By the summer of 2011 the script was ready, the cast was lined up and the financing was in
place. It became clear however that there would be some unusual scheduling challenges. Danny Boyle was already committed to directing the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games in July 2012
-- a massive undertaking that would require his exclusive attention through the first half of 2012. So
Boyle went out on a limb: shooting TRANCE in the autumn of 2011, knowing full well he could not
complete the editing, music scoring and post-production until after the Games.
Producer Colson notes: "We could have just waited and shot the movie after the Olympics.
But when you're ready, you're ready: We had our script, we had our cast and we had our money and
when everything is lined up like that you'd be mad to turn a green light into an amber one. It's a risk
creatively because normally you want the creative momentum that you generate through the shoot to
carry straight into the editing. But it worked really well for us and splitting the shoot and the edit gave
us a perspective on the story that we'd never normally get and probably never get again."
Principal photography commenced in September 2011 based at Three Mills Studios and at
various locations in London, re-uniting Boyle with many of his key creative collaborators from
previous films. The intent for all of them was to subtly reveal that that world of TRANCE is not quite
what the eye might at first believe, and to bring the audience inside the fluctuating, unstable fabric of a
mind moving into and out of a hypnotic trance.
Helping to create the distinctive look and feel of the film was Boyle's long-time collaborator
and Oscar-winning director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle. "This is number six for me with
Danny," says the cinematographer. "So we have a method. There are usually a few key words,
emotions or points that we discuss before shooting begins. 127 HOURS for example was all about the
dust and dryness and putting you in the prison that James Franco was in. SLUMDOG on the other hand
was all about running! This is no different in that sense. We had to get into this 'trance' idea, but we
didn't want to over explain or be over explicit about what trance is or means because we wanted the
film to develop the definition."
Both Dod Mantle and production designer Mark Tildesley brought the director a broad
selection of options and ideas in order to play with audience perception. "We shot a lot through glass or
bended Perspex, so that just the first couple of images are slightly strange," Tildesley explains. "It's a
tricky thing to do subtly, but we wanted the audience to see the real world as just slightly warped or
twisted or strange, but in a way that's not broadcasting that there's something going on."
He continues: "Danny wanted to have a lot of fun with it, make it snappy and play with the
audience not being totally sure whether they are viewing someone's mind in a trance-like state or not.
He also wanted to avoid it being just a London-based film. We headed east away from Central London,
from Canary Wharf towards Tilbury Docks. There's a lot of unused territory down there that has not
really been seen on film. Anything that was mainstream or boring, we just walked away from."
The idea was to carefully peel back layers of reality from every location. "He throws things
upside down," Tildesley says of Boyle's visual sense. "You'll think you're going in one direction with
something and he'll just twist the idea completely."
This was especially true of Elizabeth's Harley Street office, smack in the middle of the London
area long renown for its posh medical offices, yet ever-so-slightly off kilter. "Elizabeth's world seems
very classically Harley Street," says Tildesley. "So you know she's doing very well, and it's not just
some two-bit operation. She's high end but her place is unusual because there are no photos of anyone
nor relationships or friendships. There's something slightly weird about her, a bit David Lynch-esque.
Danny wanted us to really push out to find a stylish way of representing Elizabeth. So we've got this
Perspex corridor of yellow, which is extraordinary. Interestingly, although it is regarded as a symbol of
nobility and virtue in Asia, in the West yellow is also perceived as representing betrayal and duplicity."
Producer Christian Colson says: "Mark Tildesley just did a fabulous job lending a very moody,
noirish feel to this city in which bad things happen. Obviously Anthony's lighting is crucial to creating
that too, so it's everybody coming together to create not just a look, but also an atmosphere."
That atmosphere was further enhanced by the costume work of Suttirat Larlarb, another
frequent collaborator with Boyle. She was especially drawn to helping to create Elizabeth Lamb's
complicated persona. "It's a very male world, so with Elizabeth as the only woman essentially in the
story, that whole male/female dynamic is very interesting. TRANCE offers a different way of looking
at a woman in control. Character-wise, that was a challenge. We didn't want her to vamp her way
through the film. We didn't want to paint her with a brush that made her any kind of cliche. I actually
did quite a bit of research into what would put a potential client at ease to open themselves up to this
therapy. Her clothing had to feel completely unobtrusive and neutral."
But that was not so simple with Rosario Dawson. "She is a bombshell," Larlarb notes. "So it
was a challenge to de-glamorize her to the degree that you could believe that the characters could
accept her expertise and not fall under her spell."
Larlarb also took a markedly different approach to the two men who have such different
perspectives on Elizabeth. "Vincent's character, Franck, is French and very sophisticated, the kind of
man who would find a shirt he liked and have half a dozen made in the same exact fabric," she explains.
"It was fun finding those elemental pieces for him that we then mixed and matched for the whole film.
Simon, on the other hand, dresses like someone who wants to be recognized as more important. There
is an aspirational feel to his wardrobe."
For Larlarb the costumes for a Danny Boyle film can't be separated from the photography,
design, performances and even music, which she says work together to bring the audience into a
singular atmosphere. "What we all try to do is reflect Danny's vision," Larlarb concludes. "The energy and the highly visual nature of his film come from the interplay of everything together, rather than just
a fashion show of cool clothes. It's the way the design works with the music, the pace, the editing and
everything that makes it all come together."
Editor Jon Harris, who earned an Oscar nomination for 127 HOURS, helped to weave all the
film's strands into the final puzzle. He says of his collaboration with Boyle: "He likes to be surprised
by my interpretation. He doesn't like to be what he calls interventionist.' He'll come once a week
during principal photography to keep progress on the shape of the edit but it's not until the end of the
shoot when we actually sit down and watch the whole thing together. From then on, we watch the film
twice a week and have long discussions about it."
With three powerful characters battling to pull the audience in any direction at any moment,
Harris had to carve out a tricky balance. "It's like the ingredients for a cake," he says. "One key
ingredient left out and the whole thing will go flat. So, in our approach to the fluctuation between what
is deemed reality and when the audience is perhaps within the trance was to have a number of different
versions -- some clearly differentiated and some more ambiguous. It became a back-and-forth process
of playing with the ingredients that keep the audience guessing."
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