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KILL YOUR DARLINGS

Noir Goes Nouvelle
With the cast assembled, the script locked and the financing in place, the KILL YOUR DARLINGS team was left with the formidable task of shooting a New York period piece on a limited budget and schedule. To start the process, Krokidas lifted a technique from an Oscar-winning colleague.

"I stole this from Ang Lee," shares Krokidas. "In his commentary on The Ice Storm, he mentions that when putting together that film, a period piece, he created a book -- photographs from the era, contemporary styles for men and women, architecture, you name it. Basically, the book was history, a huge record of that time period so when you hire your cinematographer, your production designer, your costume designer, everyone can get inside your head and see how you took that era and interpreted it to fit the themes of the story."

Assembling the book not only provided the team with common set of references and primary source material, but also had the added bonus of cueing a unique approach to shooting style. "When I started creating this book I began looking at the culture of the times. It 's 1944. Double Indemnity won Best Picture; Gilda came out that year. It was a high point in American film noir, and I said to myself 'Wow, we've got a movie set in 1944, it's based on a murder, what if we tried to create this as a film noir?'"

But the style inquiry didn't end there. "I realized that the French took hold of film noir and it became the inspiration for Breathless, for Shoot the Piano Player, for a lot of the early films of the French New Wave, where the camera went off the tripod, and people started breaking rules. It was a much more asymmetrical, jazzy, free-form approach to filmmaking, and that echoed the movement of the characters, going from a much more staged, trapped, symmetrical place in their lives to -- as they found their collective voice -- something much more jazzy and free-form. So the one-line version that I communicated to my department heads was, let's start at film noir and slowly progress to the free feeling of the French New Wave."

Director of Photography Reed Morano (Frozen River, Little Birds) got on board immediately. "What I liked was that the movie was going to be very visually challenging," she recalls. "John already had a very specific vision of how he wanted the film to look and it was actually an excellent, cool idea of combining the style of filmmaking from two different eras that were converging at the time that this story actually happened. Once Allen Ginsberg meets Lucien Carr, his whole world opens up, his true self can come out and he can be who he really is, that's where the film takes a visual turn to New Wave cinema, hand-held cameras, free-roaming, and more romantic, naturalistic lighting."

Following visual orthodoxies of the noir style represented a new wrinkle for Morano. "All the other movies that I've done have been very naturalistic, very much based in realism. The difference in this movie," she continues, "was that it really challenged me creatively to be open to the idea of film noir, which more or less requires lighting that doesn't actually have to make sense. Some of it is motivated, but a lot of times you just have to put the light where it looks dramatic and cool and exciting. So we did a lot of that; even in the New Wave section, we still kept a little bit of that there. It basically made me get out of my comfort zone of wanting all the lighting to always be motivated. It pushed me to go a little crazy and do wild things that I never did before."

"One of the reasons I hired Reed," observes Krokidas, "is that not only had she worked on so many successful, low-budget independent films, but she has a natural instinct, a rhythm, a dance inside of her where she can anticipate where the actors are going to move, and what, emotionally, the next thing we needed to see was. Somebody says a provocative line? She knew exactly when and how to pan over to the reaction of the character who heard it. And I knew that she and I were going to have to be able to dance really fast alongside with the actors in order to capture every scene in this movie on our budget and time schedule."

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