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THE CLEARING

Finding The Clearing
Visually, THE CLEARING would have to contain three essential elements: the forest, the residence and the city and would need to interweave multiple time sequences without belying the timeframes in which they were shot. Director Pieter Jan Brugge employed the much-lauded skills of Production Designer Chris Gorak, who has led the art direction of films as diverse as FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE and FIGHT CLUB, to complete the complicated task.

For the forest sequences, Brugge wanted to showcase nature in its most glorious state. "I always believed that the forest should be the forests of the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains,” says Brugge. "It ended up being Asheville, North Carolina. It provided the richest texture of the forest I was looking for, which was an assiduous forest with a difficult, mountainous terrain. You could then have the conflict of the physical journey of Wayne and Arnold put up against the psychological conflict of these two individuals in the forest.”

Brugge brought French cinematographer Denis Lenoir on board as his visual collaborator. Lenoir allowed the camera to function on a visceral and immediate level, using hand-held and Steadi-cam shots extensively to track the nuances and facial expressions of Wayne and Arnold as they read each other's intentions. The almost constant movement of the camera "makes you feel like you're completely on top of these two people,” comments Brugge. "We can closely watch as they strategically try to move on to the next step. In particular, how is Wayne going to negotiate himself to freedom at the hands of his kidnapper?”

The crew made their base at the Sequoyah Reserve, an abandoned summer camp 17 miles northeast of Asheville. It offered a variety of foliage, landscape and elevation in one concentrated area. During four weeks of filming there the production used 12 different forest settings. Additionally, there were two nights of filming on the grounds of the historic Biltmore Estate in Asheville.

On the logistical level, "Asheville is very savvy,” says Producer Palmer West. "We weren't making this movie on a massive budget, so we needed to pull in a lot of local crew. We could rely on the community there. Our biggest challenge in Asheville was the weather. We had three storms with first names that made our lives a little difficult.”

The unpredictable weather along with the rough terrain brought a whole new dimension to the film. "Pretty much everything was unexpected,” remarks Robert Redford. "First of all, there was never any flat ground. We were always on an incline. It was wet and muddy. It was very hard getting your footing. I had my hands tied much of the time. So that added a dimension that you didn't quite anticipate. I thought it was good for the situation.”

Dafoe, who cracked his sternum during one of the fight sequences, agrees with Redford. "I could've gone without some of the cold and some of the rain and discomfort, but that was part of the story. It's discomfort that raises the stakes and motivates you and gives you a sense of place and a sense of the story. It creates a different kind of engagement and a different kind of commitment.”

And there were other benefits to the cold, wet set. "When we were in the forest, all of the elements of film sets that sometimes interfere with work, from my perspective, sort of dropped away,” Dafoe says. "There weren't really any trailers. There wasn't any big craft service. There wasn't a big entourage. There wasn't a lot of distraction. Since we were on a very modestly budgeted film for what we had to do, we had to work at a fairly good clip. When the location is such a strong personality like that, it affects everything you do. Visually it provides you with great opportunities.”

The second element of the story was the residence of Wayne and Eileen Hayes, which is t

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