RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS
Penny Marshall turned to longtime collaborator Miroslav Ondricek to photograph RIDING
IN CARS WITH BOYS. It is Ondricek's fourth film with Marshall, after
"Awakenings," "A League of Their Own" and "The
Preacher's Wife." Ondricek is a two-time Oscar" nominee for
"Ragtime" and "Amadeus;" he was awarded a BAFTA for
Production design was in the capable hands of Bill Groom. "Every movie has
its own obligations," says Groom. "In this particular case, our task
was to create a world that would help tell Beverly Donofrio's story."
Beverly grew up in a small, government-subsidized house that was built around
1950. "The terrible housing shortage after World War II led to these houses
being built by the thousands," notes Groom. "Two things characterized
them: a kind of bareness-a sort of efficiency and a clearing of the landscape,
and a sameness-building exactly the same house over and over. Generally they
were very uniform, sometimes exactly the same, one after another."
When Groom and Penny Marshall scouted the original location in Wallingford, it
had changed considerably. Although the houses still existed, over the years some
had added garages, bedrooms, or second stories. The roofs, paint, and siding
With Wallingford eliminated as the film's site, they began to look for a piece
of land in the New York City area large enough to build six or seven houses that
would evoke the reality of Beverly's experience in the mid-'60s. They found it
at Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey. Upsala closed about five years ago
and some of the dormitories had been torn down, leaving two-and-a-half acres of
open space-enough room for Groom to build the cul-de-sac that would become Bev's
neighborhood in the movie.
Director Penny Marshall was adamant about creating a background that would give
the audience a sense of Bev and Ray's environment-the closeness of their
neighbors, their backyards. "I wanted a neighborhood," says Marshall.
"A place where there's always people outside; there's kids to play with and
noise going on."
A cul-de-sac was the answer. "It gave us a kind of contained little
world," says Groom. "Penny took advantage of that in the staging of
the movie. "
There were four houses original to the Upsala campus that remained. "I
incorporated those houses just by changing the configuration of the doors. They
originally had one door in the center. By adding a door, we turned them into
duplexes, which were typical of the Wallingford houses. I also thought the
sameness of the houses was important."
Next, Groom turned his attention to the interiors. "For Bev and Ray's
house, I felt I had to create a space that was really too small to contain
Groom laughs and adds, "The problem was that a house that's too small to
hold Beverly's dreams is too small to shoot in. We had to figure out a way to
shoot the movie but not add so much space that it seemed wrong for the
characters and wrong for the story."
The dilemma was solved by adding six feet outside the walls to accommodate the
camera, lighting and other equipment. "The scenes in this house were always
shot with the windows open because Penny wanted to show a complete neighborhood.
You can see the outside, cars moving down the street, people going in and out of
Before he started, Groom says one of his biggest concerns was how to make a
tiny, two-bedroom house interesting on the screen for two hours. "The
solution was to provide a house in which there's enormous variety for the
camera-constantly changing angles and the ability to actually see the whole
place, the way the characters mig
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