Almost the entirety of Sharp Objects takes place in Wind Gap, Missouri, aside from a few detours to Camille Preaker's relocated life in St. Louis. Camille grew up in Wind Gap and got away as soon as she could, though work makes her return to the place that molded her formative years. But is Wind Gap from Sharp Objects a real town? Did this fictional story spring from a very real place?
The answer is, quite simply, no. Though Wind Gap is evoked very effectively in the Gillian Flynn novel upon which the HBO series is based, it's a location the author came up with all on her own. She hails from Missouri herself, but it doesn't seem like she was trying to infuse her Kansas City hometown into Camille's. Instead, Flynn was looking to create a place that reflected what was going on in the story she wanted to tell.
"It was largely imaginary," Flynn told HBO. "It's not based on any particular town. But I knew I wanted [Wind Gap] to be a town of violence that Camille grew up in." That violence followed Camille at home and at school, and it's something she must confront when she returns to the town as an adult.
In the novel, Wind Gap does feel like a real place. It has a defined, grounded history as a pre-Civil War port city that turned into a hub of hog butchering. There is the wealthier side of town where the old money families live in houses they've had for generations; classism is rampant among the residents. The town is also protective of its own and suspicious of outsiders, which further complicates the murders that drive the action.
There are many aspects of Wind Gap that might feel familiar, despite the fact that it's not somewhere you can find on a map. It resonates because a lot of the issues in the town are issues in a lot of towns: there's prejudice left unaddressed and dangerous situations that get routinely swept under the rug. Wind Gap might not be real, but it's not unrealistic.
When the novel was adapted to a live action series, however, a concrete location became much more necessary. The cast and crew couldn't pack up and head to Wind Gap to film because such a thing was impossible, so instead other places had to stand in for Sharp Object's setting. According to Atlas of Wonders, the HBO show filmed on location in Georgia and in studios in Los Angeles and Northern California.
The site even tracked down some specific spots that can be seen in the trailer, like Camille's mother's creepy Victorian house (which is much less creepy in real life). Barnesville, Georgia provided many of the exteriors, from the Wind Gap police station to the storefronts Camille passes while she's looking for leads. Apparently it was very convincingly made over into Missouri, because the Kansas City Film Office reported:
It was an immersive transformation from banners to store signage, murals to historic land markers and even fliers on bulletin boards. Anyone who will see this on HBO in 2018 will wonder where in Missouri Wind Gap is — they'll have no idea it’s Barnesville, Georgia.
Senator Denny Hoskins' Chief of Staff Rachel Bauer told KC Film that she felt many of the people involved in Sharp Objects would have liked to have filmed in Missouri to appropriately reflect the book's setting, but "the incentives in place in Georgia were too good to pass up." According to The Ringer, Georgia often offers the best tax incentives for movies and shows.
It seems Barnesville has embraced the connection to Sharp Objects and covered the town's transformation for their Herald-Gazette. The publication also reported that many viewing parties were planned for the show's July 8 premiere, so presumably the locals are excited to see their town onscreen, even though Wind Gap isn't a very nice place to live in. At least it's one that's nice to look at, on the surface.