Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page


The Look
The production team enlisted the talents of production designer Ethan Tobman to create the environments where the characters would live. The three main interiors include Wallace/Ellie's house, Chantry/Ben's apartment and Allan's house. The design concept around these three sets was to create a triumvirate of the three stages of the character's maturation.

Wallace is a lost soul when we first meet him, living in his sister's attic, which accentuates his social displacement. -Visually he's literally a square peg in a round hole and I had a lot of fun with that, says Tobman. -The walls were covered in a hodgepodge of materials-wallpaper, brick, wainscoting, pipes and conduit jutting out from the ceiling so low you'd hit your head. We filled the space with Ellie and her son Felix's storage, forcing Wallace to work at Felix's elementary school desk and sleep amidst Ellie's winter shoes and coats. Nothing quite fits-everything is too big or too small. Shelves and bureaus are at angles because they're too big for the space and books and lamps threaten to fall off of them. Everyone in this film appears to have his or her lives together. Wallace is behind on the curve and we wanted to play with his awkward regression.

Chantry and Ben's apartment feels totally different from Wallace and Ellie's house. It's clean, creative and self-realized. -Here we went with more neutral cool tones and hung beautiful artwork from James Jean and Evan B. Harris that referenced her artwork's inspiration, says Tobman. -We painted our own Chantry designs on pillows and curtains. Wherever possible we tried to reference wings and airiness to the decor, in the artwork sculptures and lighting. The goal was to create timeless and classic environments for her in this film that transcend any era. There is also certain nakedness to her environments. She's not quite connecting with Ben, something doesn't feel right, and so while the apartment is open and detailed there's something missing, preventing you from feeling too comfortable.

Allan is the ultimate bachelor and that's exactly the environment Tobman and his team created. -His apartment is cool and messy with some lazy vintage accents and a total absence of anything female, says Tobman. -When Allan meets Nicole the apartment gets cleaner, the vintage wallpaper gets painted over, the cupboards get doors and band posters get replaced with artwork and photos. In many ways Allan represents the in-between of Wallace and Chantry's environments, and we get to see it transform as the story evolves.

The idea of using animation in WHAT IF started for a practical reason - because there is so much dialogue in the story, Mastai also wanted to bring something visually distinctive to the movie. Additionally, because of Chantry's romantic circumstances, there were emotions she couldn't express aloud. -There were things in the film that Chantry couldn't say, not because they're secrets but because she's not ready to admit them, even to herself, says Mastai. -Writing the animated scenes allowed me to showcase her unexpressed inner thoughts in a visually arresting and metaphoric way.

Mastai came up with the idea that the animation sequences would be tied directly to Chantry's job. -She works as an animator and the imagery we see is drawn by her own hand. These aren't just random animated vignettes, they're the doodles Chantry draws in her sketch-book brought to life, says Mastai.

When Dowse read the animation bits in the script, he discussed how to shoot them with Mastai. -Mike came up with the idea of using this great light-mapping technique to project the animation around the city -literally onto the buildings. He took the ideas in the script and found a unique, dynamic, and visually arresting way to implement them, recalls Mastai.

-I saw this light-mapping technique where they projected a tiger on the streets of Paris. It made me think we could take Chantry's work and put it into the real world. It's really an old-school, simple technique- not at all ground breaking, explains Dowse. -There was something nice to having the animation live within the reality of our film and having it come alive at certain moments. I think the animation helps you get inside Chantry's head and also showcases what she does for work.

Dowse's vision for the animation in the film was part of what impressed Radcliffe from the very beginning. -When I met Michael he talked about films like Manhattan and It Happened One Night and all these great romantic comedies and he just had a real vision for this film. And, with the animation portion of the film and those details, it brings a kind of visual playfulness to the film that not all romantic comedies have so I really responded to that.

The setting for much of the film is Toronto. Although it's not a place traditionally thought of as a romantic location, Dowse found ways to make the city look as nice and beautiful as possible. -It was kind of a challenge to make Toronto romantic, he says. -It's normally been quite a gray, sort of austere city, and, like, David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan's works, very, sort of, cold. But, the thing about Toronto is that there's a ton of water around it, and that's sort of something we try to key into is, try to find the romance by the beaches, and in the east end of the city, and, and try to capture it that way, to give it its due as a modern cosmopolitan city.

The beach is the setting for one of the funniest set pieces in the film, a midnight skinny dipping romp for Wallace, Chantry, Allan and Nicole. Davis, who plays Nicole, says the production had many fun and memorable moments but if she had to single out one, it would be that scene. -Skinny dipping in the middle of a Toronto summer on a beach that felt very secret, she says. -That was great.

Although most of the film was shot in Toronto, the company did go over to Dublin for four days at the end of the shoot, for the scenes when Ben is working in Ireland. -It was a blast to shoot in Dublin for obvious reasons and it helped to expand the scope of the film, says Dowse. -Usually you are running on fumes by the end of a production but these last four days were a great adrenaline shot. We had a fresh crew, enough money to make it look good and it helped the film immensely. Shooting in Dublin was a particular pleasure for Dowse who holds an Irish passport. -Both my parents are from Dublin so for me personally it was great to see my extended family and bring them down to set, says Dowse.

Next Production Note Section


Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.

2018 52,  All Rights Reserved.


Find:  HELP!