prep school bubble,” explains Tobman. “It laid intricate period groundwork.”
Blending Practical School Sites for Authenticity
Beyond Deerfield Academy, the filming location scouting also covered other impressive Massachusetts campuses, lending additional wings to the fictional Barton Academy’s scope:
➕ Northfield Mount Hermon – Chapel, Christmas tree shoot
➕ St. Mark’s School – Sprawling dining hall
This interplay between Deerfield’s central buildings, supplemented by supporting schools, enabled greater scale convincingly spanning disparate activity areas. The variety adds organic authenticity.
Table: Shooting Sites for Barton Academy Complex
|Main Academic Buildings
|Northfield Mount Hermon
|St. Mark’s School
|Fairhaven High School
Fairhaven High School – Elegant Period Classroom
One standout shooting highlight was utilizing Fairhaven High School’s corridors and classrooms, which production designer Tobman calls the location discovery “gem”.
Its ornately carved interior architecture still intact from over a century ago lended palpable early 20th century sophistication with sunlight streaming through expansive arched windows in ways difficult replicating on-set shooting in sound stages.
“It allowed transporting cast and crew directly back through time experiencing that pre-war grandeur academia ambience dominating Barton Academy’s defining pedigree,” elaborates Tobman.
This location exemplifies the vital atmosphere enhancements using well-preserved sites provided over manufactured set replicas.
Shelburne Falls Village Landscapes
While the boarding school constituted the film’s primary backdrop, establishing wide shots conveying surrounding fictional small town “Barton, MA” relied on evocative landscapes in Shelburne Falls, MA nestled in the Pioneer Valley.
Tobman confirms the area delivered quintessential New England countryside essence on celluloid, transporting audiences quickly into 1970s regional nostalgia through its unspoiled village architecture. Even prior TV productions like Showtime’s Dexter utilized the same locale.
Through extensively canvassing Boston’s wealth of heritage locations, “The Holdovers” successfully channels cozy yesteryear winter atmosphere allowing performances and the narrative room to shine. Audiences experience this quaint snow-covered recollection thanks to the production design team evocatively resurrecting charming boarding school microcosms leveraging Massachusetts’s historic educational infrastructure still graciously preserved across venerable campuses nearby. Scouted filming sites created conduits backwards through time.