Draft Day principal photography began on Wednesday, April 25, at the 2013 NFL
Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, one of several key locations
that figured in the story. Oddly enough, that location wasn't always included in
Producer Medjuck explains, "In the early version of the script, the draft
itself was discussed, but took place off-stage. Ivan said, 'No, let's try to go
to the draft and actually shoot while it's going on.' I guess you could re-stage
it, if you have millions of dollars extra that need spending. But what we did
instead, we obtained permission from the NFL-who were very cooperative-to go to
the draft, bring our cameras, and utilize cameramen who have worked for NFL
Films and have filmed at the draft before."
What ensued was nearly a documentary-style filming of the actual draft, but
with fictitious characters from Draft Day woven into the happenings. With the
exception of some graphics playing on the screens, the set dressing for the film
was what was being used for the nationally televised event. Any scenes that took
place in the building, but away from the draft in the auditorium were filmed
while the draft was in progress. Any shooting on the stage, the
auditorium/floor, or concerning the NFL Network or ESPN had to take place before
the general public was admitted to the Hall.
"We even got permission from the teams' player representatives, who sit at
tables right in the front of the auditorium. They all came in the next afternoon
wearing the same clothes they had the night before, so that I could actually
direct scripted scenes closer against all those people," comments Reitman.
Exteriors were shot with Langella as team owner Molina arriving at Radio City
Music Hall, with the crowd gathered (a combination of extras and true fans of
the draft) to follow the goings-on inside the building. During breaks in the
actual telecast, filmmakers were able to capture establishing snippets,
including Langella as Molina onstage while the commissioner announces the
beginning of the draft.
Since the televised broadcast of the draft takes place over three days,
beginning on a Thursday, Saturday morning sees a relaxation in the NFL schedule
and fewer people present-that was when Reitman and team really exploited the
location, capturing scenes specifically for the film's narrative. This included
the 'green room onstage,' the area where potential draftees are seated with
their families. Production was able to commandeer the space and people it with
Draft Day actors and real football players, some of whom were given speaking
Reitman comments, "This movie would have been impossible without access from
the National Football League. As soon as I read it, I thought it would be
impossible to make, unless we got permission and cooperation from the NFL. It
has to be real teams and the logos have to feel real. Frankly, because the draft
is really known as a television event to the country at large, and we're going
to play behind the scenes at that event, we have to start at the television
event and be able to shoot there. We used all those real characters including
the Commissioner, Rich Eisen and Chris Berman and all the other television
personalities that are part of that."
During each day filming at the draft, production was given a 'hard out' (an
unmovable time by which production has to have totally cleared and left the
space), when access needed to be turned over those actually taking part in the
Bell states, "The access granted to us by the NFL at the draft was
unprecedented. We were the first feature film to ever be allowed in, and we had
our work cut out for us-we needed to shoot about 20 pages of the script in the
course of those three days."
Wherever professional sports are played, there is a stadium. Draft Day,
again, was given the V.I.P. treatment back in Cleveland as doors opened into two
more key locations: downtown's FirstEnergy Stadium, Home of the Cleveland
Browns, and the Cleveland Browns Training and Administrative Complex in Berea,
Opened in September of 1999 (on the site previously occupied by the Cleveland
Municipal Stadium, which stood from 1932 to 1996), the Stadium boasts seating
for 72,300, making it the tenth largest in the NFL. The FirstEnergy Stadium was
built as part of a deal with the League to return the Browns to Cleveland-they
had moved to Baltimore and been re-christened the Ravens following the '96
season-and to re-activate the franchise. The Browns rightfully returned in the
fall of '99, playing on the newly created field of Kentucky bluegrass for the
first time. The old stadium actually remains close by, as the debris from its
demolishing was sunk in Lake Erie to create an artificial reef. Filming took
place in a V.I.P. box standing in for the 'Owner's Box' and in the tunnel
leading onto the field.
Off the field-which is where a lion's share of the team's work takes place
and where a good portion of Draft Day is set-the Browns' training complex and
offices in Berea provided production with a variety of settings, and filmmakers
took advantage of them all, including: the weight, locker and men's rooms; the
front of the complex; the offices; the field house; the cafeteria; various
hallways and vestibules; and the exterior practice field (renamed "Weaver Field"
in the film). One key sequence filmed on the field was shuffled from one
shooting day to the next, thanks to inclement weather that blew in at the 11th
hour. The next day, as they were closing in on wrapping the scene, the 'quiet on
the set' was broken by a piercing alarm, warning anyone on the field to move
indoors to avoid the lightning that had been reported in the area-so the party
of Costner, Garner, Leary, Burstyn and several others beat a hasty retreat from
the open field.
Ellen Burstyn remembers, "They were doing a long shot of me out on the field
by myself, and the camera was way over near the buildings. Suddenly, there was
this loud alarm that went off. I had never heard a lightning alarm, but I
suspected that that's what it was, so I started walking very fast toward the
building. Because they had the camera on me, they called out, 'Walk slowly!' I
called back, 'No, not on your life...I'm out of here!'"
The complex was a favorite with producer Bell, and not simply because of the
diverse settings it offered. She relates, "It was fantastic, because anytime we
were about to shoot a scene and a question would arise about something in the
script, we could literally run into Cleveland Browns' General Manager Mike
Lombardi's office and ask, 'About what we're doing in this scene...would it ever
happen?' Then they'd come in with notes and suggestions. It was almost like
dialing information, only for questions about how a professional football team
operates." (Lombardi is no longer with the Browns).
The team would have been even more giving, allowing production use of the
actual Browns' administrative offices at the complex, were it not for the fact
that they were under construction. As an alternative, Cuyahoga Community College
(known as Tri-C) also hosted the production, where the Browns' corporate offices
were re-created, building out from existing office and conference room space.
There, multiple key spaces were set up, including: Sonny Jr.'s office and office
area (the Bull Pen); Ali's office; the Browns' war room; Browns' hallway with
trophy case (dressed to capacity with nothing but actual Browns' trophies,
awards and memorabilia); a supply room; and the war room of the Jacksonville
Jaguars in Florida. One of the unexpected benefits of the construction chaos at
the Berea offices was that all of the memorabilia normally featured in the rooms
was in storage for safe-keeping... and, therefore, made available to the
production's art department for use on-set.
Spare offices in a nearby law firm were transformed into such places as the
Seattle Seahawks war room; the offices of the Seahawks' GM and team owner; and
the office of the General Manager of the Buffalo Bills, where principal
photography was completed on June 26, 2013.
Filming also took place at multiple locations in and around Cleveland, Ohio,
including: a water park in Aurora, OH (Molina tells Sonny he needs to 'make a
splash' with the draft); Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport (Molina calls Sonny
to tell him he's en route to NYC); Wade Park Lagoon (the Browns' wide receiver
reports in to Sonny about QB Brian Drew); Case Field at Case Western University
(Bo's coach and Sonny Jr. trade opinions on their cell phones); and Dix Stadium
at Kent State University (where the teams of Wisconsin-with Bo Callahan-and Ohio
State-with Vontae Mack-face each other...providing the footage Sonny reviews on
each player back in the war room).
Wherever anything relating to the Browns was going to be seen on
camera-period helmets, photos, memorabilia, magnetic boards-in most cases, the
art department obtained the actual items from the Browns' offices. Where the
originals could not be obtained or used, exact replicas were created, which
included game footballs, stationery, notepads, pens, pencils and mugs. Identical
phones were set up with graphics that match the ones in the complex. In two very
special cases, one-of-a-kind items were loaned to Draft Day that demonstrated
the immense amount of trust the organization had placed in the production: one
was a typewriter from at the time GM Mike Lombardi's office; and the other was
the team's actual framed charter into the NFL.
Even though filming in operating facilities had its challenges (with an NFL
football team training, practicing, playing football, lifting, eating, and
getting in and out of practice gear nearby nearly all of the time), it also
afforded proximity to three professionals whose input proved invaluable to
Costner, Garner and Leary-the then Browns' GM, Mike Lombardi; Director of Legal
Affairs, Megan Rogers; and at the time Head Coach, Robert A. "Chud" Chudzinski.
Leary continues, "Shooting at the training facility, those days were great,
with the Browns football players around us and the real Browns staff in the
background watching us. It was kind of crazy. We'd be shooting a scene and I'd
look over and Browns' Quarterback Brandon Weeden's (who is no longer with the
team) standing there watching us shoot the scene, because he's on his way to
work out. That stuff was just great."
With the cast and crew every step of the way was Ivan Reitman. Jennifer
Garner declares, "Ivan does not miss a trick. He's not absorbed in what the shot
looks like, even though his shots are really well composed and make a lot of
sense. He's actually completely absorbed in performance, and can give you 20
notes on a take without forgetting any and never having to reference a piece of
paper. They just rattles them off... and nothing is more fun for an actor than to
have a director who is that engaged in your performance."
"Ivan has become a very good friend to me, a very interesting voice in my
life," shares Costner. "He's a different point of view for me, which I
appreciate. As an actor, it's wonderful to be wanted. The writing on this
matched up with my own instincts about a movie that can become a classic. I
thought we had a chance at something great, and Ivan gave us that chance. Ivan
really was working on all cylinders. He was a good director for me and for this
movie. He is a good listener and we got to know each other, and neither one of
us buried our feelings. We brought them to bear and we might have had a level of
difficulty, but there was this really good give and take, and I wanted to serve
his movie. We built a relationship out of being honest. This movie is incredibly
thoughtful, yet there's that twinkle of Ivan Reitman in it."
"We're both two old hounds who've been around the block," laughs Reitman. "It
was clear that he was comfortable with me, and that I was comfortable with him.
We both had very similar takes on what would make this movie great. He had
wonderful ideas about the script, and he liked my ideas. It was really the start
of a beautiful relationship. He's an Academy Award winning director himself.
He's no one's fool. He's strong and smart about material and what he believes is
correct. But, at the same time I didn't feel threatened. Frankly once we started
working, it was very easy and a very joyful experience."
Reitman adds, "Movie audiences respond to Kevin. You really sense a guy who's
got common sense, who's got a real moral center to him. Kevin is the kind of guy
you want to get behind. As a director, I learned very early on to be nimble,
because oftentimes the actor is the smartest person about his character. I
wanted to bring back the very wonderful focused character in him that people
remember from those classic movies. There's a reason those films really worked
and it's a lot to do with who Kevin was in those films. We had a very clean
approach to his character and he did a great job. The thing about Costner in
this movie is he's got big presentations to his war room and negotiations with
people on the telephone. That requires extraordinary focus and energy on the
So concerned was Reitman about getting the best performances from his actors
that the phone conversations in Draft Day are real conversations. Joe Medjuck
explains, "In a lot of Kevin's scenes in our film, he's on the phone. Whenever
we were filming whoever was on the other end of the line, Kevin would show up
and read all of his lines, full-on, from off-camera. He didn't just toss them
in. Once both sides were filmed, we edited them into a split-screen image, so
the audience gets to watch the speaker and the listener at the same time...
because a lot gets said when nothing is said."
Producer Ali Bell states, "Our number one rule of moviemaking has always been
do we love the story, and how does it resonate? Aside from just being funny,
which is what The Montecito Company is mostly known for, we really want to make
sure that all of our films have some sort of emotional center to them, something
that people can identify with. When you look back at Ivan's career and his
history as a filmmaker, that's why his movies stand the test of time...it's that
people can see a reflection of themselves in his work."
Producer Joe Medjuck thinks Draft Day is not just for fans of the sport. He
says, "You don't have to know a lot about football or the draft to enjoy the
movie. If you do know about those things, then you'll really enjoy it already.
But, we make it fairly explicit how the draft works, and we make it very clear
what people do on a football team. Underneath all of that, the film is mainly a
story about human emotions. Those types of stories can play with any audience."
"I don't think stories about men and women are ever going to fall out of
fashion," states Costner. "Certain things don't seem to be in vogue, but I'm
going to keep making cowboy movies, and if I see another good sports movie, I'll
make it. But I'll make all these movies with the idea that it can live forever."
Reitman says, "It's my hope that Draft Day is a movie that works not only for
football fans, but really works for people who like good movies. It doesn't
really matter whether you know anything about football, audiences like it. Draft
Day is one of those movies that does make you laugh, you get very excited, and
frankly you cry at certain points. It's very satisfying to have made a film that
touches people emotionally."
In his signature style, Denis Leary closes, "My wife would love this movie.
Also, football fans and sports fans will love it, because it's set in that world
and it's detailed and true. But it's really a relationship in a movie. It's
about these three people and their battle to achieve this goal in the course of
one day... so it's funny and dramatic and surprising. It's got all of these twists
and turns, not to mention a great cast. I'd go see it. Even if I wasn't in it,
I'd still go see it."
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