Shooting the rebellion: where were scenes shot?

How do you find authentic places to shoot a period drama such as ‘Rebellion’? You need to be creative, keep an eye to detail, and occasionally double up on locations


We knew it was coming, the whole audience was waiting, and it didn’t disappoint. The final scenes in the latest Star Wars movie, starring Skellig Michael, brought a shiver to the spine.

Spotting places you know is one of the joys of watching film and TV made in Ireland, and RTÉ’s big-budget 1916 drama Rebellion is no exception. Is it a challenge to find the right locations in a modern city, and transform them into an evocative backdrop for the Dublin of 100 years ago? What’s involved in setting up a location, and what should you do if you think your home might deserve a starring role in a future drama?

Rebellion’s location manager, Eoin Holohan, and production designer, Derek Wallace, start with the script, breaking it down, scene by scene.

“A drama like Rebellion is dictated by history,” says Wallace, whose production credits include The Tailor of Panama, Charlie and The General. “It’s about a look and feel. Then you go on breaking it down, to time of day, what way the sun is meant to be. My favourite part is the preparation – it’s a wonderful job.”

The whole idea is to provide a sense of a time and a place, rather than geographical accuracy, which Wallace points out really chimes only with local audiences. Thus, the magic behind the production involves locations doubling up, so that the exterior of Elizabeth Butler’s house is on North Great George’s Street, while the interiors were filmed at Cabinteely House. “The challenge there is how to get them through the door,” Wallace notes wryly.

Modern paraphernalia

Another issue, says Holohan, whose CV includes The Clinic, King Arthur and The Lobster, is the paraphernalia of modern life. Filming street scenes, for example, means finding ways to exclude modern signage, cars, and other street furniture. Some things can be done with a tight camera angle, and important exteriors such as Dublin Castle and the GPO were made to work. Meanwhile, the crew built a key street on site at Collins Barracks. Here you can see looting, shootouts and assignations, and the feel is richly Dublin and richly of the period.

Both Wallace and Holohan have nothing but praise for the OPW, the Garda, Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, as well as the staff at the National Museum Collins Barracks, the GPO, City Hall and Dublin Castle for going out of their way to enable film-making. Meanwhile, although RTÉ has its own large props department, a network of hire companies and salvage yards provided the extras to put everything together.

Wallace’s favourite was Auntie Nellie’s house, where Frances and May share lodgings. To make the former Garda house on Harcourt Terrace look right, the whole place was done over.

Team effort

Wallpaper was brought in from the UK, though where possible the team like to work with Irish companies, frequently getting paper handmade by David Skinner ( for specific jobs. An upstairs bedroom in Auntie Nellie’s also served as a hotel room for one of Charles and May’s assignations.

“You get to know the script inside out,” says Holohan. “So you walk into a building like Glenmaroon House, and you think, yes, that can work for Dublin Castle, but what else can I do here?”

A production such as Rebellion is a total team effort, locations double and treble up, and, as Holohan says, “it was challenging, really hard work, but probably the most rewarding job I’ve worked on – the amount of goodwill was extraordinary.”

“We put in crazy requests,” agrees Wallace, “such as running around shooting all day at Dublin Castle, but with this it was easier because of the subject matter.”

So how does he feel when all his hard work gets taken out again at the end of the shoot? “It’s such a transient industry,” he says – although the results remain, up there on screen.

The final episode of Rebellion airs on Sunday on RTÉ One You can catch up with the drama on

Televising the rebellion: where were scenes shot?

While many of the scenes of the Rising were filmed at the actual sites – City Hall, Dublin Castle, Trinity College and St Enda’s (now the Pearse Museum, in Rathfarnham) – the team found some intriguing solutions to period problems.

Interior scenes at the GPO were filmed at Collins Barracks, and at the former John Player building on South Circular Road.

Amiens Street Station (now Connolly) is actually Smithfield Fruit Market.

Vanessa and Charles Hammond’s house in Dalkey is Marlay Park House.

Frances O’Flaherty and May Lacey board at Auntie Nellie’s house, supposedly in Glasnevin. It’s a former Garda superintendent’s house on Harcourt Terrace.

The Mahon family’s tenement house is Coláiste Mhuire on Parnell Square, though some of the exteriors are at Rialto Court.

The exterior of the house Elizabeth Butler shares with her parents, Edward and Dolly, is on North Great George’s Street, while the interiors were filmed in Cabinteely House.

Glenmaroon House, just off the Phoenix Park, is the backdrop for the opening scenes on the theatre stairwell, a chase sequence at Northumberland Road, and the interior scenes at Dublin Castle.

Glenmaroon, formerly a Guinness house, is currently for sale through REA Coonan in one, two or three lots. It’s priced at €2.25 million for the house plus three acres, and €3.85 million for the entire estate including lodges and stables.

Location scout: Is your home a star in the making?

Location scouts and managers have their own little black books of properties, and while the Irish Film Board database of locations is currently not accepting any more new entries, the Irish Film and Television Network has an online form to register your details for its Locations Ireland database.

They’ll contact you to see if your pad is suitable. Rates of pay depend entirely on the scale of production, and of disruption.

Expect to hand over your house completely on the specified dates, and don’t be surprised to see rooms suddenly painted different colours. A “put back” clause ensures everything gets set to rights again when the crew leave.

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