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NURSE BETTY

About The Production (Continued)

In a departure from the predominantly interior locations of LaBute' s previous films, Nurse Betty filmed throughout Southern California. "Just about everything in Los Angeles was new to me," says LaBute. "The geography is so varied. The town and the surrounding area have an amazing ability to become what you want it to be." The production ultimately secured locations in such diverse California areas as Aqua Dolce, Bellflower, Lancaster, Palmdale, Pasadena, Signal Hill, Silverlake, Sylmar, and Venice. There were two major exceptions: the (lower) Grand Canyon, in Arizona (which LaBute visited for the first time); and Rome, in "the Europe" (to paraphrase a line from the film). Of the latter locale, LaBute enthuses, "That was extraordinarily fun. You just can't get that on the back lot."

The production team included production designer Charles Breen and costume designer Lynette Meyer, who had both recently worked with LaBute on "Your Friends & Neighbors." LaBute says, "We decided that, although the first part of our movie wouldn't be in black and white, there would be a distinctive lack of color. Even in the sets and costumes. No bright colors -- until Betty gets to Los Angeles. That's when we start to see color everywhere."

Nurse Betty found LaBute directing scenes that were "a learning experience" because actors weren't the scenes' focal point. He explains, "In the film, there's a shootout outside of a hospital: guns, special effects, an actor getting hit by a car, and seven cameras -- things I hadn't used before and was unfamiliar with."

Yet, even for the film's most physically ambitious sequences, LaBute did not overindulge himself cinematically. "I'm not a slave to the camera -- and there are those who have seen my work who will say, 'No kidding,"' laughs LaBute, adding, "The camera does move a great deal more in Nurse Betty because I knew it was appropriate for this movie. I adjusted the way I make films to fit this story, although there is still a quietude to this that I've fostered in my other films."

Another component of LaBute's work retained for the latest film was his healthy respect for the script: "I think, ultimately, the job of directors is bringing what they liked about the story to fruition: create the atmosphere, and then get out of the way and let the actors act and the words work."

LaBute envisions the set "as a courtroom. Everybody comes in hopefully ready to argue in the best way -- out of passion. That doesn't mean screaming and yelling. I approach it without an ego. If there's a way to make it better.. .whether it's (a suggestion coming from) someone on the crew or in the cast, I don't think you can rule anything out. And then you're able to put it away and go have lunch together. It's a situation that I think breeds the best kind of work."

Zellweger feels that LaBute' s approach succeeds: "It created an atmosphere where nobody was afraid to try something interesting and different. Everyone came to work and had a lot to play with. I think that's the best atmosphere to make a film in."

To lend further credibility to (and not caricature) the soap sequences, LaBute sought to closely approximate the look of a daytime serial. Actual soap cameramen were hired to operate the electronic cameras and editing equipment on the set of "A Reason to

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