Join SBIFF for an in-depth discussion in this video On location, part of 2011 SBIFF Producers' Panel: Movers and Shakers.
- View Offline
Patrick Goldstein: Alix. Winter's Bone has an unbelievably intense sense of place. I think that's one of things you really come away feeling that it's in the farthest holler of Appalachia, although you didn't shoot it in Appalachia actually. You shot in Missouri. Is that right? Alix Madigan: Well, the book was written by a gentleman named Daniel Woodrell, who lives in West Plains, Missouri. So, actually, the book and the story takes place in the Ozark region, which has the classic--the word "hillbilly" comes from there, the hill people.
And the sort of the culture has had a long history of moonshine and then going into marijuana growing, and then now it's been prolific meth makers. Basically, the way we got access to this community, which is a very isolated and in insulated areas, a cousin from--and this gentlemen has been profiled actually in The Envelope, I believe--a cousin from the Missouri Film Commission is a man named Richard Myer, who is a self- described hillbilly, and he lives in that area, and he introduced us to the Lacen family on whose land we shot.
They also served as extras, but most of the homes were the Lacen family homes. We obviously didn't do that much set decoration, and the little girl in the movie, the tiny, little girl--8-year-old Ashlee--lives in the house we shot in, and she is there now. Patrick: So I--because I was going to ask, because there are a lot of locals that you were able to use in smaller parts and extras and-- Alix: There were. We had a great casting associate in Missouri, and most of the--I mean there was, you know, obviously like some--Garret Dillahunt who played the sheriff, Tate Taylor, who played the bondsman who now is directing The Help, which will be obviously a big movie.
And those are all professional actors. The most interesting casting choice I thought was Sergeant Schalk, who is actually an army recruiter. And he, I think it was six months ago, he finished being--he retired from being an army recruiter, and he was asked "Do you want to act?" and he said no, and he is now a farmer in outside of Kansas City. Patrick: Did you have to win over the locals and get a sense of trust from them or--how do you kind of walk into a place and not be thought of as the traditional Hollywood outsider? Alix: Well, that's Debra.
She is really amazing. Patrick: Your film director. Alix Yeah, the director. I mean she is--Debra, and her collaborator, Anne Rosellini, they never wanted to feel like dropped into the community. So it was, I mean it didn't have the long gestation period that Blue Valentine did, but there were three years of visits and immersing themselves into that community, and when they were writing the script especially. And the thing is is also, we gave the book to everybody so that they knew what the story was about before we started filming.
Patrick: The sense of place is very strong, again, in a lot of our other films. Todd, I know you shot a lot of The Fighter in Lowell, Massachusetts. Todd Lieberman: Pretty much the whole thing, yeah. Patrick: So I am curious what the local population thought of this movie, because as you see in the film, there had already been an HBO documentary some years before capturing Dicky's crackhead experiences. So I would assume they would have been a little wary about another film coming in, to how the community would be portrayed.
Todd: Yeah, I mean we talked a lot with a lot of them. A lot of them are actually in the movie, and it was important to them, to the town, to the family, and everybody, to be understood, and they are amazing people. And this is--it's a story of underdogs. And this town kind of had gotten knocked down and had been knocked down for many years, and certainly because of that documentary. They realized that this was an opportunity to kind of bring themselves back up. So, we had lots and lots of the locals, not only in the movie, but they were continually visiting the set.
I remember one day our line producer came up to me, and he said, "Todd, I am budgeted to feed about 250 people a day for the crew, and we have got 400 people coming in," because everybody was coming. I mean, the entire town was always there. We had the family; we had Mickey; we had Dickey; we had friends; they would bring entourages. And it was like-- basically Lowell was our backlot. So as you were talking before about, how do you get a sense of time and place in a period movie, our movie takes places in the '90s. I mean Lowell pretty much looks exactly as it did then.
So we didn't have to spend really much of anything on set decoration, but the town very much embraced us, and they loved us being there. Obviously, it's a very sensitive subject matter for them, and they take--they are very prideful people. And to show them the movie, it was an interesting and kind of tricky experience. And we showed it to Mickey and Dickey first, and once Mickey saw it, he completely understood it and really appreciated and loved the movie.
Dickey had a little bit of a harder time because he is looking at himself on screen and he is realizing this is the life he led and these are the things he has done, and yet at the same time he understands that the redemption that he's faced, that he has come to. So we said, "Just watch it. Watch the movie in an audience. Come with us and see the movie in front of 500 people." And he did that again, and when he watched it with 500 people and he saw everybody cheering, clapping, crying, he had completely understood that the life he had led, everything he had done is able to now help lots and lots of other people realize potentially some of their problems.
So, the town very much embraced us and still to this day does. They keep in touch with all of us. Patrick: And let me bring some of the rest of you into this. Well, Darla, you know, even though it's invented in the computer, I would argue Toy Story 3 has a really distinct sense of place. And what are the decisions and debates that go on when you are trying to think of creating those environments-- the houses and schoolyards, the daycare center--in terms of what they look like, what the feel should be? How do you know it? Do you only know it when you see it, or is it based on earlier experiments? Darla K. Anderson: Well, we had Toy Story and Toy Story 2 as the basis, and so we really wanted to be true to those films but still use all of our new technology, because we knew that when we were making Toy Story that it would quickly get outdated.
And you know, back then I think at that point in time when Toy Story came out, there had only been maybe seven minutes total, in any other film, of contiguous computer animation, and Toy Story was 75 minutes. And so there is no coincidence that we made our main characters out of plastic toys because that was way easier for the computer to compute. So, we had this design language that we had set up back then, and we wanted--and Toy Story, even though it's outdated, it's still so beloved and everybody is so familiar with it.
So we had to figure out how to get the DNA of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 firmly embedded in Toy Story 3 but now access 15 years worth of technology that made Wall-E and Nemo and Up and all of these gorgeous, gorgeous films. And so we spent a really long time studying our old stuff and imbuing all of the technology to it. Patrick: So, like, Mike, Social Network, I am assuming Harvard didn't give themselves over to you to shoot.
Where did you guys go? It looked pretty preppy, but where was it? Mike De Luca: Johns Hopkins and I think a little bit Boston, BU. Patrick: And why John Hopkins? Mike: The challenge was to find locations that could pass for Harvard, even if you were trying to get it by someone who had been to Harvard. They just happened to have kind of more of an aesthetic match than other schools. Patrick: Iain? That wonderful period London? Iain Canning: Yeah, Buckingham Palace wasn't Buckingham Palace. That would've been good.
We shot it in London, which was rare for Tom Hooper, the director. I think he'd recreated London in five different countries, but not London, so it was quite nice, too. In fact, I think our base was sort of 100 meters from his house.
Moderated by Patrick Goldstein from the Los Angeles Times, these six producers cover many topics not often discussed in the entertainment press. The struggle to get a picture funded, ratings battles with Motion Picture Association of America, where the lines are drawn making a dramatic film based on a real life event, and working with a difficult director. They offer amazing stories of perseverance and triumph.
This panel includes Darla K. Anderson (Toy Story 3), Iain Canning (The King’s Speech), Alix Madigan (Winter’s Bone), Todd Lieberman (The Fighter), Mike Deluca (The Social Network), and Jamie Patricof (Blue Valentine).