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Production Begins In Savannah

Armed with a venerable cast, a top-notch director, and boasting evocative locations ideally suited for Raimi's eerie style, The Gift began principal photography during a warm, sunny February in 2000.

The entire production was based in historic Savannah, Georgia, founded by colonist James Oglethorpe in 1732. Savannah and its neighboring communities-Rincon (population 600) and Thunderbolt (where, appropriately, special effects created a storm)-provided the setting for the fictional Brixton, although there is no direct reference to Savannah in the film.

For 43 days, the company filmed in town and around the friendly "Slow-vannah," as it came to be known, for it's pleasant and laid-back ambience. As in The Gift, below the surface of the picturesque southern city, rumblings of discontent abounded. Savannah and its haunted history, including rumors of voodoo and sightings of ghosts, seemed an appropriate location considering the film's supernatural underpinnings. Even the house Sam Raimi stayed in was alleged to be haunted.

Savannah itself was a key visual ingredient to the film. "Sam Raimi loved the trees and everything around (Savannah). It enhanced his ability to make the movie scary," says producer James Jacks.

"Savannah has these incredible oak trees, gnarled and twisted, that tell the audience that perhaps another world exists, some supernatural force," explains Raimi. "They tell us that life is more mysterious than perhaps we perceive it to be. That is also what Cate Blanchett's character is capable of; a perception of reality beyond our own."

Raimi also espoused a unique approach to filmmaking that was universally embraced by cast and crew. "Sam really investigates the emotions and the psychology and figures out what the characters are feeling," comments Keanu Reeves. "And then he puts the cameras around to film it, as opposed to him imposing ideas about where he wants to put the camera."

Hilary Swank adds that Raimi provided clarity for her second feature film effort. "Sam, I think, is the epitome of an actor's director. I've heard people use that term before, and I never knew what it meant until I worked with him. His vision is very clear and he helps you incorporate his vision and your vision to make this larger piece of art."

"He is a true collaborator. I love Sam. Hopefully, some of his big-heartedness has worn off in my portrayal of Annie," says Cate Blanchett.

Like Raimi, director of photography Jamie Anderson drew inspiration from Savannah's natural charms. "In one scene, Annie walks into the back yard where a huge tree is growing and has a vision associated with that tree. What became immediately apparent in Savannah was the number of incredibly beautiful trees there were, from huge live oaks dripping with Spanish moss to spooky cypress trees along the rivers."

Anderson and Raimi incorporated these trees into their larger vision for the film. "The trees became a thread throughout the film, linking scenes together and serving as a presence throughout," says Anderson. "They proved to be a perfect symbol of the acceptance of death and the reaffirmation of life; a theme Sam saw running through this wonderful story."

Production designer Neil Spisak was also inspired by Savannah's grand old maple and willow trees. Both District Attorney David Duncan's house and the country club were chosen in part for the trees that surround them. The locations were elegant but not grandiose. "At Duncan's house, i

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