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About The Production
Once the central casting was complete, Arteta and Greenfield assembled a top-notch crew, including production designer Daniel Bradford (LEGALLY BLONDE) cinematographer Enrique Chediak (THE SAFETY OF OBJECTS) and costume designer Nancy Steiner (THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) for pre-production.

Arteta's directing process revolves around discovery, not contrived preparation. "I do not like to rehearse too much... I mostly like to have the actors have lunch and read the scenes without really acting them, just to break the ice." Rehearsals were done with the camera rolling in the hope of capturing the organic and inspirational process of discovery on film. Arteta asks that the actors work on their feet, constantly exploring their characters and each other while involved in the moment of a scene, however, the director imposes the same terrifying but invigorating impromptu methodology on himself. "The audience can sense when there is an earnest attempt to reach truth, even if you don't always reach it."

Arteta's approach to truth-seeking colors the overall design of the film as well. Production designer Daniel Bradford recalls, "Working with Miguel was great because his primary focus was on storytelling.. .This meant the art department was not required to invent arbitrary and unusual special effects. Rather, we were able to direct our efforts towards establishing what was true and essential to each environment."

Attention to detail defines all the film's design elements. The team began as Bradford describes, "a simple story, told simply," with the Retail Rodeo the film's primary location and, according to Arteta and White, the key to the film's prison metaphor. Arteta and Bradford concentrated on creating an authentic Retail Rodeo that surpassed the thin veil of camp comedy to fit the film's darker elements. An abandoned store in Simi Valley was dressed to fit the part but, as Greenfield recalls, it was vital to eschew the cowboy hats and Texas cliches in order to create a believable, suffocating environment. "Life is the same every day at the Retail Rodeo," explains Greenfield. "We wanted to convey the feeling that life was bearable there, but not much more than that."

Although the design concept was naturalistic, finding locations in sunny California to pass for small town Texas was difficult, specifically the search for Justine and Phil's house, which is painstakingly defined in the script. "Our principal character lived physically and emotionally in the very last house on the street, out from which stretched miles of dry, barren nothingness," clarifies Bradford. "And of course, everywhere, everywhere, everywhere there are palm trees which are not appropriate for West Texas."

Cinematographer Enrique Chediak also worked with Arteta to achieve a simple way to tell the story without detracting from it. The director was not interested in "razzle dazzle" camera work. Adversely, Arteta proclaims, "We let the characters dictate what happens. The actors do not feel technically assaulted and they know that the honesty of what they are trying to convey is what the camera is following."

Chediak and Arteta tried several different styles before agreeing to shoot the film using an underexposure technique. Greenfield defines the process, "We pushed the film two stops, underexposing the film, and then compensated for the underexposure in the processing. The technique opens up the grain and changes the colors slightly, creating a subtle, gritty effect that helps to ground the film in reality."

Despite the seemingly fashionable cast, costume designer Nancy Steiner confesses, "There is no fashion in this film.. .We remained subtle and true to the characters." Like the other design elements, Arteta focused on a realistic look. Greenfield explains, "We wanted it to feel real and to create an unglamorous look with hair and makeup. We wanted it to be very dif


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