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MISS CONGENIALITY

Behind The Scenes

To research beauty pageants Marc Lawrence "read a lot of magazines, watched three or four different pageants and attended the Miss U.S.A. Pageant in Branson. Missouri. I wasn't aware of the logistics or the mechanics," explains Lawrence. "But beyond that, to some extent, it is exactly the way you think it is. Pageants give a lot of girls from small towns a chance to get to a place they ordinarily would not have gotten to. The Miss America pageant for example is a scholarship program where the emphasis is much more about furthering your education and having a political platform; more importance is placed on the interview than how you look in your swimsuit. I think this came about as a reaction to the seventies when pageants received a lot of criticism."

Although a lot of the film takes place during the pageant, the filmmakers see it as a backdrop to the story rather than the subject. Petrie explains, "what's interesting in this film is seeing the pageant through Gracie's eyes, somebody who's never been on stage, never been a beauty queen and is only there to stop a terrorist. It's much more the behind-the-scenes."

Veteran production designer Peter Larkin was drawn to the film specifically for the pageant scenes. "The interesting angle about the pageant scenes is that you've got three sets at once," explains Larkin. "One set contains the audience presumably watching the pageant scenes. Another is of a crew filming the television show that's being seen at home and finally you have the actual scene itself being performed on stage. We had to film all those events. It was a very interesting logistical problem."

Computer/video supervisor Todd Marks, who had previously teamed up with Sandra Bullock on "The Net," was in charge of coordinating the video elements for these three sets. Marks explains, "We created the video to look as though it were an authentic broadcast of a pageant. We had to make sure that the event looked realistic from every perspective, whether you were an audience member at the pageant, a contestant backstage, or watching it from your TV at home. The video equipment and crew were seen by the film cameras, so we were used as a prop, a set piece and a creation machine. We recorded everything and edited furiously around the clock so that two days after filming the pageant we were able to create and film a broadcast control booth which featured multiple video images being cut "Live" by the "TV" director. This was a true test of everyone's technical and physical abilities, but we pulled through and quite successfully, I might add!"

The central theme of the pageant is the Statue of Liberty. "What interested me was the idea of producing a Statue of Liberty that wasn't true to form," says Larkin. "I wanted a Statue of Liberty that would more resemble the kind you would buy in the store. So I stylized it in the form of folded paper, like a piece of origami paper," explains Larkin. For the contestants in the pageant, Larkin came up with an incredible grand entrance. "I discussed with Sandra the idea of having the contestants make their entrance onto the stage as the Statue of Liberty's skirt rises. Sandra liked it a lot. It's a traditional idea along the same lines as The Nutcracker,' where as the skirts open up, the children run out onto the stage. I thought coupled with the beauty pageant, it would be a interesting way to introduce the girls."

As the lighting was vital to the look of the sets, Peter Larkin worked very closely with director of photography. Laszlo Kovacs and lighting consultant, John Tedesco. "We were trying to find many different looks; the look of the opening; the swimsuit pageant; the evening gown competition and the finale," says Larkin. "Utilizing a huge video projection screen, we were able to film the contestants in the foreground of the frame and then on

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