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KILL YOUR DARLINGS

City Lights
Of course, all the energy in the world couldn't turn the clock back to 1944, and the difficulties of shooting a period piece in New York became apparent early on. "During pre-production," Krokidas notes, "you start confronting the realities of what you can see when you're doing a period film in New York City. Oh, there's a handicap access... oh, there's a stop sign... oh, there's a contemporary building right in the middle of that beautiful field that you found with '40s architecture around it." The scenic necessities of the production ultimately had a profound influence on every aspect of the shoot, even down to the film's aspect ratio. "When Reed and I were first talking about what aspect ratio to use," Krokidas goes on, "we realized shooting it 235:1, super wide-screen, would allow us, vertically, to frame out a lot of the high skyscrapers in Manhattan and focus on a much more narrower plane; it was much easier to find period details in, for example, horizontal or wide-access blocks, in which all of the buildings, the brownstones, were period accurate. But of course, if you tilted the camera just a little bit higher, you would see the contemporary New York skyline."

Production designer Stephen Carter likewise had his work cut out for him. The tight schedule and working method meant that hard choices needed to be made virtually every shooting day. "You don't have the money to create these huge, beautiful sets. You don't have the money to recreate 1944. You've got to go search hard for it within the city, to find places that evoke the time period and the color scheme."

To that end, the scouting team came up with some undiscovered gems. For the long centerpiece scene in which the characters sneak into the Columbia University library to "liberate" a selection of banned books (an episode drawn heavily from Bunn's and Krokidas' own college days), the team had hoped to shoot in the library itself. "Some things that we had hoped to shoot inside a number of the University buildings," details Carter, "were just too problematic, logistically. So, for example, the library sequence we ended up shooting at the New York Academy of Medicine, which was actually fantastic. I think that was probably my favorite location discovery of the movie, because that was really like stepping back in time. It was a fun place to be, especially the stacks. It's rare to have a library allow you to film in such a collection of rare books. They were very gracious to let us do that."

The production design staff likewise found economical ways of managing interiors to create a period feel. "We did a lot with printing," notes Carter. "We printed a huge variety and volume of wallpapers, for example. Sarah McMillan, our set decorator, and Alexios Chrysikos, our art director, worked together very well, resourcing and researching period wallpapers. She would actually acquire old pieces of real, original, stock stuff, and he would boot-scan them, designing our own prints of them that could be added and taken out of locations within minutes."

But ultimately, the most essential resource the film had at its disposal wasn't its operating budget, or even the savvy of its crew, but the boundless passion that every member of the ensemble brought, on both sides of the camera. As Krokidas describes the balance, "You pick two or three exterior locations that are going to sell that theme, to visually enhance the story, and focus on spending your money on those two or three places. And then you've really got to inspire people to get them to kick ass, to work their butts off." Cast and crew expressed kudos to debut director Krokidas for accomplishing just that.

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