Sink Your Teeth Into the Vampire Academy

Director Mark Waters takes us behind the scenes in the world he created for the film version of the wildly popular Y.A. series.

Photos courtesy of The Weinstein Company The posh private prep school known as Charter House, southwest of London, had all the neo-Gothic qualities director Mike Waters hoped to find for his Vampire Academy. 

You know an A-List director is going to give an amazing FrontDoor.com interview when he prefaces your one-on-one chat with the revelation that his wife stopped him before he left the house and insisted that he too enter the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway, which he did without hesitation.

Mark Waters, director and executive producer of Vampire Academy, says that he, his two daughters and his wife find themselves drawn to HGTV, indicating that he pays particular attention to his environment, both at home and in his movies.

That’s why the director of Freaky Friday and Mean Girls actually scoured the globe for just the perfect spot to shoot Vampire Academy, a film based on the beloved Y.A. series of the same name by Richelle Mead.

This is no dark, brooding and bloody vampire tale. It’s essentially about a benevolent breed of vampires, the Moroi, who use their powers for good, and only feed on willing volunteers. It’s also about the Dhampirs, half human/half vamp, who guard the Moroi. They are both constantly under threat from the evil, undead vampires called Strigoi. This story follows best friends Lissa, a royal Moroi, and Rose, the beautiful and tough Dhampir who guards her. Between struggling with high school politics and threats from the Strigoi, there is never a dull moment.

Photos courtesy of The Weinstein Company Many interiors were shot in institutions other than Charter House, like this Head Mistress's Office, where Lissa (Lucy Fry), Victor Dashkov (Gabriel Byrne) and Rose (Zoey Deutch) are finding out what's in store for them.

Waters had a very specific idea for the Academy. “We wanted to find something that had a neo-Gothic look, built in the early 1800s, “ he related. “The twist being that it was built in the middle of Montana, and I knew we weren’t going to find that type of location anywhere surrounded by mountains. So I said we needed to increase the special effects budget and add mountains. In all the shots of the school exteriors, the mountains were added later.”

They started their search in New England, and considered Wellesley College, but when that didn’t pan out, they went to Europe, as far as the Czech Republic. And of course they scoured Great Britain, from Edinburgh to Bristol, before finally finding exactly what Waters had in mind at Charter House School, about an hour southwest of London.

Apparently it’s quite the posh private school, and counts among its graduates Peter Gabriel, most of the members of Genesis, plus members of the Royal Family. “It’s really pricy, and the good thing about that is that like most rich private schools, they go on lots of vacations. And because they have all this vacation time, we were able to shoot for a big two-week block where we took over the school,” Waters recalls. “Then when we needed to do reshoots, they’re like ‘Sure – we’re on vacation that week.’”

Charter House was used for the exteriors and only a few of the interiors. Other interiors were shot all over England, even in University College of London. A light, airy, modern art gallery served as the vampire “feeding” clinic, with Gothic windows added in by the effects team later.

And, of course, there were a number of specific set builds, the most elaborate (and Waters' favorite) being the rose window room above the chapel (most Morois are Russian Orthodox, who knew?) where the main characters meet to study, plot, and of course, get a little nookie in – they’re teenagers, after all.

When Waters is not out creating cinematic worlds in far-flung places across the globe, he’s at home in the Newport Beach area with his wife and two daughters, ages 7 and 11. They lived in Hancock Park for many years, but Waters said they grew weary of the burglaries, so they moved to an area where their daughters could ride their bikes around the neighborhood without worry, and attend some of the best public schools in the country.

They still maintain an apartment in Los Angeles, where Waters can spend the night if he has meetings or events. But, “We’re officially Orange County people now, which is frightening," he laughs.

Waters is doubtless hoping that Vampire Academy is just frightening enough to be fun, but not to scare audiences away. There are high hopes that his slick, spirited and wry film will follow in the footsteps of the darker Twilight series, and that there will be plenty of sequels. There are six installments of Vampire Academy, and if the series’ millions of dedicated readers sink their teeth into this first film, Waters could spend the next several years in exotic locations all over the world.

Photos courtesy of The Weinstein Company With British private school Charter House serving as the Vampire Academy, there was no shortage of lovely lawns where Dhampirs like Rose and Dimitri could practice martial arts training, to better protect the good vampires.


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