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DIVERGENT

About The Production
Chicago is still Chicago

Principal photography began on location in Chicago, Illinois on April 8, 2013. Multiple large-scale builds and dozens of locations throughout Chicago were prepped, while actors and stunt performers spent the weeks before filming in "boot camp" to become Dauntless. Meanwhile, thousands of costumes were being constructed in four countries, all to bring Veronica Roth's future world of Divergent to the streets of Chicago and eventually the big screen.

"In the story, there's been a war around a hundred-fifty years ago, and it ravaged the entire country. Chicago built a wall around itself to separate itself from the outside world. A hundred years ago, they reformed the society in the city into the five factions," explains director Neil Burger.

Watching Divergent, moviegoers will get to go inside the home compounds of the Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite, plus see a glimpse of those who live factionless. The other factions-Amity and Candor-are represented through costumes and audiences will get to see more of their home bases in the next film.

"In the future, Chicago is still Chicago and I wanted to see characters on the street with sun, wind, and shadows from the buildings on their faces with real concrete under their feet, like they are put on a street in a hundred-fifty years," explains Burger.

The director chose not to place emphasis on visual effects. "The tough thing is when you make a movie that's set in the future is that there's a lot of precedent. How do I make it something you haven't seen before? Many movies that we've seen recently that are set in the future have a very computer generated feel to them. I decided to actually go in the completely the opposite way," states Burger.

Though epic in scale, the director wants the audience to experience the story through the eyes of the main character Tris. "To me the book is very much about real human emotion, whether it's in the future or not, so I wanted the look of the movie to be completely real," shares Burger. "Also, the story is very intimate... this is one person's journey. I wanted the camera to be very personal with Tris, but I wanted her to be on this big societal stage. What better place to do it than in Chicago, amongst these vast canyons of skyscrapers?"

"In the rough draft of the book, it wasn't actually set in a real place," admits author Veronica Roth. "The world of Divergent was a nameless urban environment. When I revised it, I realized I wanted a greater sense of place to make the story feel more real. I looked at what I already had-big lake, these trains that were on all the time like a mysterious creature living in the city-and I realized that I had already set it to Chicago without really meaning to, probably because it's the city that I know and love best, but also because there's something really special about this place. Chicago became more of a character as the story grew and developed in my mind. The greatest character really is the trains, because you have no idea who is running them or why they're running or where they're running to or what happens when they stop. That was definitely inspired the El Trains here in Chicago."

"Veronica Roth is a very cinematic, visual writer," comments producer Pouya Shahbazian. "In her dystopian future with Divergent, she was able to take elements of this city that people love today and transpose those into a war-torn future where it was somewhat improved, but also kept its nostalgic feel."

Producer Lucy Fisher agrees, "The main thing we wanted to avoid was a certain sci-fi futuristic feeling that you can't relate to that feels like a special effect. That's partly why shooting in Chicago was such an important thing for us. Chicago is a grounded place, a place you could recognize. Veronica had very carefully embedded into the story so many identifiable elements of the city: the Hancock Building, the El Trains, the Sears Tower, Lake Michigan, Navy Pier and the Ferris Wheel, that it was very important that you actually recognize it. The Chicago in the movie is different because it will be a version of the future, but it still is very recognizable because all the artifacts that are from the past. We talked about repurposing things that already existed. Instead of creating everything new, a lot of things look like they're from today, because basically they weren't allowed to evolve."

"In the story, Chicago survived the war, some parts unscathed, so the Chicago of today would mostly still be standing, with a few extra flourishes," further describes Burger. "We shot on the streets of Chicago with our actors out in the sunlight, and it was a very cool way to see the future. I tried to do it like street photography, but the street is in a 150 years."

"Also, Chicago is a walled city," adds Burger. "The wall is either keeping something bad out or keeping something in. We don't quite know. But what it is doing is limiting communications with the outside world. There's no commerce with the outside world. There are hardly any cars or trucks, and what's cool about that is you see these vast groups of people just walking down the middle of the streets. The streets are now pedestrian walkways."

Producer Douglas Wick sums up, "What we were looking for was a world that would both be distinctly futuristic and absolutely recognizable."

To help him build this world, producers surrounded Burger with a team of world-class filmmakers: director of photography Alwin H. K├╝chler, BSC, production designer Andy Nicholson, costume designer Carlo Poggioli, Oscar nominated senior visual effects supervisor Jim Berney, Oscar nominated editor Richard Francis-Bruce, A.C.E., editor Nancy Richardson, A.C.E., Oscar winning executive music producer Hans Zimmer, composer JunkieXL, and music supervisor Randall Poster. Other key crew members included: award-winning stunt coordinator/second unit director Garrett Warren, fight coordinator JJ Perry, location manager James McAllister, construction coordinator Anthony Syracuse, special effects supervisor Yves Debono, set decorator Anne Kuljian, and makeup department head Brad Wilder.

Executive producer John J. Kelly comments, "This is a well-bonded group. There are no egos. Everyone's really, really talented and very excited about the show. We work as a team. It's a great ensemble piece in terms of actors and crew. There's a great synergy. The crew feels like a family. Everyone is positive even though we're shooting in pits, in cold warehouses. It's a gritty, real movie set in the future. It's not fake. It feels real. It feels raw. That's what people are going to really like when they see this."

World creation on the big screen poses a different set of challenges than world creation on the page. "As a filmmaker, I'm inventing a complete world that you're going to see, and Veronica certainly invented an amazing world in her book, but she only had to speak of what she wanted to write about. In a movie you see everything that's going on, so as a filmmaker, you need to know the answers to a million and one things. During the prep, I was on the phone with Veronica all the time. I had a million and one questions for her to create this world. Do they have money? Do they have pets? If there's a car, where are they getting the fuel? Is it an electric car? Is it a solar car? Where are they getting the material to make those solar panels? Maybe they're recycling them. Why is this wall here? What's coming? She got a lot of questions from me," admits Burger.

"Neil always has a lot of questions, but they're very thoughtful questions. I found myself wishing that he had been around when I was building the world, because there are so many things I didn't consider that he's considering. How does commerce work? How will this mysterious thing be explained through faction folklore? I always find that talking to him expands my understanding of the world as much as it expands his," laughs Roth. "I have to think things through in a different way than I have before."

"One of the most fun, but nerve-wracking moments on the movie was deep into preproduction," reveals Fisher. "We had hundreds of people building all over the city of Chicago, and Veronica came into the production offices. One of our greatest pleasures was showing her the design work, as well as the casting, because in both cases we were very nervous because we wanted her approval. In both cases Veronica gave us a very interesting point of view. When asked 'Is this how you imagined it?,' she said 'No, it's so much more. I can't believe that hundreds of people are executing ideas that I sat around in my P.J.'s making up.' She was in a state of wonderment that so many other brains had been able to apply themselves to her idea, and geometrically increase its scope."

"When people really love something they work on, you can see it at every level," shares Roth. "Every lovingly crafted prop, beautifully constructed set, original lighting piece, and nuanced piece of acting...I've talked to the people who are doing these things and they are so passionate and so careful with what they're doing and the decisions that they're making. These people are teaching me about the world that I made! Why this jacket is made the way it is because this faction believes in this. There's something to be said about the care and thought and incredibly good craftsmanship that has gone into this."

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