Faking It: How Outlander Got That Battle Scene To Look So Real

Photo: Courtesy of Starz.
Welcome to Faking It, our monthly guide to the magic of filmmaking. What exactly are two actors doing when they're "having sex" on camera? How do they "do drugs"? What are those phony cigarettes really made of? Join us as we explore the not-so-glamorous underground of faking sex, drugs,violence, and more.
Muskets are really freakin' heavy. That's the first thing you should know about filming an 18th century battle, and having held one on a visit to the Outlander set, I can confirm that they easily make a grown woman topple over.
Because it takes place in two different centuries, both requiring specific period details, Outlander has a huge arsenal of props at its disposal. There is literally a warehouse full of them at Cumbernauld Studios, the show's production headquarters roughly an hour outside Edinburgh.
Inside the converted factory lie huge closets full of stored corsets, stockings, coats, linen shirts, and every kind of underskirt imaginable. There are spaces for sewing, mending, stitching, and even aging costumes. Others serve as makeshift jewelry workshops. Shelves are stacked high with more carpets and chandeliers than Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast combined. There are wagons, and carts, and carriages parked next to antique cars. And one room, actually called the armory, is devoted solely to weapons.
The show's season 3 premiere, "The Battle Joined," was heavily focused around the historic battle of Culloden, the 1746 battle pitting Scottish supporters of Charles Stuart against the British forces of King George II. Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) faced off against his nemesis, British officer Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), and hundreds of extras gathered on a field near the village of Greengairs, Scotland, dressed up as Jacobites (supporters of the Stuarts, the descendants of King James II) and British redcoats to recreate the bloody conflict. (Fun fact: it was the last battle fought on British soil, and it lasted less than an hour.) Fake blood and stunt choreography aside (both of which we've covered in previous Faking It installments here, and here), that means swords. And guns. Lots of them.
Jim Elliot, props master and resident arms expert, is charged with maintaining and training actors in the use of old-timey weapons. During the set visit to Cumbernauld, he spoke about the challenges of recreating a historical battle, and what goes into making it look as real as possible.
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