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Another way to keep Traffic feeling to audiences as though it were happening in front of them was to take the production to locales where the film's stories take place. The film began production in April with four weeks of shooting in San Diego. The company then hit the road, traveling to the border town of Nogales, Mexico; a desert airstrip in Las Cruces, New Mexico; EPIC headquarters in El Paso, Texas; government buildings in Columbus, Ohio and a variety of neighborhoods in Cincinnati, Ohio; a Georgetown mansion and The White House in Washington, D.C.; and, finally, Los Angeles.

"Shooting on practical locations is part and parcel with trying to create the feeling for the audience that it is happening in front of them," relates Soderbergh. "There are things that can go wrong, but more often than not you get things that you wouldn't if you were filming on a stage or trying to fake the location. We had a couple of intensive days in the desert and in the West End of Cincinnati, and I feel it was worth it. You can't buy that, you have to go and get it. Part of the appeal of Traffic is the contrast between the different worlds that each character inhabits.

"For me, the most fun on any movie is when something unanticipated happens that's better than what you imagined. That's what you live for, and if you get a couple of those days, then you're living right. You try and create an environment in which those things can happen. It means having your antennae up all the time."

Helping Soderbergh to create that environment, from pre-production on, were Traffic production designer Philip Messina (previously Soderbergh's production designer on "Erin Brockovich" and art director on "Out of Sight") and costume designer Louise Frogley (previously Soderbergh's costume designer on "The Limey").

Messina and location manager Ken Lavet scoured the United States in order to come up with the many locations for the film. In all, the production filmed at over 100 locations. Messina's prior collaborations with Soderbergh had shot, respectively, almost entirely on practical locations ("Erin Brockovich") and filmed in four distinct cities ("Out of Sight").

"Phil Messina is one of the least dogmatic designers I've ever met," says Soderbergh. "He absolutely puts the movie first. He wants everything to look right, but he also knows what it is I have to deal with and he knows the practical limitations of shooting on location. It means that sometimes you have to make certain compromises. He understands that there are often very simple and elegant ways to turn something from the ordinary into above-the-ordinary. If I come in and say, 'This set is basically right but it's missing a little something,' then when I come back he'll have done exactly what was needed. A real testament to Phil's work is that, after he's redone a practical location, the owners have decided to leave it the way he did it. That actually happens a lot, so he must be doing something right!"

Messina feels, "Basically, my job is to give the director what he wants. You create a situation where he can focus on the things he wants to focus on. We knew that Steven wanted to approach this film in a non-conventional way and also that we were going to move fast, which presented challenges.

"Because the film was so location-driven, there was a lot of room for serendipity. Personally, I took a different creative approach and tried to open myself up to the possibilities that were being presented where we were, because that's the way Steven was approaching Traffic. He would arrive at the set and select his shot from the conditions that are presented to him. I tried to take the same approach to the way I designed the sets, and found it very liberating. It was different from the way I usually work and the way you're trained to work as an art director and production designer. It was extremely complex — and a lot o


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