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One Production, Two Movies
A multi-national crew created Forks, Washington primarily in two major locations: in and around Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, as well as in Vancouver and Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. Shooting both movies at one time posed challenges, but shooting the series finale battle, was a battle on its own. "There's heavier peril involved as the Volturi start to gather momentum and move from Italy to Forks. That build up is going to generate a lot of excitement leading up to the confrontation," says co-producer Bill Bannerman.

Approaching the project as a whole, filmmakers had 20 weeks of prep time, about five months to find locations, build sets, create props, find set dressing, and prepare costumes, wigs, makeup, and hand painted contact lens for the largest cast of the saga for both films. Veterans Bannerman and first assistant director Justin Muller had to organize shooting to accommodate multiple actors' commitments to publicity opportunities and other projects. "I thought Dreamgirls was a marathon with about a three month shooting schedule, so doing this 222 page script for over half a year - at the beginning did seem a little overwhelming," reveals Condon.

Condon was thrilled to have the technical brilliance, as well as the heart and soul, of celebrated director of photography Guillermo Navarro with him for both the epic and intimate moments of the cinematic journey. "When I had my first meeting with Guillermo, at least on my side, it was instant love. He's just an incredibly compelling personality and a great artist. His description of what he wanted to achieve was interesting right from the start," says Condon. "Guillermo's also got a great eye and a great sense of how to use the camera to get inside what a character is feeling, which was crucial."

Taking their cues from the descriptions in Meyer's book, production designer Richard Sherman and costume designer Michael Wilkinson were key collaborators in helping director Bill Condon conceive the look of the film. "Richard is somebody I have worked with since I started making movies. He seemed really right for this because of his fascination with all things Gothic, and especially vampires," comments Condon.

"The great thing about Bill is that he knows exactly what he wants, but he's malleable," comments production designer Richard Sherman. "If you go to him with a great idea and he likes it, he'll go with it. He's not stubborn. He trusts his crew, which is very, very important. I always have fun with him."

"What really attracted me to this film primarily was this wonderful, dramatic sense of transformation and empowerment for Bella, which must be reflected in her clothes," says costume designer Michael Wilkinson. "Her journey in these two films is really breathtaking. She starts as a young woman in a small town, and end as the most powerful vampire in the world. In the two films, Bella has about 60 costume changes."

"Michael has that perfect combination of talents," continues Condon. "He is a great comfort to me, having worked on big design movies - fantasies like 300 and Tron: Legacy - that feature huge casts of distinct characters. But also, he's done realistic movies, and he really knew how to dress Bella. In these movies, we are taking these kids and bringing them into adult life. Kristen starts in a hoodie, but she becomes a young married woman, who then becomes a strong vampire. I thought Michael has a real sensitivity to how to visually take these characters into their 20s. In this second movie, all these characters from across the globe - Amazon, Russia, Egypt, and everywhere - all gather at one point, and you have to make them make sense together in a frame, and Michael was really brilliant at that."

"It was really important for Bill and I that there was a sense of believable to all of them, and yet at the same time they had to be very striking, appealing, memorable, and iconic in the look of these covens and individuals. For each nationality, we tried to really give them a very well defined flavo," Wilkinson comments.

Godfrey adds, "Michael has a great mix between the real and the fantasy - look at his work in Watchmen - and given that we're finally getting out of the human world of Forks and creating all of these new vampire characters, it needed to be pushed into a bigger reality." "Like for the battle in Eclipse, we had wilderness venue with two opposing sides and two units gathering footage," says Bannerman. "On Eclipse, we had 13 days between the two units with the Cullens, newborns, and wolves. Fast forward to Breaking Dawn, we now have 30 days between the two units, but we need to cover about 30 pages of dialogue and subsequent action with the Cullen Coven, the Cullen allies, the wolves, the Volturi, the Volturi Guard, and the Volturi witnesses. The number of people involved on screen actually tripled and the CG wolves has doubled to 16. Everything is ramped up tenfold. You're talking at least a bare minimum of six to seven weeks of shooting in Baton Rouge alone, just for the battle."

The exteriors of the penultimate battle would be shot in wilderness areas in Canada, but for the intense dialogue and intricate stunt work between many actors, filmmakers needed a more practical private space, secure from fans and paparazzi. "Where are we going to shoot all this efficiently, controlling as many variables - including weather - as we can? We had no choice but to choose a pragmatic location, instead of dealing with trying to transport more than 500 people and everything up mountainous terrain," reasons Bannerman.

To handle all the requirements, filmmakers selected the Southern University Agriculture Center Livestock Arena to be the home of the battle. "We were outside of Baton Rouge in a giant space where normally cows are running around, but now there are humans," laughs Godfrey. "We've created a virtual space of a snow-covered field. It's the culmination of five films, where the chess game with Aro comes to a head and the fight breaks out."

"Shooting there turned out to be the most grueling part of the shoot for everybody involved, especially the actors. But we always kept reminding ourselves, that bad as it was, it could've been so much worse if we'd been outside in the real snow for months," laughs Condon. Condon adds, "We got into the scene very early in the shoot, before Christmas of 2010, and it was odd because the scene wouldn't actually be in theaters until almost two years later. We had limited shooting time, and it was such a big scene, that we had stage it like a play first. We took an entire day just to block the scene, playing it through beat by beat by beat with the actors. That rehearsal turned out to be invaluable, because so much of it was abstract. I've never been involved with anything that was so logistically complicated."

Complicated stunts played out in the space. "Jeff Imada is the fight coordinator that we brought to Louisiana for the battle," states Godfrey. "He's incredibly well experienced, having done the Bourne movies. He is also very disciplined and very good with the actors. His work elevates the action from the previous films."

Battling vampires have more strength and speed than humans. "A lot of times we decide what's adequate for flying the actors, what looks natural to the body, the body mechanics and what you're trying to achieve," explains Imada. "When it's bigger than life, many times you go to pneumatics and bring in ratchets. But if you want a more natural look, covering a long distance, then we would use the winches."

Right before the action explodes, Alice arrives on the field to show Aro his destiny. "Alice comes backs to really kick butt," says Ashley Greene. "Because she can see the future, she has an advantage. We had a really fun time creating the fight sequence; Alice is dangerous and ferocious inside the vision, where some of my family members are lost, including Jasper. Alice goes a little crazy. I definitely commit. I like to be able to do my own stunts. If I know there's a stunt sequence, I'm the gym training and working with stunt trainers to make sure I'm up to the task. I have a martial arts background, so whatever they'll let me do, I'll do. "

Her on-screen mate Jackson Rathbone also enjoyed the stunts. "I never really imagined myself to be an action guy, but man I love it," he says. "I have a history in Taekwondo, and now I get to learn a little Kung Fu and fighting for camera. It's going to be really exciting on screen and I get to work very closely with Jeff Imada and his crew. It's so much fun as the stunt guys and women are just the salt of the earth. They're incredible performers so to have them train me is just great. A lot of us worked six days a week, rolling back and forth between main unit and second unit, so that's a lot of fighting."

Pattinson adds, "It suddenly turned into an action movie at the end. I did a few stunts, like the one where I did a jump on a wire, which was pretty fun. I also did lots of general fighting and ripping people's heads off."

Inside the gated grounds of the agricultural center, filmmakers created a "vamp camp" to support the battle. Godfrey says, "Up to 100 vampire actors - principals, background witnesses, and stunt people - were going through the works every day, a process that takes one to three hours for each individual vampire."

"How do you bring to the table that 100 people and get them all on set in the morning so that Bill Condon can shoot master wide shots? You can't work with all trailers at this volume," asks Bannerman. "We had to accommodate vampire makeup, hair, wigs, contacts, costumes, props, jewelry, catering, crew support, security, and all the other subsequent issues. Where do all our background performers put their phones? For security reasons, they're not allowed to bring cell phones onto the set and no one was allowed to take pictures. In addition to the 32 trailers, we created a tent city of support to cater to all these needs. It takes up a lot of real estate, but every day it allowed the whole family to gather and fight the battle."

"We've had up to 30 costumers on set, looking after all of the different people in the battle, plus a handful of seamstresses back at the workroom, which is a huge, cavernous space filled with racks of costumes. On set, we had two wardrobe trucks, one for principal characters, and one for secondary characters, filled to the rafters with costumes," says Wilkinson.

"One morning we arrived and it was this massive swamp, you practically had to swim to get to your trailer," adds MyAnna Buring. "Very quickly, the crew built this gangway of boards so we could get to our various trailers and tents."

Crews had to pump out all the water and build raised boardwalks to interconnecting things so the vampires could work their way through the various stations without dragging their elaborate costumes through the mud. "An aerial view of the compound looks like a Habitrail for vampires," laughs Bannerman. "But this ancillary support system keeps everybody close to the set and out of the elements."

Valorie Curry adds, "Tent city reminds me of that scene near the end of E.T. where the government comes and they're going through those plastic tunnels with him and everything is this biohazard insulated environment. It's like being on a spaceship. There are days when I'm sitting in my trailer and we get a sudden downpour, and I feel like I'm in my own little submarine. There are the days that you get here before dawn, and you leave after dark."

"Our base camp, sometimes feels like a sausage factory because you go to hair, you move to the next thing, you see the lens technician, you move to the next thing, and so on," comments Rami Malek.

"Tent city is massive, like a military base camp except with all very pale people walking around," laughs Noel Fisher. "I've never been on anything, anywhere even close to as big."

"The arena parking lot looked like a traveling circus, because it was trailers and tents and trucks surrounded by walls. Plus walkways heading towards this giant arena, where it really felt like a circus because everyone's walking around in all these crazy costumes, looking not human," laughs Casey LaBow.

"Road signs said things like The Emerald City, Volturi Way, Cullen Avenue, The Yellow Brick Road, and The Ninth Ward. We were there for so long, people started getting creative," LaBow adds. "You would walk down the little alleyways in between all the trailers, and there was collections of people all over the place. Three or four people playing music, Jackson Rathbone walking around with his banjalaili, and Jamie Campbell Bower rocking out to some ridiculous music with a bunch of ladies in his trailer. Like a college campus, a dorm room thing where you would walk down hallways and people's doors were open and something different was going on in each room."

Condon adds, "I remember trying to find Lee Pace at one point and I got lost between Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser's trailers. Everyone was there for so long, it became like a home away from home. We had this huge holding area tent for all the extras, and that was a factory of getting them into wardrobe and red contact lenses and it was an intense, big operation every day."

"Vamp Camp is great because the friends you make at camp, are friends you keep," comments Toni Trucks. "We're in such heightened circumstances, and away from our friends and family here in Baton Rouge, so the bonding is quick."

Buring agrees, "Vamp Camp has been an incredible experience, a bit like how I would imagine summer camp to be. It's been quite crazy, a lot of fun, with lots of pranks. I keep waiting for l parents to pick us all up and take us home."

"We're all really friends and it's a unique experience for us. We're together 24 hours a day, more or less," adds Curry. "We don't have any of our own transportation; we can't go anywhere, unless we're driven around by the grown-ups."

The experience carried over to off set time. "We've literally taken over the Hilton in Downtown Baton Rouge, you can't walk through the main lobby without running into people from the show. If you're ever lonely, just get out of the elevator," says Fisher. "We all hang out and help tape each other's auditions. It's become a little family of about 90 people."

"When you're working in New York or Los Angeles, you go home after work. This is like being on tour with a show, this becomes your world," says Lisa Howard. "I've made some really good, new friends... if you're really bored, you can always go down to the hotel bar and someone will be there."

"This big cast has a lot of new actors, and we've had a great opportunity to feed off of each other's energy, essentially living together and taking over Baton Rouge, enjoying the city, working, and playing together. It was a good social experiment with different personalities, and people in different seasons of their career, altogether."

Bill Tangradi adds, "But we have gotten a chance to really explore how to entertain each other, taking many weekend trips to New Orleans. There's a huge generosity of spirit amongst everybody and we're all aware of the caliber of this project. It's actually refreshing to see a bunch of actors be humble about the fact that they're working on something that's of this scale."

"After work, there's been some serious vampire karaoke going on... it's got to stop because my voice is getting a little sore," laughs Christian Camargo. "This is such an immersive experience, we're stuck with each other. But it is a great eccentric bunch of people. Each coven has their own distinct personality, even off camera."

Buring agrees, "The karaoke's really good. Billy discovered this fun place by the hotel. One night Mia convinced me to sing Sweet Dreams with her, claiming it was an easy song. Somehow we started choreographing dance moves together, we had the crowd going, and it became an amazing event. Casey, Rami, Billy, and Patrick showed up, so the following Wednesday we did exactly the same thing and it became a bit of a tradition."

Their off-screen hobby somehow made its way onto the set. "On the last day of filming main unit of the battle, we had an impromptu dance battle, which was originally Lee Pace's idea which then trickled down to Mia and MyAnna, and eventually trickled down to me to translate the dance into counts," explains Trucks.

"The choreography actually started the first week that we were all standing on the field. Lee started joking that Carmen may not have special vampire powers, but she does have the power of dance. Carmen's going to destroy the Volturi with her choreography," laughs Mia Maestro. "We just started playing with that idea. A few weeks into shooting that scene, we were all pretty bored and tired, so I just decided to put that together with MyAnna and Lee."

"We started choreographing it in the hair trailer and called in Toni, because she's a great dancer. She kept the count and taught the choreography to everyone else. It was the most fun thing because we had been standing for almost three weeks, almost without moving. I'd just had it, I cannot stand one more second," laughs Maestro. "I need to move, I need to do something. Carmen truly has the power of dance."

Buring adds, "We've been standing with our various covens in this huge arena, surrounded by green screen in snow and dust. The Denali coven is a lot of fun, so one day Lee said, 'Wouldn't it be funny standing here facing off with the Volturi, if we did a dance off?' Genius. We got the Cullen gang got together and learned the dance over lunchtime. After weeks of sweating away in that arena, it just broke the ice for everyone."

"A few of the boys were trepidatious about getting involved because we don't have the moves," says Malik. "But, little by little, you've got to join in, and everybody did, even Kellan and Peter. During our few rehearsals, we were trying to keep the Volturi out of the tent so they couldn't see. The best part of that flash mob was everyone could use a little release. To bring this out of nowhere, was a highlight for everybody in there working. Most of the crew didn't know about it. Bill gets off his director's chair, and starts joining in, jumping up and down."

"We chose this song by Eurhythmics that we had been karaoke-ing every Wednesday," adds Maestro. "It was a pure moment of joy and very liberating for all of us just to move."

"The Volturi were supposed to make their own dance and we saw them doing some cape-ography that never came to fruition," laughs Trucks. "The impromptu dance battle was the best day ever and I wish that we had done it sooner, because it was one of those great bonding moments for the cast and crew. Bill Condon was so surprised. The D.P. and the sound guy were totally in on it, so we have it on film."

"People had a lot of time on their hands, but it still amazes me that they were able to keep it secret," says Condon. "We were doing huge shots of the Volturi side against the Cullen side and we had the biggest, highest crane, and widest lens set up. I saw Mackenzie run out there and it made no sense for Mackenzie to be there right then, so I was wondering what was going on. Then there was this beat and the most amazing thing I've ever seen happened. The entire Cullen side started to do this dance that was unbelievably well rehearsed, funny and brilliant. The Volturi side caught on and it was this incredible dance-off that they had done as a surprise. It was touching and beautiful, and it also lifted everybody's spirits in an amazing way."

Erik Odom adds, "It was the last day of main unit on the battlefield, and everything had been pretty serious up until that point. Carlisle cued it up perfectly calling out to Aro, 'We're gonna settle this through dance.' By the time we got Bill Condon in the middle of our dance circle, and he was throwing down with us."

"The music came on and it was a surprisingly good," admits Howard. "Everybody on the sidelines was cheering and the look on Bill's face was worth all the work."

Laughs Bill Tangradi, "the dance ended up a little bit like the 'Thriller' video, with people coming together. We had Renesmee up on our shoulders dancing around. It was a really great ending to a lot of tedious work, a great moment."

"This experience has brought out the theater geek in all of us," laughs Marlane Barnes. "It was just one of those things where you figure we're at summer camp and this is the end of the week skit."

Stephenie Meyer loved the distraction, "There was still the hint of cow in the breeze, and one of benefits of being indoors was eliminated because the arena was not climate-controlled. That fluorescent green is oddly brutal and gives you headaches. For an indoor set, it was really challenging. So when we had all these happy-go-lucky vampires, who just want to dance and have a party, it made it so much easier."

A similarly secure, although smaller, base camp compound was created in Canada for filming at the Cullen house, but the only vampire dancing that broke out was at Bella and Edward's wedding.

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