'Sharp Objects' Film Location: How Wind Gap Is Different in “Vanish”

"Vanish" gives us a closer look at the small town of Wind Gap.

by Catie Keck

If there’s anything to know about Wind Gap, it’s that secrets don’t stay that way for long. It’s one of the most prominent themes of the novel turned limited series.

The fictional Missouri small town at the center of HBO’s new murder mystery Sharp Objects gets a bit of a revamp in “Vanish,” the show’s premiere episode. The town — which recently experienced the second murder of one of its young girls — is depicted in a similarly eerie, insular setting as the one imagined by Gillian Flynn for her 2006 novel by the show’s same name.

Spoilers for Episode 1 of Sharp Objects follow below.

Sharp Objects followers Chicago-based writer Camille Preaker, a reporter for the fictional St. Louis Chronicle who must return to her hometown to cover the mysterious murders of two young girls. Preaker (Amy Adams), who viewers are led to believe has suffered a traumatic event sometime in the recent past, describes the town with the same apathy as the book’s protagonist.

Wind Gap Is Similar in the Book — But Not the Same

This is particularly true of an early exchange about Wind Gap between Preaker and Frank Curry (Miguel Sandoval) in the series premiere that was adopted from the first few pages of Flynn’s novel.

It’s been around since before the Civil War. […] It’s near the Mississippi, so it was a port city at one point. Now its biggest business is hog butchering. About two thousand people live there. Old money and trash.

Responding to Curry’s question about which group she belongs to, Preaker responds: “I’m trash. From old money.”

The biggest difference between the way Wind Gap is portrayed in the book versus how it appears in the series’ premiere is largely a matter of scale. In a narration by Preaker in the book, she describes it as follows:

On Main Street you will find a beauty parlor and a hardware store, a five-and-dime called Five-and-Dime, and a library twelve shelves deep. You’ll find a clothing store called Candy’s Casuals, in which you may buy jumpers, turtlenecks, and sweaters that have ducks and schoolhouses on them. Most nice women in Wind Gap are teachers or mothers or works at places like Candy’s Casuals. In a few years you may find a Starbucks, which will bring the town what it yearns for: prepackaged, preapproved mainstream hipness. For now, though, there’s just a greasy spoon, which is run by a family whose name I can’t remember.

“Vanish” widens the lens on the town in a way that the book does not for several chapters, painting a more colorful portrait for viewers of the town, its scale, and its inhabitants. In some of the first moments of the show’s premiere, Sharp Objects offers several panning shots downtown that include a modest strip of small, independently owned shops, Bush-era propaganda still littering the town’s brick walls, and long-faded murals advertising services the town likely no longer offers.

Is Wind Gap Based on a Real Place?

While Flynn has described the town as “largely imaginary” and “not based on any particular town,” she told The Southeast Missourian in 2013 that her memory of the geography of the Missouri Bootheel helped informed the novel’s setting.

I know Missouri pretty well. My parents were big into antiques and flea markets, so during the summer they would load me into the car and drive me around Missouri to different flea market and antique events. But I don’t remember specific places in the Bootheel; I just remember the geography and the feel I had for it.

The series’ real life filming location is listed on IMDB as Barnesville, Georgia. So while Wind Gap may indeed be a fictional place, the series itself was filmed not far from its imagined home at the bottom of Missouri.

Sharp Objects airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.