About The Production (Continued)
Working with an anamorphic lens and varying angles, Steve Mason's cinematography transformed the undulating Rollerball track into a brutal, massive course. He and McTiernan wanted to capture something not seen before, something intense and as close as possible to the players, but to achieve this took some experimentation. Mason buried lipstick cameras into players' skates and placed cameras on cranes in the bleachers, jutting over the playing field and into the stands. Primarily, he and McTiernan wanted the feel of hand-held cameras, but it was a challenge to get them onto the track and into the game. They fastened a Steadicam to camera operator Mike O'Shea and strapped him to the back of a motorcycle as it spun around the track.
McTiernan adopted an unconventional shooting style during production in that he shot coverage of the games before he shot the traditional masters. In effect, he was the coach, and the cast and crew were the team. Every day, the assistant directors distributed that day's plays, i.e., the shot list to be accomplished. These plays were listed on a board that featured a hand-drawn mock-up of the track, with descriptions and simple drawings illustrating the shot. After about a month of shooting these "pieces," McTiernan treated the cast and crew to a short montage of the shots that his editor John Wright had put together. After all their hard work, they were thrilled with the results.
Mason worked closely with gaffer Mo Flam on lighting the track. Essentially, the track didn't change for the different games — the art department painted it different hues to indicate another location. The lighting underscored various aspects of the games.
"We lit the track for three different states, using low lights, spotlights and flickering lights for the pre-game atmosphere to emphasize the players' state of tension. We generally lit the track very brightly and the audience fell away to black, like a rock-and-roll show," Mason says.
In fact, Flam adds, the immense lighting rig his crew erected was modeled on rock-and- roll shows. "It was very theatrical, extravagant lighting with various color schemes," he says. "We used lighting instruments that are fairly atypical for movies, and we used a lot of them."
The track was built on the grounds of a former cement factory, which was a boon for Flam in terms of energy. "Because it was an old factory, we could use the existing power. We had 14 lighting transformers and 16,000 amps of power, which is more than any other Hollywood production I've ever worked on. It would have required 14 generators to sustain that kind of energy."
The sprawling cement factory also became home to team locker rooms, tunnels teaming with eager fans, and a decadent, Dionysian haunt known as Club Galore. This factory complex was located in
Blainville, Quebec, a bleak stretch of strip malls and car dealerships about a half hour's drive outside of Montreal. The task of transforming the compound into this strange new world fell to production designer Norman Garwood.
"In the beginning it was nerve-wracking because it was all about defining this unknown world," Garwood says. "By setting it in Kazakhstan, the game and all the money involved with it, there was a coming together of all these very different cultures. It was like Cadillacs and camels all in the same place. You've got this kind of Mafia-based power structure in the game, but the people who pay the money to come see the game are the poor. On their way to the
arean, I wanted the mass of poor people to pass these great billboards for perfume or clothes or other kinds of upscale products, stuff they could never even think of owning."
Garwood adds that some of his inspiration came from the exterior locations used for the film when they weren't shooting at the factory. These included various places in Old Montreal, a motley restored area of the city on the
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