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COLLATERAL

Night Lights
"Collateral” was shot entirely at night in the city Michael Mann arguably knows better than any other contemporary director: Los Angeles, California.

"Michael Mann has been to places I didn't even know existed,” says Foxx. "I tried to tell him, ‘Mike, I'm from the ghetto,' and he said, ‘You're not from the ghetto. I know the ghetto. You want me to show you some ghetto?' And he took me places where even I was like, ‘Man, lock the doors! Where are we?' That's the genius of it. Michael doesn't try to make Toronto or Vancouver look like L.A.; you're actually in L.A., with somebody who really knows this city.”

Production designer David Wasco agrees, "A lot of filmmakers think Los Angeles has been filmed to death, but there's so much that's still untapped. Part of showcasing the city was in representing a wide variety of communities and cultures, the upscale and the downscale.”

Mann comments, "For people who don't live here or for some who do, it's not the Los Angeles of palm trees and Malibu, but the city of Los Angeles—Commerce, Wilmington, South Central, East L.A., downtown… And there is a unique mood to the skies above L.A. at two or three a.m. Streetlights reflect off the bottom of clouds. Even in darkness, you can see into the distance: silhouetted palms against the sky… I had to figure out how we were going to evoke that three-dimensional night—how to see into the L.A. night.”

Mann knew that standard 35-millimeter film would never be able to capture Los Angeles at night the way he wanted the audience to experience it, so he became one of the first directors to shoot a major motion picture almost entirely digitally, and the first to use a modified Thomson Grass Valley Viper FilmStream camera to depict the city in the hours between dusk and dawn as never before. 

"Film doesn't record what our eyes can see at night,” Mann confirms. "That's why I moved into shooting digital video in high definition—to see into the night, to see everything the naked eye can see and more. You see this moody landscape with hills and trees and strange light patterns. I wanted that to be the world that Vincent and Max are moving through.”

Mann worked closely with associate producer Bryan H. Carroll on the modification of the Viper to make it the optimum medium in which to shoot the movie.

"Collateral” actually turned out to be a multimedia film project, with approximately 80 percent of the film shot digitally, using several different types of cameras, including the Viper FilmStream and the Sony CineAlta high definition camera, and the balance on traditional film. Mann explains that the primary benefit of the Viper FilmStream was the way it recorded the distinct color palette that defines the city at night. "The Viper records colors in a whole different way, particularly oranges, yellows and reds.”

Nevertheless, the director notes, "To me it's about emotion; it's how those environments surrounding these characters make us feel, so the atmosphere around them was quite critical. I find Los Angeles at night to be very emotional. I wanted to tell a story that evokes some of the wildness that lurks just one layer below the surface.”

That wildness is conveyed in a brief encounter between Max and Vincent and three coyotes crossing the street in front of the cab. The scene resulted from Mann's own experience, as he relates, "I was driving home late one night and stopped at a red light, and three coyotes walked diagonally across the intersection like they absolutely owned it. It was something I never forgot. It wasn't just the presence of wild animals in the middle of the city; it was their attitude that this was still their domain, and this layer of civilization was merely temporary.”

Cruise says that he feels the scene in which Vincent and Max cross paths with the coyotes "has a hypnotic quality. In that moment you see these two guys are in

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