About The Production (Continued)
Music is another key element which Gray relied on in the making of THE YARDS. He explains, "Stanislavsky once said that music is the only direct way to the heart, and that sometimes that which you cannot put in words in terms of direction, you can play in a piece of music. So, a lot of times I try to use that as a tool." Continuing on the subject, Gray explains that music has helped to evoke an operatic quality he was looking to express in the film, "I can't write without listening to pieces of music. When writing this film, I started to think about it in operatic terms. And then I became fanatical about opera and I started to get everything, like anything by Verdi and Puccini because it's so emotional and so intense." States producer Paul Webster, "James is always talking about references to paintings and music. When he
writes a script, he usually gives you the music first and the script later. The music for him is as important as any one element, and kind of drives his writing images."
Filming of THE YARDS took place in and around the New York area, with portions shot on actual subway lines and industrial repair plants. Queens served as the central location for shooting, although locations were also used in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Roosevelt Island and New Jersey. "I set the story in Queens because I felt I know the neighborhood," explains Gray. "I felt that if I know Queens, then I have a head start on setting up this sort of world and atmosphere in an accurate way because the devil is in the details."
In order to depict those details precisely, it was important for the members of THE YARDS production team to be familiar with the environment which Gray and Reeves had written about. For cinematographer Harris Savides, production designer Kevin Thompson and costume designer Michael Clancy, the pre-production stage was a crucial time in which they were able to create accurate settings and costumes for the characters. Savides explains, "James had a particular vision for the film. So, he and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and looked at some of the George Delatour paintings. In those paintings there's a certain quality of candlelight, of people's faces being lit with this warm light. We wanted to translate that quality into our lighting scheme in the film. We used a lot of single source lighting and a very soft-top light. And we wanted the colors to be verx' subtle and subdued. Along with Kevin Thompson, we chose colors that were verx' muted." Thompson explains, "It's a matter of understanding from a filmmaker's point of view what that location means in terms of the entire movie. We had a very luxurious prep period of talking, scouting, watching movies and discussing a language in which we could all speak and define so that once we started filming, we could be in sync." Thompson further explains that sets were designed to recreate a rich, authentic look, such as Val Handler's apartment, which is filled with memories from the past. It is that "layering of time," as
Thompson describes it, that conveys depth in the lives of the characters. Clancy adds, "On this project in particular, Kevin Thompson and I worked very closely together, because the film is very controlled color-wise from the design point of view. We had also shared the experience of working with James Gray on 'Little Odessa' and had an understanding as to where he was coming from."
Clancy continues to explain how the characters' appearances evolved. "In terms of costuming Charlize's character Erica, when you read the script she kind of appears to be a regular 'Queens girl,' but in the process of coming up with the design of the movie, we moved away from that a little bit and made her more like a 'rocker.' For Mark's character Leo, his clothes project a 'good guy' image because he is someone who wants to stay on the straight and narro
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