The Credits http://www.thecredits.org Celebrating Film and Television's Creative Community Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:38:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Marveling at New Art, Photos, Videos for Avengers: Age of Ultron http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/marveling-at-new-art-photos-videos-for-avengers-age-of-ultron-excitement/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/marveling-at-new-art-photos-videos-for-avengers-age-of-ultron-excitement/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:30:26 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12697 There’s a moment in Birdman where Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is throwing a bunch of actor’s names at his producer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) as possible replacements for one of his injured co-stars. Woody Harrelson, Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Renner (whose name he can’t ... Read More

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There’s a moment in Birdman where Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is throwing a bunch of actor’s names at his producer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) as possible replacements for one of his injured co-stars. Woody Harrelson, Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Renner (whose name he can’t remember) are all no good because they’re busy with their own billion-dollar franchises (The Hunger Games, X-Men and Avengers for the uninitiated). The actor they do get is theater legend Mike Shiner, played by Ed Norton, a former Hulk. When Shiner joins the production, he immediately hits on Thomson’s daughter Sam, played by Emma Watson, recent co-star in The Amazing Spider-Man! And of course Keaton himself was Batman.

You get the joke and you get my point. This is most assuredly the era of the cinematic superhero, and if there were a single figure of total power in this realm, it would probably have to be Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. Feige sounded something like Ultron himself when he announced the company’s “Phase 3″ plan to essentially take over the world. Or, as they’d have it, further populate the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” which like our own seems to be expanding exponentially.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is up first, coming out this May, and in the past few days Marvel has dropped new clips, art and images to whet their legions of fans’ appetites.

Following Ultron comes Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, which will then be followed by nine more films in the Marvel universe, taking us through 2019. These include the next Captain America, Thor, Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy installments, along with films featuring the Black Panther, the franchise’s first African-American lead, to be played by the incandescent Chadwick Boseman. You’ll also have Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange (to be played by Benedict Cumberbatch), and the Inhumans.

And this is just Marvel’s lineup. Warner Bros. has a slate of DC Comics movies they’re rolling out, beginning with Zack Synder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 and carrying until the Green Lantern bows in 2020. Three characters from Synder’s first Dawn of Justice film, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) are getting their own films.

So here’s a look at some of what you super-heads (trying to coin this term here, folks) can look forward to with the next Avengers films, as it seems like the cinematic world is pretty much yours.

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff), Director Joss Whedon, and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) on set.

Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron..Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff), Director Joss Whedon, and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) on set. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson)

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and James "Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle). Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios

Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen

Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

Concept art. Courtesy Marvel/Walt Disney Studios.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Middleburg Film Festival to Honor Two Below-the-Line Giants http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-middleburg-film-festival-to-honor-two-below-the-line-giants/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-middleburg-film-festival-to-honor-two-below-the-line-giants/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:30:52 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12684 The Middleburg Film Festival, at just two years old, offers a strong program of films and an appreciation for the many talented craftsmen and women who make them. This year, the festival is honoring two below-the-line filmmakers, our raison d’être, who are ... Read More

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The Middleburg Film Festival, at just two years old, offers a strong program of films and an appreciation for the many talented craftsmen and women who make them. This year, the festival is honoring two below-the-line filmmakers, our raison d’être, who are both giants in their field. The Credits is heading down to Virginia today to get in on the action.

The honorees are costume designer Colleen Atwood and composer Marco Beltrami. The Distinguished Costume Designer Award will be presented to Atwood on Friday night with a retrospective of her most memorable costumes, followed by a masquerade ball in her honor. Beltrami will receive the Distinguished Film Composer Award on Saturday, and the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra will perform world premieres of concert suites from his scores, including The Giver, The Horseman and World War Z.  As a Halloween treat, Beltrami’s score for Scream will also be performed.

Both Atwood and Beltrami have done singular, fascinating work. Atwood is, simply put, a legend. She’s won three Oscars, and she’s never gone more than four years in a row without being nominated, starting with her work on Little Women in 1994 and most recently for the costumes in Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012. Atwood’s work has run an incredible gamut of styles, eras and genres. She’s been one of Tim Burton’s longtime collaborators, beginning with the sensational costumes she created for Edward Scissorhands, then Ed Wood, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Sweeny Todd, Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows. She’s done sci-fi (impeccably, one might add) with Gattaca, Western with Wyatt Earp, thriller in The Silence of the Lambs and her glorious, Oscar-winning period work in Memoirs of a Geisha, to name just a few of her films.

Beltrami is no less prolific or inventive. Just look at this past year for proof; he composed scores for the breathtaking Snowpiercer, the adaptation of the YA sci-fi novel The Giver, the gritty crime neo-noir The Drop and the international spy thriller The November ManBeltrami’s known for approaching film music in a way that subverts genre expectations, like his humanistic, searching scores for science fiction (evidenced in both Snowpiercer and The Giver) and horror films (Scream, Carrie). He came at the western 3:10 to Yuma with relentless rhythms and thundering percussion mixed in with lonely, sparse sounds that added an extra layer of tension to a very underrated, thrilling film.

The festival begins today, carrying on through Sunday. It opens tonight with Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of the hit musical The Last Five Years, starring Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air) and Jeremy Jordan (NBC’s Smash). Highlights include a conversation with LaGravanese, a panel discussion with The Imitation Game‘s director Morten Tyldum, screenwriter Graham Moore, actor Allen Leech and General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA.

With more than 30 films screening over four days, The Credits is excited to be a part of Middleburg’s second year. We’ll be conducting interviews, seeing some films, and, should time permit, enjoying a few glasses of wine, one of the festival’s signature means of relaxation.

Featured image: L-r: Colleen Atwood, courtesy Universal, and Marco Beltrami, photo by Dawn Jones. 

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After 20-Years, We Need Lloyd and Harry More Than Ever http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/after-20-years-we-need-lloyd-and-harry-more-than-ever/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/after-20-years-we-need-lloyd-and-harry-more-than-ever/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:30:03 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12667 A recent college grad who has written for The Credits before was born in 1991, making her three years old when Dumb and Dumber was released. When asked if she’d ever seen it, she said, “Duh. I have four older ... Read More

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A recent college grad who has written for The Credits before was born in 1991, making her three years old when Dumb and Dumber was released. When asked if she’d ever seen it, she said, “Duh. I have four older brothers.”

Yet to an editor of a certain age, it seems almost inconceivable that Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber is twenty years old, and that now there’s a sequel. It took a while to realize that perhaps now is the perfect time. Bear in mind that when the idiots Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) were last seen, we were a country obsessed with Tonya Harding and OJ Simpson, and for those of us who were “surfing” the web, we were using Netscape Navigator.

1994 was a really bizarre, awful, intermittently inspiring year. On the plus side, it was the year that saw the IRA declare a cease-fire in Northern Ireland and Nelson Mandela become president of South Africa after winning the first interracial national election. On the negative side, it was…bleak, and this isn’t really the venue for a discussion of Rwanda or the Serbs attacking Sarajevo. Yet what we can say is that with the release of Dumb and Dumber To coming in two weeks, we’re a country that could use some profound silliness. Things at the tail end of 2014 aren’t so rosy, either.

What we can say about 1994 is that, from an entertainment standpoint, it was really Jim Carrey’s year. In this one year Carrey starred in three huge comedy blockbusters; Ace Ventura: Pet Detective came out in February (spoiler alert: Finkle is Einhorn), The Mask came out in July, and Dumb and Dumber bowed in December. Just like that, Carrey was comedy gold.

It was a weird year for film, with two truly game changing releases in Pulp Fiction and The Lion King. Pulp Fiction is always talked about in how it revived John Travoltra’s career, but it did a lot more than that. Pulp Fiction seemed like nothing else (because it wasn’t), which explains why since its’ release so many filmmakers have attempted to recreate that magic with Tarantino-like multi-narratives populated by cool lowlifes. The Lion King, Disney’s 32nd animated feature, was a landmark achievement for a studio with a slew of them, and a huge international sensation. After it’s initial run, it was the second-highest grossing film of all time behind Jurassic Park, until it was eventually surpassed by Finding Nemo in 2003.

In the same year that Vincent and Jules were tracking down Marcellus Wallace’s mysterious bag; that Simba watched as his father died; that Andy Dufresne was locked up in Shawshank; that Forrest’s mother told him that life was like a box of chocolates; that Julia attended Four Weddings and a Funeral and audiences met a spunky young star named Sandra in a film about a bus that couldn’t slow down or it would explode, you had Lloyd lacing Harry’s coffee with a laxative before a big date; Lloyd and Harry making the most annoying noises ever heard on screen and Lloyd and Harry spraying ketchup and mustard into their mouths after eating atomic peppers.

Dumb and Dumber was a road trip movie about the two moronic best friends trying to get from Providence, Rhode Island to Aspen, Colorado, to find Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) and return her briefcase. Lloyd and Harry’s relentless stupidity in each and every situation, magnified by their unwarranted optimism (after Mary tells Lloyd his chances with her are “one in a million,” he pauses to consider his odds, smiles, and says, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance”) and the exuberance with which Carrey and Daniels threw themselves into the absurdity made Dumb and Dumber the rarest of films; an international blockbuster that grossed nearly $250 million worldwide that was also considered a “cult classic.”

And now, after twenty-years, here they come again, stumbling into the theater amid nothing but bad news in the real world, and films about intergalactic travel in an attempt to save humanity, sociopathic music teachers, tragic and somber stories involving mental illness and murder, and not one but two biopics about British geniuses changing the world against all odds and at great expense to their own well-being. In a world that always seems on the brink of some incalculable horror, both onscreen and off, we could all probably use the eternal joy radiating off the two stupidest people on earth.

This is where we last left Lloyd and Harry. Now, “everything but their idiocy has changed,” according to the film’s press notes. Harry needs a kidney, and he learns that he has a daughter out there who might be able to help. But he’ll need his buddy, Lloyd, whose been “comatose” since he was rejected by Mary (guess that one in a million shot didn’t work out) to go on yet another road trip with him. They’ll definitely need the Mutt Cutts van again. Lloyd and Harry must traverse the country to find Harry’s daughter and get him that kidney.

Dumb and Dumber was not for everybody, but everybody watched it,” Daniels said in the press notes. “When we made it, we all thought 14-year old boys would be impressed, but who knew the demographic would be from 8 to 80? I have businessmen coming up to me in the airport to tell me that it is their favorite movie.”

For Carrey, it really wasn’t until he watched the original film from start to finish in a hotel room a few years ago (he’d only really seen bits and pieces up until then) that momentum began to do a sequel. Carrey and Daniels got used to teenagers, tipped off to the film by their parents, approaching them and quoting from the film. “These characters have become like furniture in people’s homes, so it’s not like we’re going to have to educate people about the first movie and these characters,” Carrey said.

Lloyd takes a call from Harry. Neither realize they're talking to each other. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Lloyd takes a call from Harry. Neither realize they’re talking to each other. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

“One of the cornerstones of what made Dumb and Dumber work as a comedy is that Lloyd and Harry are too old to be this stupid and still live in this world and somehow survive,” said producer Charles B. Wessler, succinctly summing up exactly why we might need them now most.

In the first film, there’s a passing reference to a character by the name of Fraida Felcher, who is mentioned as Harry’s ex-girlfriend (Google her last name if you want to the full extent of the obscene joke). She is described in the script as a “dressed-down Kathleen Turner-type.” Little did the Farrelly brothers realize, the script had gotten to the real Kathleen Turner.

“Honestly, we were never thinking about actually getting her when we wrote the script; it was just a visual aid for the reader,” Peter Farrelly said.

“Well, I can certainly do a Kathleen Turner-type,” Kathleen Turner said, “even dressed-down, so I got my agent on it.”

As Fraida, Turner is playing the mother to the potential kidney donor, but the paternity of the father is still in question. Considering how fantastically stupid she is, “the list of suspects has easily been narrowed to two.”

As Penny Pinchelow, Rachel Melvin met with casting director Rick Montgomery during a commercial shoot in Los Angeles. “He said to me, ‘I have something else you might be good in,” Melvin said in the press notes. “Would you be interested in reading for the Farrelly brothers for Dumb and Dumber To? You seem fun and glib, and I think they would like you.’ The kicker was that I didn’t know what ‘glib’ meant at the time, so I guess I was destined for the part.”

The extent of Melvin’s research for the part of the dull-witten Penny was to watch the first movie. “My parents loved Dumb and Dumber.”

Filmed primarily in and around Atlanta, Daniels arrived on set only 36 hours after winning an Emmy for playing the brilliant Will McAvoy on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. “I went from winning that award about a guy who’s really smart to a guy with an IQ of about 8…it took me a lot more to get into the character of Will than Harry, and that’s a bit frightening that Harry comes so easily. It doesn’t bode well for my twilight years.”

From singing peoples’ eyebrows with his witty, often brutal bon mots as Will McAvoy, Daniels found himself as Harry having ice-cold slushies poured down his pants. For six takes.

On November 14, America will likely be slumping into the holiday season after the depressing midterm elections, distressing news about Ebola and who knows what fresh tragedy, scandal or heartbreak will be breathlessly reported on cable news, but it’s also the day Dumb and Dumber To comes out. Bobby Farrelly says that it’s important for fans to know that with the sequel, there’s been “absolutely no mental growth, no character arc…they have each other and that’s enough to get them through life.” If they get us through a few hours of our own lives without thinking about something awful, they’ll have us, too.

Featured image: Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) are back. Courtesy Universal Pictures. 

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Win Your Halloween Costume Contest With Duds From Actual Films http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/win-your-halloween-costume-contest-with-duds-from-actual-film/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/win-your-halloween-costume-contest-with-duds-from-actual-film/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:30:15 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12655 Not only can you do as the title suggests, you can also help save the planet. All you have to do is live in New York. Here’s how.

Head to an 11,000 foot warehouse in Gowanus, Brooklyn, on 540 President Street, and ... Read More

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Not only can you do as the title suggests, you can also help save the planet. All you have to do is live in New York. Here’s how.

Head to an 11,000 foot warehouse in Gowanus, Brooklyn, on 540 President Street, and sample from a gargantuan collection of costumes, props, and more. The bonus? All of these articles come from film and television productions, commercials and theatrical plays. Whether you need a period piece dress, a vintage suit, a headstone, a glowing skull, a couple of realistic looking parking meters, mailboxes, a severed foot, a Victorian-era stroller, a Sanitary Inspection Grade, or a spacesuit that will inch you as close to looking like Matthew McConaughey’s Interstellar character as you’ll ever get, this is your one-stop shop.

See anything here you like? It's all from a film, TV, commercial or theatrical production.

See anything here you like? It’s all from a film, TV, commercial or theatrical production.

Welcome to Film biz Recycling (FBR), a unique non profit that’s committed to preventing pollution, creating jobs and aiding the community by diverting set materials to local charities while also operating the above-mentioned retail store. Not only can you outfit yourself with some seriously dapper duds for Halloween, you can feel good that the money you’ve spent has gone to a good cause. Thus far, FBR’s impact since their 2008 inception is no joke; 450 tons of materials diverted from the NYC waste stream.

Eva Radke, founder and president of FBR told us that you won’t find anything like what they have in a costume shop. FBR accepts donations of props, wardrobe and set materials exclusively from NYC’s film, television, commercial and theatre communities. This means that just about every item of clothing was “handpicked by a decorator who was paid handsomely for their selections, for their eye.” Props you’ll find here had to be okayed by a production designer, set decorator and a prop master. The films, TV shows and plays that donate their costumes, props and more to FBR run the gamut from indie productions to major motion pictures, television series and Broadway plays. This means you’ll find props from the set of 30 Rock, SNL and The Colbert Report to name a few.

The staff sorts the donations for optimum sustainability (social need and environmental impact) and then redistributes more than 60% of donated items through its’ network of charities and nonprofit partners in the New York City area. The charities include Blissfull Bedrooms, an all-volunteer organization that helps transform the personal spaces of young people with limited resources an who have physical disabilities, and Room to Grow, an org that assists low-income families who are expecting children (and up to three years after the child is born) with developmental information, customized support and ensuring that all of the necessary baby times are available to them. “Our main mission is social and environmental,” Radke says, “and hopefully the side product of that is a better prop house, affordable beauty, a look behind the scenes.”

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For the discerning Halloween participant, Radke rattles off a list from the top of her head of the things you’ll find at FBR: “Fake blood (theatrical blood), which we put it in masons jars and test tubes, tons of décor, costumes, shoes, wedding dresses with bloody entrails sewn into it, makeup, an Elvis costume, a Boba Fett costume, if you’re making a graveyard we have those faux-headstones, we’ve got a casket, tons of body parts, eyeballs, severed hands and limbs. We even have 3D medical equipment, god knows what that was used for, so if you want to be a patient, we’ve got an IV you can roll down the street. It has a real look to it.” We both agreed considering Ebola fears, this might not be the best idea.

Saline Bag for IV Stand

Saline Bag for IV Stand

Radke’s personal favorite prop is a KGB phone with a bullet hole in it which they got from the set of Angelina Jolie’s Salt. “And we also got in a stunning French mirrored short-wave radio from World War II,” she says. “Very fine and super expensive for the time.”

FBR works both ways, as a repository for costume, props and set materials as well as a place to begin accruing your necessary pieces for your new project. Every production that donates their items to FBR, and every person who goes to their retail outlet and buys stuff, is helping fun their charitable work. You can also rent from them on a weekly basis. FBR is a place you can outfit yourself for Halloween, gear up for your upcoming film, or, buy stuff for your apartment.

Radke started FBR after working in television for fifteen years and seeing the waste. “I was the art department coordinator on huge TV commercials, super bowl commercials, and I was also a designer and decorator, and I spent a lot of my time trying to find homes for stuff that shouldn’t be thrown away, and the answer was often a dumpster. And I was frustrated with the donation sites, too, because they were always asking me to come in a week, and they were picky about what I brought. What this industry needed was a one-stop shop.”

So that’s what Radke created, a place where even the strangest, most seemingly useless prop or bizarre piece of wardrobe can find a home.

“We’ll take care of it, we’ll give you a receipt, just don’t worry about it, we got it. Unless it’s on fire, dangerous, or a piece of broken Ikea furniture, we’ll take it. We even have compost. We do everything from metal recycling, fabric recycling, we even repackage unused paint in mason jars. What we have for sale or rent on the floor, it’s really the top twenty percent of what we get in, most of it goes to charity.”

FBR operates on a zero waste policy; meaning, not a single donated material will go to waste. Every item is reused, recycled, redistributed or repurposed. This practice includes the way their employees throw away their own food scraps; the remnants from breakfasts, lunches and dinners are are picked up by local composting service, Vokashi, and distributed throughout community farms in Brooklyn.

And we’re talking about tons of material, to the tune of 122 tons in 2013 alone, representing 711 productions. This included more than 200 films, 165 commercials, 100 television shows and 30 stage productions.

Who doesn't need some parking meter heads?

Who doesn’t need some parking meter heads?

People often coming in looking for the marquee prop from a film, which is more than often kept by a member of the crew or the actor who used it. “People ask, ooh, do you have the guns from Men in Black III?” Radke says. “No, but we’ve got the throw rug in the background.”

Yet they do have a lot of insane props, some of which are actually quite beautiful, in a Mad Men way, from old Corsair radios, vintage typewriters, beautiful old telephones (including a payphone), an old telescope and a Keystone 8mm camera to name a few. This is to say nothing of the more practical pieces of furniture and household items they have.

“The budget for set dressing one show is around $60,000 an episode,” Radke says. “We could open up our own Bed, Bath and Beyond with the stuff we have.”

As for Radke’s long term goal for FBR, she had a simple answer; “To be unnecessary. Also, to have everyone who I’ve asked for support and said no, to stop telling me to call Leonardo DiCaprio.”

 

 

 

 

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Piecing Together The Imitation Game http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/piecing-together-the-imitation-game/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/piecing-together-the-imitation-game/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:30:11 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12640 The only thing more astonishing than Alan Turing’s efforts during World War II was the way his own government treated him after. Turing was, by all measures, a war hero, and his and his team’s efforts were partly responsible for saving, by some ... Read More

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The only thing more astonishing than Alan Turing’s efforts during World War II was the way his own government treated him after. Turing was, by all measures, a war hero, and his and his team’s efforts were partly responsible for saving, by some estimates, 14 million lives.

One of the fathers of computing, he led a group of linguists, scholars, chess champions and intelligence officers in an effort to crack the “unbreakable” codes of Germany’s Enigma machine. Before Turing was summoned for an interview at England’s codebreaking center in Bletchley Park, the allies were losing the war, and England itself was being destroyed. German bombers were obliterating huge swaths of London while their U-boats haunted the coasts, sending warships and passenger ferries alike to the bottom of the sea. The Enigma machine encrypted every message by the German navy, allowing them to surprise the allied forces again and again. The Enigma was thought to be unbreakable because it generated millions upon millions of options for each of the codes, changing those codes every single day. Enter Turing.

The Imitation Game is based on Andrew Hodges “Alan Turing: The Enigma.” As you know the outcome of World War II, it’s not a spoiler to tell you that Turing and his team do the seemingly impossible, thanks largely to the electro-mechanical code-breaking machine Turing built, the Bombe (in the film, his machine is called Christopher, for very emotional reasons). The way in which they eventually break the Engima code is half the thrill of the film. The other half of the film, and the source of the name Turing gives his code-breaking machine, is a deeply sad story of a war hero turned social pariah based solely on his sexual orientation.

Assembling the Team

In 2009, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized on behalf of the British Government for the treatment of Turing after World War II. In 1952, Turing was still a little known British professor, and he was arrested on charges of “gross indecency” for having an affair with a young male drifter. England was still under the Victorian-era Labouchere Amendment, where being gay was something you had to apologize for, at best, or find yourself arrested and threatened with prison (unless you underwent a hugely immoral and grotesque “hormonal therapy”) at worst. Turing’s exploits during the war were still sealed at the time; to the men arresting him, he was little more than a “poof.”

Brown’s apology caught the attention of producers Nora Grossman and Ido Ostrowsky, who discovered, after a bit of research, Andrew Hodges’ book, which detailed Turing’s incredible life and contribution to the war efforts, most of which was still completely unknown to American audiences. Grossman and Ostrowksy optioned the book, and were discussing it at a party where the young novelist Graham Moore was present. Moore happened to have been “massively into computer science” when he was a teenager, as he recalls in the press notes. Among computer science folks Moore knew, Turing was an object of cult-like fascination. Moore was hooked on the idea of writing the script, and he says of the finished film, “I feel that this film is the most important thing I will ever be a part of. I don’t know that I will get to do anything I love so much ever again, but I’m very glad I got to do it this time.”

(L-R) KEIRA KNIGHTLEY and BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH star in THE IMITATION GAME

(L-R) Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke, a major contributor to the effort to break the Enigma. Benedict Cumberbatch is Alan Turing. Courtesy Weinstein Co.

 

Making The Imitation Game

If Alan Turing is known at all to mainstream Americans who don’t share Moore’s love of computer science, he has been mostly known to sci-fi geeks as the man for whom “The Turing Test” is named, in which Turing invented a method for determining whether something is a machine or a real person by asking it questions.

This meant that when Graham Moore’s screenplay for The Imitation Game made the rounds in Hollywood, almost no one knew of Turing’s role as a British cryptanalyst during World War II. The script was placed first on the influential Black List, which gathers up the year’s best, unproduced screenplays like so much fat, juicy fruit for Hollywood executives to pick.

Eventually, the script found its first home with Black Bear Pictures, the production and financing company behind last year’s compelling, nearly dialogue-free shipwreck film All is Lost, starring Robert Redford. Black Bear, led by Teddy Schwartzman, producers Grossman and Ostrowsky, and screenwriter Moore eventually landed on Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (Headhunters) to direct. The next big coup was, of course, the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch, so well suited to playing the vulnerable, powerful, brilliant Turing that once the film begins you simply cannot imagine another actor in the role. The cast was uniformly strong, literally so with Mark Strong, played an MI6 agent, Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, the only woman on the codebreaking team, Charles Dance as a Royal Navy commander who doesn’t like Turing one bit, and Matthew Goode as the brilliant, charismatic (which makes him the anti-Turing) Hugh Alexander, the chess champion.

Production

The film was shot in England over eight weeks on locations in London, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Dorset. They filmed at a disused RAF base, King’s Cross station, Sherborne School, where Turing was educated, the Bletchley Park codebreaking center itself, and, also a Victorian mansion which was the former home of an author by the name of Ian Fleming, who was a naval intelligence officer during the war.

Like Turing, Fleming was a major part of the unseen war effort, the measures and counter-measures that took place in the shadows. Fleming helped hatch a plan that Turing very much wanted to see carried out, Operation Ruthless, which hoped to obtain details of the Enigma codes. Begun as a memo by Fleming, the idea was to capture a German bomber, man it with a German-speaking crew dressed in Luftwaffe uniforms, and crash it into the English Channel. Once their German rescuers arrived, the crew would attack them and bring their boat, and their Enigma machine, back to Bletchley Park. The mission was never carried out, to Turing’s annoyance.

 

The Tragic Elegance of War Time England

(L-R) Keira Knightley, Matthew Beard, Matthew Goode, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Allen Leech star in THE IMITATION GAME.

(L-R) Keira Knightley, Matthew Beard, Matthew Goode, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Allen Leech. Courtesy Weinstein Co.

This is the way director Tyldum describes what his cinematographer, Óscar Faura, was able to achieve in shooting a film about a heroic, historic and ultimately tragic figure, as well as a time period in England that was both its darkest and finest hour—”tragic elegance.” Yet that description could also be applied to the work much of the crew did in creating the world of the film, including production designer Maria Djurkovic and costume designer Sammy Sheldon Differ. Tyldum said that these two in particular were able to create a world that managed to be unglamorous, intriguing and stylish all at once.

You would assume that Djurkovic’s work would be limited to period work—nothing that couldn’t exist during a wartime environment—but she said that her job is to respond to the script first and foremost. “The most important thing is finding an overall aesthetic for the film – and it’s not just about it being a period film, set between this year and another year, the historical research is part of our DNA, that’s taken for granted. There are certain expectations people have of a period and I always like to slightly subvert them. And I’m also trying to make sure that every location choice and every design choice works aesthetically as an overall entity and is not just cut into different scenes. The look of the films that I design tend to have a slightly heightened quality.”

Making Turing’s ‘Christopher’ Machine

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) stands in front of his codebreaking machine, 'Christopher.' Courtesy Weinstein Co.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) stands in front of his codebreaking machine, ‘Christopher.’ Courtesy Weinstein Co.

What Djurkovich found in her research was that instead of focusing on the fairly drab color palette of the 1940s, Turing’s creation of the Bombe (the code-breaking machine Moore changed to ‘Christopher’ in the script) should be her starting point. “Going to Bletchley and actually seeing it function was wonderful, this extraordinary lumbering thing, with a million red cables spewing out of it.”

Christopher the machine is a major character in the film, as he’s named after Turing’s only friend from his school days, and his first love. Christopher the machine is a massive, block-shaped structure of spinning cogs and dials and emits a pleasingly intimidating, martial sounding beat as it works. “We had to make the Bombe look as though it works, with all its dials going round. It has to look like the real thing, but it has to look more interesting than the real thing,” Djurkovich said. “And we had to do it with limited money and limited time. It’s the first computer, it’s incredible, this amazing invention and without it, who knows what would have happened? It’s not just central to our film, it’s central to our history. The real thing is within a Bakelite box, so we decided very early on that, to make it more interesting, our ‘Christopher’ would look as it did before it was encased in the black box, so you actually see its guts and its entrails.”

The Clothes

Costume designer Sammy Sheldon Differ had to find a way to bring some dynamism to clothes that were, in the 1940s, anything but dynamic. “Morten didn’t want it to have that subdued 1940s feel, he wanted it to have a bit more life to it than that, so we talked about the use of color – some of the photos I had researched were in color – and there was more of it at the time than you would imagine,” she said in the press notes. “It interested me that there were these blues and reds and greens that aren’t often conveyed in films and TV about this period.”

Differ looked for coupon clothing, with the CC41 label in that meant it was given out under rationing. Cumberbatch himself did a lot of research and could tell if something was right when he put it on.

On Turing

Cumberbatch said that filming at Bletchley Park felt almost ghostly at times, to walk across those lawsn and “under those trees which were there before they were and will be there long after us.” Moore said that he hopes the film will bring people closer to the complicated, difficult figure at its center.  “I hope that they will look up at the screen and feel that they understand this person, who is very removed from them in history, in time and place – and that they get a sense of what a tremendous human being he was.”

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Final Tour of Hollywood Costume Exhibit a Must-see http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/final-tour-of-hollywood-costume-exhibit-a-must-see/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/final-tour-of-hollywood-costume-exhibit-a-must-see/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:30:12 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12606 “Nearly every costume designed for a film has a story behind its creation…Martin Scorsese once gave me an entire film to watch just to see the stripe on a collar.” -Costume designer Sandy Powell.

When David Fincher was shooting The Social ... Read More

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“Nearly every costume designed for a film has a story behind its creation…Martin Scorsese once gave me an entire film to watch just to see the stripe on a collar.” -Costume designer Sandy Powell.

When David Fincher was shooting The Social Network, a momentous scene had it that Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) had to sprint back to his dorms at Harvard. Only the crew couldn’t secure the Cambridge location that they had used, so Fincher and his team designed a series of mirrors that would help replicate the actual location. This meant that Eisenberg’s GAP sweater would appear as ‘PAG’ on screen as he’d be captured in the mirror. So costume designer Jacqueline West simply had a sweater designed with ‘PAG’ on the chest, which would turn into the proper ‘GAP’ sweater once reversed in the mirror and allow Fincher to secure his shot. This is but one small instance of how the costume designer is also a storyteller, helping cast and crew in often subtle, crucial ways. This and more you can experience at Hollywood Costume, a multimedia exhibition ending its run at the Wilshire May Company Building in Los Angeles.

We thought it fitting to call attention to one of the great film exhibits in the country right now the week Oscar de la Renta passed away. That titan of fashion inspired Hollywood style for decades, as well as one the more memorable lines ever uttered about fashion in a film. We’re talking about Meryl Streep’s turn as Miranda Priestly (believed to be based on Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour), in which she explains to her assistant Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) how nobody is untouched by high fashion, even the unfashionable like Sachs herself:

“You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin.”

Oof. But also, awesome. In the spirit of the late, great de La Renta, here’s a look at an exhibit for film and fashion lovers alike, paying tribute to the all-important costume designers who have such a huge impact on the films we love.

Where else can you find Katniss, James and Han in the same room?

Where else can you find Katniss, James and Han in the same room?

Hollywood Costume is a collaboration between the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The exhibit recently moved to Los Angeles on October 2, and is now presenting the final showing of the groundbreaking multimedia exhibition in the Wilshire May Company Building, the future location of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The exhibition explores the huge role that costume designers play in film, from the eye-popping (Ruth Myers gorgeous period pieces for L.A. Confidential) to the subtle elements most of us would never catch but appreciate their effect subconsciously. The exhibit showcases how costume design is as an essential tool of cinematic storytelling. On view through March 2, 2015 the exhibition has everything from the iconic costumes of Hollywood’s golden age (like the costume worn by Marlene Dietrich in Morocco (1930)) to Jared Leto’s costume from Dallas Buyers Club (2013).

Curated by Academy Award nominated costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, the exhibit is broken down into three acts:

Act One: Deconstruction introduces the role of costume design in cinematic storytelling. This section explores the link between clothing and identity and how designers bring characters to life.

Act Two: Dialogue examines the creative collaboration among great filmmakers, actors and costume designers using archival film footage and specially commissioned interviews.

Act Three: Finale presents the most memorable and treasured costumes in cinema history, for heroes, leading ladies and femme fatales alike.

Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store for visitors to the exhibit:

 

Most Famous Shoes in History

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy (Judy Garland) wore the most famous shoes in the world. Costume designer Adrian. "It's unknown how many pairs of the shoes were made, but it's believed four pairs used in the film still exist today. The surviving pairs were made in sizes 5C, 5.5 and 6B to accommodate Judy Garland, her stand in and stunt double. The slippers began as white silk pumps made by the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles, and they were later dyed red at MGM Studios before being covered with fabric that had been hand-sewn with approximately 2,300 sequins. Each red leather bow, designed especially by Adrian, sparkles with red glass stones and bugle beads." Courtesy 'Hollywood Costume' exhibit.

Dorothy (Judy Garland) wore the most famous shoes in the world. Costume designer Adrian. It’s unknown how many pairs of the shoes were made, but it’s believed four pairs used in the film still exist today. The surviving pairs were made in sizes 5C, 5.5 and 6B to accommodate Judy Garland, her stand in and stunt double. The slippers began as white silk pumps made by the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles, and they were later dyed red at MGM Studios before being covered with fabric that had been hand-sewn with approximately 2,300 sequins. Each red leather bow, designed especially by Adrian, sparkles with red glass stones and bugle beads.” Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibit.

 A Fedora & A Whip

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. "Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman based the fedora on a model manufactured by Herbert Johnson on Savile Row, adjusting the crown and brim to flatter Ford's face." Courtesy 'Hollywood Costume' exhibit.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. “Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman based the fedora on a model manufactured by Herbert Johnson on Savile Row, adjusting the crown and brim to flatter Ford’s face.” Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibit.

 The Biggest Hat and Bow of All Time

Titanic (1997)

Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) in a costume by Deborah L. Scott. "Her white suit is finely tailored, constructed of white twill fabric with dark violet pinstripes, lapels, cuffs, belt and buttons. Narrow hobble skirt constricts Rose's movement, displaying fashionable pre-World War I silhouette. Ensemble is completed with large picture hat made of Milan straw with a double bow." - Courtesy 'Hollywood Costume' exhibit.

Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) in a costume by Deborah L. Scott. “Her white suit is finely tailored, constructed of white twill fabric with dark violet pinstripes, lapels, cuffs, belt and buttons. Narrow hobble skirt constricts Rose’s movement, displaying fashionable pre-World War I silhouette. Ensemble is completed with large picture hat made of Milan straw with a double bow.” – Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibit.

The Dude Abides in These Casual Duds

The Big Lebowski (1998)

"The Big Lebowski," 1998, Mary Zophres, courtesy of Alba and Thomas Tull. Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

“The Big Lebowski,” 1998, Jeff Bridges rocked these incredibly comfortable-looking duds, as much a part of his character as his White Russians and weed. Far out work by costume designer Mary Zophres. courtesy of Alba and Thomas Tull. Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

 

The Future Billionaire’s Backwards Hoodie

The Social Network (2010)

 

"Costume designer Jacqueline West shares this unexpected production story about an 'ordinary' GAP sweatshirt. West said, "As for the backwards GAP logo [PAG is written on the gray GAP sweatshirt], David Fincher wanted to shoot a sequence of Jesse Eisenberg running back to his Harvard  dorm and used mirrors to replicate the actual location in Cambridge that we couldn't secure for the film. To do that we had to re-create the desired location in a completely different place and print the hoodie backwards to accommodate the mirror and camera. Hence, 'PAG.'

“Costume designer Jacqueline West shares this unexpected production story about an ‘ordinary’ GAP sweatshirt. West said, “As for the backwards GAP logo [PAG is written on the gray GAP sweatshirt], David Fincher wanted to shoot a sequence of Jesse Eisenberg running back to his Harvard dorm and used mirrors to replicate the actual location in Cambridge that we couldn’t secure for the film. To do that we had to re-create the desired location in a completely different place and print the hoodie backwards to accommodate the mirror and camera. Hence, ‘PAG.’

Gunslinging in Style

Django Unchained (2012)

 

Django Unchained, 2012.

Django Unchained, 2012. Django (Jamie Foxx) became a vengeful gunslinger with some righteous cowboy wear thanks to costume designer Sharen Davis. Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume.’

 

No Matter What, No Pants

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Costume designers Kurt and Bart contributed to Jared Leto's Academy-Award winning performance as Rayon by making her "not a drag queen, but a woman in transition, and we wanted to shop where Rayon would shop. The only thing Rayon was adamant about was she never wanted to wear pants." Courtesy 'Hollywood Costume.'

Costume designers Kurt and Bart contributed to Jared Leto’s Academy-Award winning performance as Rayon by making her “not a drag queen, but a woman in transition, and we wanted to shop where Rayon would shop. The only thing Rayon was adamant about was she never wanted to wear pants.” Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume.’

]]> http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/final-tour-of-hollywood-costume-exhibit-a-must-see/feed/ 0 God of the Gown: Oscar de la Renta’s Influence on Hollywood http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/god-of-the-gown-oscar-de-la-rentas-influence-on-hollywood/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/god-of-the-gown-oscar-de-la-rentas-influence-on-hollywood/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:30:18 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12596 Born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, Oscar de la Renta began his career in the 1950s, in Franco’s Spain, and by the time he passed this past Monday at his home in Kent, Connecticut at the age of 82, ... Read More

]]> Born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, Oscar de la Renta began his career in the 1950s, in Franco’s Spain, and by the time he passed this past Monday at his home in Kent, Connecticut at the age of 82, he was not only an fashion icon but perhaps the most beloved figure in the entire industry. His dresses were worn by first ladies in the White house, by celebrities at the Oscars, by characters in TV and film and by thousands of models on the runway. His influence on what film and television stars wore both on screen and off was monumental. It was de la Renta’s ivory tulle gown that Amal Alamuddin wore when she wed George Clooney in Venice.

On the small screen, De La Renta’s impact was probably most memorably made on one of the most fashionable fictional characters of all time – a New York City writer by the name of Carrie Bradshaw. It was in season six of Sex in the City when Bradshaw finds out her boyfriend, Aleksandry (Mikhail Baryshnikov, naturally) is friends with the man himself. “Oscar? You…you can call him Oscar?” she asks. Aleksandry eventually gives her a De La Renta gown of her own, which she wears to the Met Ball, and McDonalds. In real life, Parker could call him Oscar, as this loving tribute she wrote to the designer in The Hollywood Reporter attests, and wore him to the Met Ball this past year (with his signature on the gown’s train).

In season two of Gossip Girl, Blake Lively’s Serena van der Woodsen was headed to the White Party in the Hamptons and was all set to wear a tuxedo (including a backless vest and a wide pant), but the vest was a bright white, which doesn’t work on hi-definition TV screens. An attempt to dye the vest down a bit ended up shrinking it. Luckily for cast and crew, there was a white Oscar de la Renta gown already in the wardrobe. For a season four episode, Leighton Meester’s Blair Waldorf wears a beautiful red de la Renta gown for an episode set in Paris. There was also the belted, wool crepe green de la Renta dress worn by Madeleine Stowe, playing the venomous Victoria Grayson in ABC’s Revenge. 

There are countless more examples of de la Renta’s beautiful work appearing on television, but as far as Hollywood is concerned, he is mostly known for dressing stars on their way to awards shows and balls, and the graceful, gentlemanly demeanor that made him stand out in an industry not known for either. The outpouring of love for the man from television stars was immediate.

When it comes to the big screen, he is most remembered for the countless stars who have answered, “Oscar de la Renta” to the first or second question asked every of every woman on the red carpet. Penelope Cruz radiated old Hollywood glamour in this butter yellow strapless de la Renta at the 2005 Academy Awards. Two years later, Jennifer Hudson rocked this brown, gathered waist de la Renta gown paired with a bolero on the red carpet. Cameron Diaz stunned with her champagne tulle de la Renta gown with gold paillette embroidery at the 2010 Academy Awards. Jennifer Lawrence went Back to the Fuchsia (apologies) in this off the shoulder de la Renta at the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2011. The list goes on, and on, and on.

There have been many loving tributes written to de la Renta since his passing. Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief and a friend since 1974, began her remembrance with, “Oscar was a great man.” This sentiment resonates in every tribute, from heads of state and longtime friends. To see de la Renta in action, rent The September Issue, R.J. Cutler’s documentary about Anna Wintour preparing for the 2007 fall fashion issue, to see the graceful figure he cut in his life. Or read any one of the tributes, or this New York Times obit to get a better sense of how he much more than just the gowns. Or, simply watch the red carpet at the awards shows this year, which no doubt will be a fitting tribute to his greatness.

More than just a fashion icon, de la Renta was a beloved son of the Dominican Republic, a husband and father, a legendary raconteur, and by all accounts, and perhaps most importantly, a generous and warm individual who left his mark not only in the beauty of the garments he made but in the way in which he went about making them.

Featured image: Amy Adams in an Oscar de la Renta gown at the 2013 Academy Awards. Reuters.

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Interstellar’s Out of This World Crew http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/interstellars-out-of-this-world-crew/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/interstellars-out-of-this-world-crew/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:30:03 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12582 In a little over two weeks, on November 7, Christopher Nolan’s long awaited Interstellar will finally hit screens across the country. Jeff Jensen’s cover story for Entertainment Weekly uncovered a lot of juicy details which add up to what sounds ... Read More

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In a little over two weeks, on November 7, Christopher Nolan’s long awaited Interstellar will finally hit screens across the country. Jeff Jensen’s cover story for Entertainment Weekly uncovered a lot of juicy details which add up to what sounds like the director’s most personal, and possibly ambitious, film yet. When Jensen was on set in October of 2013, the film’s code name was Flora’s Letter. As Jessica Chastain told Jensen at the time, she stumbled upon the code name’s significance by accident. “One day, I noticed this girl. She was really shy and sweet. I went up to her, and she told me her name. And she was Chris’ daughter. All of the clues fell into place. You had to be a little bit of a detective, and when I figured it out, I was incredibly moved: Interstellar is a letter to his daughter.”

It’s long been known that Nolan has a preference for the practical over the computer generated, and to do this he needs a team of immensely talented individuals across the entire spectrum of the process, from set design to editing. From his Dark Knight trilogy to Inception, films that would appear to be require a huge percentage of CGI from start to finish, Nolan relied on his crew and his actors to do as much of the actual work as possible. For Inception’s gravity-subverting scenes, Nolan had a hotel corridor built by production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister that could rotate a full 360 degrees to create the effect of multiple gravitational pulls for scenes set during the second level of dreaming.

For Interstellar, a film that has protagonist Cooper (McConaughey) lead a mission into the far reaches of space (along with Anne Hathway’s Brand and Wes Bentley’s Doyle) to find a suitable new planet for humanity to live on, Nolan was still committed to building practical sets and filming against real backdrops as often as possible, to ground his cosmic story in a reality his actors are interacting with. As Jensen has it, Nolan loathes blue screens “the way the Amish loathe zippers,” so the “vertiginous swirl of stars” that are right outside the window of Cooper, Brand and Doyle’s spaceship Endurance were actually projected onto a floor-to-ceiling curtain outside of the windows of the massive spaceship Nolan and crew had built on the same soundstage Nolan and his crew had once built Batman’s cave.

Jensen notes one of the most amazing things about what Nolan has achieved in his career thus far; the ability to make a two hour, 47-minute saga that isn’t based on a comic book or meant to launch a franchise. It isn’t escapist (despite its’ protagonists leaving Earth), has no merchandise tie-ins and no existing fan base—save for Nolan’s, of course.

Nolan on the set of 'Interstellar.' Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Nolan on the set of ‘Interstellar.’ Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

And what Nolan has once again in Interstellar, beginning with his co-writer and brother, Jonah (credited as Jonathan on their films), is a crew every bit as capable and exacting as he is. Interstellar began it’s life not a Nolan film but a Steven Spielberg project, and it was his brother who had first been tapped to be involved, as the screenwriter. “I wanted to confront all the things that are wrong with us and threatening us, but to focus more on hope,” he told Jensen. “After all the research, all the conversations with Kip and Lynda, the thing that jumped out was how precious life is in the first place.” When Spielberg’s DreamWorks moved from Paramount to Disney, a new director was needed for the project.

We know who the director is, so let’s take a quick look a few members of his crew who made his latest epic possible.

 

Cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema

(This is Hoytema’s first time working with Nolan. Previous films include Her, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Fighter and Let The Right One In.)

Once Nolan’s long time cinematographer, Wally Pfister, began directing his own films, geeks like us we wondering who Nolan would choose as his next lenser. Enter Dutch-Swiss cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, fresh off the beautifully shot Her. Hoytema’s not as well known in the States, but this will change, as he’s not only is the man behind the cam for Interstellar, but also the next film in the Bond franchise, Bond 24. Hoytema is making a career of replacing legends; on Bond 24 he stepped in for Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins, who had a scheduling conflict due to working on the Coen brothers Hail, Caesar! Hoytema is becoming a legend in his own right, however. If you’ve already seen Her and want further proof of his skills, check out his work in the best vampire film of this century (in our humble opinion), Tomas Alfredson’s 2008’s Let The Right One In.

 

Production Designer: Nathan Crowley

(Previous Nolan films: Insomnia, the Dark Knight trilogy and The Prestige.)

How many production designers can say they doubled as farmers to get the necessary shots for a film? We know of one, Nathan Crowley. As Jensen reported, for the scenes on an Earth in the midst of its death-throes, Crowley and the crew planted 500 acres of corn in rural Alberta, Canada (where most of the Earth films were shot), just to destroy them in a controlled apocalypse. They used wind turbines, cardboard dust and smoke from the fire burning the corn to vividly create our planet being cooked alive. For alien planets made mostly of roiling seas, ice and rock, it was off to Iceland for cast and crew.

 

Composer: Hans Zimmer

He’s one of the few composers in the business who everyone knows by name, yet he was willing to take a risk on Interstellar, responding to a request by Nolan to do something a little unorthodox. Nolan asked Zimmer if he would spend a day writing some music for the film without telling him about the genre, characters, title or plot. He gave Zimmer an envelope with a one page letter in it, which contained the fable at the heart of the story. Nolan and Zimmer eventually conducted 45 scoring sessions, triple the amount they did for Inception. Zimmer told Jensen a line from Nolan’s letter that started it all; “Once we become parents, we can’t help but look at ourselves through the eyes of our children.”

 

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Did You Move it Or did I? Get Creepy With Oujia http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/did-you-move-it-or-did-i-get-creepy-with-oujia/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/did-you-move-it-or-did-i-get-creepy-with-oujia/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:30:18 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12566 The genius of the Ouija board is that it really is hard to tell who moved the piece. Did you? Did I? I think I might have, but why can’t I remember? The bizarre fact that this patently ridiculous game, in which two ... Read More

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The genius of the Ouija board is that it really is hard to tell who moved the piece. Did you? Did I? I think I might have, but why can’t I remember? The bizarre fact that this patently ridiculous game, in which two players pretend not to move a planchet around on a board that spells out messages from the spirit world, really did creep you out as a child, and it speaks to its 125-year longevity and our collective wish to maybe, kinda, sorta mess around with the occult. But not really. I mean you moved it, right? Right?

There are three basic rules one must follow when using a Ouija board: Never use it a graveyard, never use it a lone, and always say goodbye. In the upcoming Quija, one of these rules is broken right from the jump, along with the boundary between life and death and the creepy spirits that hope to transcend the two. If they could make a film out of your childhood Legos, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Ouija board seems just as apt for adaptation onto the big screen.

The Ouijia board rose from obscurity in the late 19th century into a popular game sold by a major company to people who liked to freak themselves out a little bit. The brief history of this “talking board” begins in 1890, when entrepreneur Charles Kennard and attorney Elijah Bond created the Ouija after a rise in such devices in the mid 1800s, said to help people contact loved ones they had recently lost. The apocryphal story of the board’s creation has Kennard and Bond’s asking it what it would like to be called, and it spelled out “O-U-I-J-A.” The board then explained what the word meant by spelling out “G-O-O-D L-U-C-K.”

By the 1920s the Ouija board had grown in popularity. In fact, Norman Rockwell had watched with fascination as several couples at a dance hall had eschewed dancing in favor of sitting “face to face, knee-to-knee and moving small heart-shaped objects (planchettes) on Ouija boards,” as the Saturday Evening Post’s Robert Berridge wrote. This moment led this Post cover, painted by Rockwell himself. The game we know today was popularized by Parker Brothers, which bought the game in the mid-1960s (one imagines all sorts of unique experiences with the board during that decade), and eventually became a Hasbro game in the 1990s when that company bought Parker Brothers.

Now you might be aware that Hasbro has become a bit of a player in the film world, with a little series of movies about alien robots based on one of their toy lines. A few years back, Hasbro, along with their go-to director/producer Michael Bay, who with Andrew Form and Brad Fuller run Platinum Dunes, approached Universal about making Ouija as a microbudget film that explored the board’s freakier, supernatural elements. A few more players got involved, and voila, Ouija was greenlit.

(L to R) Pete (DOUGLAS SMITH), Sarah (ANA COTO), Laine (OLIVIA COOKE), Trevor (DAREN KAGASOFF) and Isabelle (BIANCA SANTOS) in "Ouija", a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.

(L to R) Pete (DOUGLAS SMITH), Sarah (ANA COTO), Laine (OLIVIA COOKE), Trevor (DAREN KAGASOFF) and Isabelle (BIANCA SANTOS) in “Ouija”, a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Enter the husband-and-wife team of Stiles White and Juliet Snowden, no strangers to the horror genre, having written Knowing and The Possession together. “All they said was, ‘Ouija, what would you do?’” Snowden said in the production notes. “Our first instinct was to consider our memories of the Ouija board: playing as teenagers, sitting around with our friends and wanting an answer to something…anything.”

One of the board’s draws as a narrative device is that it can serve one purpose, connection, in two, very different ways. If you’re using the board as a means of closure between you and a loved on, then it’s a wish fulfillment device. Yet in doing so, the board may also open the supernatural door to elements you might not want in your life, which is the danger anytime you start messing around with necromancy. “Whatever the setting is, we try to create a compelling situation centered around people up against something larger than life,” White said. “And that’s exactly what we’ve done with Ouija.

So what does the protagonist of Quija want from the board? She wants to find out what happened to her best friend who died under mysterious circumstances. Thanks to the legacy of the Ouija board, and the countless stories it has inspired, White and Snowden culled pieces of their story together from the wild tales the game has inspired. The most closely held Ouija belief is that if you don’t follow the rules of the game, you may open a door to the spirit realm you might not be able to close. Debbie (Shelley Hennig) breaks a cardinal rule right from the film’s outset; she plays alone.

 

You broke the rules, Debbie! (Shelley Hennig). Courtesy Universal Pictures.

You broke the rules, Debbie! (Shelley Hennig). Courtesy Universal Pictures.

The protagonist Laine (Olivia Cooke) pays a visit to her friend Debbie right before Debbie makes the fateful decision to play by herself. Debbie swiftly dies in a horribly gruesome way, leaving behind clues in the form of diary entries and video footage, showing a bit of what happened right before she died. When Laine starts looking into these clues, they all point to an old Ouija board.

Laine (Olivia Cooke) figuring out she might have to play an old board game to find out what happened to her pal. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Laine (Olivia Cooke) figuring out she might have to play an old board game to find out what happened to her pal. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Working from a small budget and limited locations actually aided in the telling of this creepy story. “The schedule kept the drama up; we would be down in the basement for hours, and the tone of the film would seep in the longer we were down there,” White said. “The intensity that got inside the actors’ heads, and they were able to live in the moment and truly be scared, which made for great performances.”

When does something good ever happen in the basement? Courtesy Universal Pictures.

When does something good ever happen in the basement? Courtesy Universal Pictures.

The basement was part of Debbie’s house, a major location for the film that serves as the host for the malevolent spirit that uses every nook and cranny of the place to its advantage. In reality, the house the location scouts found, and production designer Barry Robison went to work on, could itself be haunted—it’s a 120-year old Tudor-revival house in Los Angeles, built in 1895, only five years after the first incarnation of the Ouija board appeared. The house had a lot of small, claustrophobic rooms, a basement (rare in California), and plenty of little details that fit the script.

You might think a microbudget means not being able to afford a topnotch crew, but that’s now how it works. You’ve got cinematographer David Emmerichs, a man who knows a thing or two about filming in tight, terrifying spaces. He was the steadicam operator on Se7en, and recently worked as the virtual camera operator on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. You’ve got costume designer Mary Jane Fort, the woman behind the iconic duds worn in Mean Girls; and there’s Academy Award nominee Mike Smithson, whose work makeup work on Avatar, Men in Black 3 and Thor: The Dark World more than prepared him to create a dark spirit worthy of a Quija nightmare.

Ouija is hardly the first film to use the “talking board” as a narrative device. The Witchboard trilogy, which began in 1985 (starring Tawny Kitaen, no less), had a group of friends channel the spirit of a little boy through a Ouija board. Michelle Pfeiffer uses a K-Mart Ouija board to find out what’s spooking her in the house in What Lies Beneath (2000). In the 1990 drama Awakenings, Robin Williams uses a Ouija board while experimenting with his catatonic patient Leonard, played by Robert De Niro. And let us not forget arguably the greatest horror film of all time, The Exorcist, which used a Ouija board as the thredshold through which Captain Howdy takes possession of Regan.

There’s quite a legacy of Ouija-related madness, perhaps dating back to your very own childhood and throughout some pretty memorable films, and this Friday, you’ll get a chance to see what kind of horrors the board conjures next.

Feature image: (L to R) Pete (DOUGLAS SMITH), Laine (OLIVIA COOKE) and Sarah (ANA COTO) play the game in “Ouija”, a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board. Courtesy Universal Pictures. 

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Stuntmen Turned Directors Light Up Screen With John Wick http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/stuntmen-turned-directors-light-up-screen-with-john-wick/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/stuntmen-turned-directors-light-up-screen-with-john-wick/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:30:53 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12548 So you’ve got a protagonist named John Wick who’s a widower with a puppy. The puppy’s named Daisy. Daisy’s pretty much all this guy has and cares about in this world, a gift from his late wife. John Wick’s a retired ... Read More

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So you’ve got a protagonist named John Wick who’s a widower with a puppy. The puppy’s named Daisy. Daisy’s pretty much all this guy has and cares about in this world, a gift from his late wife. John Wick’s a retired freelance consultant living quietly and sadly, just he and Daisy all alone.

One day John goes to buy some gas. He’s got a sweet ride, a 1969 Boss Mustang. He’s minding his own business, filling her up, when a weirdo asks him “how much?” John’s a bit confused until he realizes this creep (Game of Thrones Alfie Allen) is asking about the car. John tells him it’s not for sale and is just about to go his un-merry way, but the creep’s got a goon. Now the goon leans into John’s car window and tells him to have a really nice day in a thick, Eastern European accent. We all know Eastern European accents in movies are only given to bad guys. And musical prodigies.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and his puppy Daisy. Courtesy Lionsgate

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and his puppy Daisy. Courtesy Lionsgate

So the creep and his goon eventually break into John’s house, beat him unconscious, and kill Daisy. Also they steal the car. The thing is, John is played by Keanu Reeves, and the freelance consultancy job he had retired from was more like freelance assassinations. In fact, John Wick was the most feared, brutal assassin in the whole of the New York underworld. And now he’s pissed.

There’s your set-up for John Wick, and for a certain segment of the population (which includes us), seeing Keanu Reeves in action mode is a joy, no less in a subversive, wild story that’s filled with great actors (Ian McShane, Willem DeFoe, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo) and staged and shot by two stunt legends. John Wick has Reeves working with his stunt double from his Matrix days, Chad Stahelski, a giant in the stunt world who here is credited as the director of the film (his partner, another David Leitch, helped direct the film as well but was given a producer credit by the DGA.) Stahelski and Leitch have made a hell of a career for themselves, including founding 87Eleven, which uses the their 20 plus years of stunt industry experience to help filmmakers design their action. 87Eleven is one of the most elite stunt groups in the world. 87Eleven doesn’t want to get hired onto action films, they go out and create, shoot and edit their own original stunt sequences and pitch those to the director of a major action film. They’ve done this on The Bourne Legacy, The Hunger Games series, Wolverine and Jurassic World  to name a few. For John Wick, the two went a step further and co-created one of this fall’s most deliriously giddy action films.

Victor (Toby Leonard Moore, left), Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, center), and Gregori (Omer Barnea, right) in JOHN WICK. Photo Credit: David Lee

Victor (Toby Leonard Moore, left), Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, center), and Gregori (Omer Barnea, right) in JOHN WICK. Photo Credit: David Lee. Courtesy Lionsgate.

It was actually Reeves idea to contact Stahelski and Leitch, who together had become two of the most coveted second unit directors in Hollywood. Their transition from stuntmen to filmmakers, however rare it might seem, makes sense when you consider the arc of their careers leading up to founding 87Eleven. As stunt performers, they were always talking to actors about how their performance, cinematographers about the construction of the shot, and in general having a very solid sense of how all the pieces need to fit together. Then, once they founded their company and began filming and editing their own scenes, learning how to make the action more dynamic, more immediate, how to slow it down and speed it up, the progression to directing your own film is much less of a leap.

With the duo on board to direct, it wouldn’t be just Reeves’ John Wick getting all the great moves, the film is teeming with characters who fight with their own signature styles. Take Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), who uses a brutal Russian system of combat called Sambo. The directors don’t just use stunts to wow the audience, it is a part of how they build their characters. “I started stunt training in Stockholm, where I live,” Nyqvist said in the press notes. “When I came ot New York, I met the stunt group and what impressed me was they use the work to help build the character.”

Adrianne Palicki

Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) gunning for John Wick, to the tune of a $4 million bounty. Courtesy Lionsgate.

For Adrianne Palicki’s character, Ms. Perkins, she had to train for months to learn her character’s chosen martial art, which she uses in a fight sequence (without stunt doubles) with Reeves. “Chad wanted to make sure I would be willing to do my own stuff in the huge fight sequence I have with Keanu–and I was all game,” Palicki said in the press notes. “I had months of training. I had to learn jiujitsu, which she uses to take him down. It was a lot of pain that led to a lot of gain.”

The directors worked with cinematographer Jonathan Sela, developing a style that helped juxtapose the placid, widescreen shots of the early part of the film, where John is living a normal, if sad, life, with the hyper-stylized New York underworld of assassins. Using anamorphic widescreen, they were able to create larger than life panoramas. In the early scenes, that meant big, sweeping landscapes, in the assassin world, they created a sprawling, neon-lit urban netherworld.

The action itself was, of course, a priority. Eschewing the rapidly shot and edited style where every punch and kick comes in confusing fury of movement, the filmmakers relied on the skill of their actors and the expertly choreographed stunts they designed over months. “We didn’t do any of the things we normally do cinematically,” Leitch said. “There aren’t a lot of fast cuts. We didn’t use a long lens or shaky cam and there are more long takes. Because Keanu could do the stunt work himself, we didn’t have to try and hide stunt doubles.”

Peter Debruge’s review for Variety notes how well the action is staged here. “Whereas the tendency among many other helmers is to jostle the camera and cut frenetically in the misguided belief that visual confusion generates excitement, the duo understand what a thrill well-choreographed action can be when we’re actually able to make out what’s happening.”

For Reeves himself, Stahelski and Leitch worked with the actor to develop a hybrid fighting style that involves martial arts and gun work, working with 87eleven’s top stunt coordinators. It’s something not seen on film before, and it’s called ‘gun fu.’ In order to pull this off, Reeves had to train for four months, learning judo and jiujitsu. “We wanted to use practical grappling martial arts and mix in guns, so we created a new style of close-quarter combat,” Stahelski says.

You know you’re in trouble when Keanu Reeves is wearing all black.

He's baaaaack. Courtesy Lionsgate.

Keanu Reeves, back in black. Courtesy Lionsgate.

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