Why was Servant filmed in a single location?
Over three seasons, the show Servant takes place almost entirely in a rather large Philadelphia townhome, very rarely venturing outside (and then almost always to the street immediately outside the house). This gives it the feel of a situation comedy, without the comedic aspects.
More than that, it seems that the directors very intentionally pass over opportunities to set scenes outside the house. For instance, when Julian and Roscoe are investigating Leanne's former house in the first season, the scene is filtered mostly or entirely through a video call with Dorothy and Sean in the townhome, as opposed to filming the scene directly or from the perspective of the first two. This pattern continues throughout the series, and reaches extremes in parts of the third season, where, for instance, four of the main characters go off to the beach, where one suffers a plot-significant bird attack—filtered entirely through a 6-inch phone screen while they call the one character who is still in the house.
Has anyone associated with the show commented on what motivated this choice of filming strategy? It certainly is not something typical of Apple TV+ or M. Night Shyamalan, both of which have many works set in a more traditionally diverse set of locations.
According to Shyamalan, in order to have greater creative control over the series and how the story proceeds, he decided to finance the show through his own company, Blinding Edge Pictures. And that is the reason he decided to shift the filming location to Philly in the first place.
Regarding his decision, Shyamalan says, “I’m the studio on it, and we’re doing it at a very modest budget. And the reason I say that is it allows us in our own heads to take risks, tonal risks. It’s a values system that isn’t about solving [problems] with money but coming up with the beauty of things like performance and lighting, and texture of clothing and all the things we have access to that doesn’t necessarily mean you spend a ton of money.”