About The Production
To aid in visually depicting the increasing spiral of revenge and retribution in "Changing Lanes," Michell chose production designer Kristi
Zea, whose credits include such films as "Philadelphia" and "The Silence of the Lambs." Zea saw her biggest designing challenge in defining the separate worlds of Gavin and Doyle in such a way that the audience instantly understands why the two men might be antagonists. At the same time, however, she wanted to
show elements in her designs that indicated that the two men, while extremely different, did share some similarities.
To depict their similarities, she went to the workplace of each man, giving both environments similar Kafka-esque roots. For example, even though Doyle's desk sits within a tiny cubicle in a large insurance company, and Gavin's office is private with a sweeping view of midtown Manhattan, both men toil like worker bees, laboring for an entity larger than themselves.
Because Gavin practically is his job, while Doyle does not define himself by where he works, the stylized offices of Gavin's ultra-corporate law firm serve as the centerpiece set for "Changing Lanes." Its huge, seemingly infinite maze of glass-walled workspaces suggests the "Big Brother" type of environment in which morality might slip through the cracks.
But so much glass posed a constant problem, picking up unwanted reflections for director of photography Salvatore Totino, who minimized the issue by requesting that his camera crew dress in dark colors. It was worth the inconvenience, as the glass walls enabled Totino to shoot straight through the huge set from one end to the other.
The set was indeed enormous. Occupying most of the vast interior space of the hundred- year-old Marcy Avenue Armory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it utilized 18,000 square feet of plastic flooring and was surrounded on three sides by a 370-foot translight photograph of midtown Manhattan that provided the rooftop views seen through the windows. Due to the fragility of the glass walls, the floor and ceiling had to be installed first, and the walls second.
"When you see the original photographs of the set," says Zea, "it's uncanny. It looks like The Mother Ship has landed in the middle of the armory."
In the law office set, major color accents were provided by extensive displays of contemporary art.
"Most law firms these days have impressive art collections. This is de rigueur now," explains Zea. "In fact, you don't go into a law firm or an investment firm without noting the art. It's as much of a status symbol as a guy's car or attache case. Art has become a character in movies. It's had a very slow rise, but it's very important for audiences now to see what's on the walls of these executive offices. These are prestigious companies wanting to impress their clients with their sense of awareness and savvy about the world."
Zea assembled a remarkable collection for the film, including works by such esteemed artists as Alex Katz, Mark Rothko and Andreas Gursky. "The only strong color that exists in the law office set," she points out, "is in the art itself. You see mostly blond wood, glass and the reflection of the lighting in the glass -- and then the art has an occasional pop of color."
The paintings in the law office were hand-painted reproductions, most accomplished by the gifted members of Zea's staff. In addition to being identical to the originals, these reproductions had to be made waterproof, since they were soaked time and again while filming the scene in which Gavin intentionally sets off the office fire-alarm sprinkler system. Any original artwork used in the filming was laminated in Plexiglas to keep it dry and unharmed, but because they looked so real and authentic, those pieces created by Zea's staff were ultimately destroyed after filming, in accordance with the wishes of
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