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The cars of Homeland, and why you need a picture car consultant

Claire Danes plays bipolar CIA operator Carrie Mathison in Homeland.

Exactly a year ago we published an article praising the car choices made when creating the dystopian world of TV Series The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as the recreation of of 1969 Los Angeles in the latest Quentin Tarantino flick Once upon a time in Hollywood. This time we will focus on the surprising mistakes made by the critically acclaimed TV Series Homeland. Creating a fictional car universe or recreating past or current car landscapes consistent with reality is the job of a picture car consultant. A picture car consultant helps you select the appropriate and relevant cars depending on the era(s) and location(s) your TV show or movie is set in. BSCB offers picture car consultancy services, building on the depth of global historical sales information we have at our disposal. We will give you a landscape of what the most popular cars in the country are or were at the time, as well as the licence plate number series that should be used to fit most closely to reality. Then it’s the job of a picture car coordinator to actually source these cars. Please contact us here for an introduction if you are interested in this service.

A scene in Season 8 of Homeland.

In Homeland, Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a bipolar CIA operative thwarting terrorist attacks both overseas and in the US. The show, spanning across 8 Seasons and a total of 96 Episodes, has (deservedly in my opinion) gathered no less that 60 Awards including two Golden Globes for Best TV Drama Series (2012, 2013) and one for Best Actress (Claire Danes, 2012), as well as a total of 8 Emmy Awards out of 40 nominations spanning the entire duration of the Series. Yet even when creating a show of such quality, it would appear no picture car consultant was used. Because filming couldn’t be done in some of the countries where the action is set and the car landscape wasn’t adjusted accordingly, on multiple occasions some cars appear in the streets whereas they shouldn’t. We study 4 specific situations below.

Morocco standing in for Iran

A section of Season 3 is set in the capital of Iran, Tehran. Because no commercial venture is authorised between the US and Iran, filming obviously couldn’t be done in Tehran or anywhere in Iran for that matter, and Morocco was chosen instead. As you would know if you followed my 2018 exploration of Iran in a Peugeot Pars, the Iranian car landscape would actually be relatively easy to recreate as there are only a handful of new locally-made vehicles available, each with tremendous success: the 1986 Kia Pride, 1987 Peugeot 405, 1998 Peugeot 206 and Iran Khodro Samand.

All these vehicles are available in Morocco and could have been sourced there, then painted in the correct yellow and green taxi colours for example. Although some prominently featured vehicles have a correct Iranian licence plate (see Toyota Prado above), the streets haven’t been “cleaned” to only let appear vehicles sold in Iran. Notably, there are a couple of scenes featuring a second generation Dacia Logan (one of the best-selling vehicles in Morocco – see above), a vehicle that has never made it to Iran, with the first generation Logan still sold there as a Renault. In the gruelling Season 3 Finale, a Peugeot 309 police car occupies the whole screen, but although it is correctly equipped with Iranian licence plates, this particular Peugeot was never sold in Iran.

South African standing in for Pakistan

The start of Season 4 takes place in Pakistan but was shot in South Africa. The main vehicle featured in the first episode and the stage of a critical event that reverberates through the entire Season 4 is a first generation Ford Territory (pictured above). The Territory I was manufactured in Australia and exported to South Africa but was made never available in Pakistan. Again the Pakistani car landscape is pretty straight-forward, with Suzuki and Toyota over-dominant in the sales charts, thanks to only a handful of nameplates. Arguably harder to recreate than say Iran, it would still be possible to source adequate vehicles to mimic realistic Pakistani streets, or at least for the critical vehicle, choose one that was actually available in Pakistan at the time. Another easy way out would have been to choose a US vehicle as it belongs to the Pakistani CIA bureau in the story.

Budapest standing in for Moscow

The end of Season 7 is set in Moscow but was shot in Budapest, Hungary. Although some vehicles do have appropriate Russian licence plates, a car chase features numerous close-ups of vehicles with Hungarian licence plates, such as the Opel Vivaro pictured above and a series of Mercedes vans alongside a Toyota C-HR (also above). All these vehicles were available in Russia at some point so this time it’s not so much a vehicle inconsistency issue but a lasting exposure of the wrong licence plates which could have been fixed easily.

Morocco standing in for Afghanistan

Season 8, the final season of Homeland which aired in early 2020, is set in Afghanistan. Morocco again was chosen as a stand in, providing basis for a credible Middle-eastern environment. Note the southwestern Chinese town of Kashgar (which we visited in 2014) has frequently been used as a stand-in for the Afghan capital Kabul, but this region has since also become problematic, and in any case the car landscape is uniquely Chinese there and therefore a lot more difficult to “credibilise” as Morocco. So Morocco makes sense, and this time Homeland managed to brilliantly portray the Afghan countryside throughout Season 8 in a clear improvement of car landscape realism, notably with a few older generations Toyota Hilux around (above).

But once in the city, the car landscape doesn’t match with that of Kabul which is where the action is set. The Kabul car landscape is pretty straight-forward: Toyota Corollas everywhere, and these vehicles could have been sourced locally or in Europe where some generations of the Corolla similar to the ones most frequently seen in Kabul were sold. However the Moroccan filming location is unfortunately clearly apparent with a couple of sightings of the second generation Dacia Duster (above) and Logan (below), two vehicles that have yet to be made available in Afghanistan.

Granted, bar a few exceptions, the various storylines related in the 96 Episodes of the Homeland TV Series have little connection with the cars present in the streets, which may be the reason why little focus or budget has been directed towards it. But ensuring each car landscape is realistic and consistent with its supposed location plays a large part in firmly anchoring any feature film or TV Series into a credible reality. A small amount of attention to detail paid to this during production can make a big difference on screen. Make sure your next feature film TV Series achieves the most realistic car landscape possible and contact us here so we can help you. I look forward to speaking with you.

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