Monday, March 1, 2010

Unsung Heroes of Production Design

To Rest in Peace is unofficially picture locked, awaiting a thumbs up from its faculty mentor, Amanda Pope. This is a good time to reflect on some of the great work that never made it into the final cut.

Films often have to cut out lines, scenes, or even entire characters. (Compare the director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven to the theatrical release, which is missing a key character in the story). Fortunately, To Rest in Peace has not lost any scenes or characters. But there's a lot of great production design that won't make it onto the screen.

My personal favourite is the 'emergency room' sign in the hospital scene, pictured above. The art department did an amazing job of transforming a drab Santa Clarita set, into a Kuwaiti hospital. At a test screening in Kuwait, several people in the audience were convinced that we filmed at a local hospital. Thanks to Katie Byron the production designer, Henry Alvarado the art director, Rebecca Eskreis the set dresser, and the art PAs Julianne Dome, Cynthia Fox, Monica Sender and Stephanie Wooten.

The scene ended up playing best in one continuous steadicam shot, beautifully operated by David Baldwin. But the shot never looks in that direction. So, dear 'emergency room' sign, we'll miss you.

There was a lot of great work by the art department that never made it into the final cut, or even into the dailies. But what it did was completely free us to shoot in any direction we needed. We were standing in the spaces of our imagined world, and every detail around us was true to the characters and the story.

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