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About The Production
With a nod to Stanley Kubrick's great, dark comedic "thriller” Dr. Strangelove, Koepp and his crew kept themselves on track with what was affectionately known as ‘The Big Board' - an oversized rectangular cardboard panel revealing the day's shot list in a series of detailed storyboards. Koepp delighted in crossing off the storyboards as he completed the scenes. 

Through ‘The Big Board,' Koepp also displayed his theory of shooting suspense thrillers. "Suspense sequences are really all about pieces. What is the character looking at? You need to see his face. You need to see what he saw - and maybe what he didn't see. It all comes together in pieces, as opposed to something you shoot in blanket coverage and try to put together later. Any suspenseful sequence needs to be very carefully designed. Coverage is no substitute for style. You have to develop an approach, an attitude. The only way to do that is to figure it all out ahead of time. I had the luxury of a lot of prep time during which we created some detailed animatics - basically animated storyboards that take you through the entire sequence. In some cases, I had people read dialogue over them to give me a sense of the timing. It's a great technique. It helps you realize when you're missing something or if you have too many shots.”

This kind of detailed preparation made the actual shoot much smoother, yet not so rigid that it short-circuited the spontaneity of the creative process. "There is nothing worse than being on a sound stage or on location and realizing that things are not well thought out,” says Koepp. "Storyboards and careful preparation help avoid that. But there are times when a different inventive way to cover a scene presents itself, and I always want to have the freedom to try it. Other times you just have to get the hell out of the way and let the actors act. It's a balance. I see some sequences where I need to take over a little more and others where my job is to notice what the actors do naturally and make sure the camera is in the right place to record it.”

Often, Koepp is able to do both by skipping the traditional establishing shot in favor of a whip pan shot from the actor to the next position. "I like the whip pan, because it adds movement, takes you from one place to another quickly and is easy to cut into,” Koepp explains. 

Koepp worked closely with his cinematographer Fred Murphy, with whom he'd previously worked on Stir of Echoes. In preparation for production, Koepp and Murphy watched several notable suspense films, including Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant and John Boorman's Deliverance. Taking a cue from the latter film, Murphy opted to shoot Secret Window in the wide screen Super 35 format, an interesting choice for a movie that, on some levels, is about confined spaces and the intimate, inner workings of the protagonist's mind.

"I like the wide screen for close-ups, because it allows you to add more to the background,” says Murphy. "It also opens things up more, so the movie doesn't feel so claustrophobic. We had several scenes at the lake near Mort's cabin, and the wide screen allowed us to take advantage of the great scenery.” 

The danger with shooting in wide screen, however, is that it's hard to conceal any mistakes, and there were plenty of opportunities for error since Koepp was interested in employing a recurrent theme of reflections. "Much of the movie is about a guy in his house by himself. That's very interior. But Fred opened it up by including multiple reflections. This is really a mirror movie. At one point Fred said he's never had as many mirrors in a film as in this one. Because it is about reflection – looking at yourself and seeing things you may not like – mirrors are a major element, particularly the large one over Mort's fireplace. A mirror also makes the set look bigger, providing for some interesting shots. But you have to<


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