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
"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
"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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