Autopsy: The Last Hours of
(CH5 – 7x 60 minute episodes)
- Executive Producer: Michael Kelpie, Ed Taylor
- Series Producer: Kevin Lane
- Series Director: Ros Edwards
- Production company: Potato (ITV Studios)
Drama Recon TV Series
World-renowned forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd re-examines the indisputable medical facts revealed by the autopsies of some of the most famous cases that have suffered this fate, where the facts speak for themselves, cutting through the lies to shed new light on real people who lived extraordinary lives:
Elvis Presley, Karen Carpenter, Robin Williams, Nicole Brown Simpson, Michael Hutchence, Britney Murphy and River Phoenix.
Elvis Presley Trailer
Autopsy: The Last Hours of is a great example of what can be achieved on an extremely minimal budget that still creates authentic on-screen value. This series was a combination of interviews, library footage and pictures mixed with reconstructed drama elements, so research and attention to detail was paramount.
For scripted purposes it was often the case that scenes needed to be cut directly from archived film to a restaged version for the narrative. So when there are limited funds to recreate a period in history or where a variety of key authentic action props are an essential for the story, a resourceful hands on approach is a vital.
Elvis Presley Set Stills
Shot Entirely on Location
Each episode was shot entirely on location and if there were any essential builds they had to be constructed onsite and within an extremely tight shooting schedule. Hunting out the best places, spaces and venues that could be transformed with minimal amount of change was a difficult task, especially when each must slot into a restrictive movement order.
Working together as a team always results in finding a great solution and in the case of Nicole Brown Simpson’s episode for example, the production manager offered up her own garden to reconstruct the murder scene. This turned out to be the perfect background for a partial build of the entrance to the victim’s home and the images below demonstrate that journey.
The art of working on a production like this covering the role of designer, set decorator and often prop maker is to really hone down what is essential to create an authentic look and style that will evoke a period or era. Sometimes it is just a small detail thoughtfully placed that will ground other dressing within a set.
A carefully considered conversation with the director in how they might see each shot set up will help to pre-empt what needs to be dressed and where. However, you must constantly think ahead of the game and have a few tricks up your sleeve since that shot can always change which you need to be prepared for.
Each period recreated involved sourcing the appropriate furniture and set dressing from hire companies, auction houses, trade contacts or direct purchase. Throughout the series many of the action props needed were made or adapted from something that already existed, and most of the graphics were originated. These were predominantly created in house with only some outsourced which helped keep costs down and meant that we could produce any last-minute request if needed.
Several episodes featured medication as the cause of death, so everything had to be thoroughly researched with the appropriate bottle or box sourced or made up, then printed with a label that had the correct name and prescribed information. Placebos were acquired for actors to take in shot that came from a trusted industry supplier and if the fatality was a result of substance abuse, prop drugs such as certified lactose to replicate cocaine for example were used in any action scenes.