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A LOT LIKE LOVE

Designing Love
With a story that shuttles through time, space and dizzying life changes as Oliver and Emily take seven years to finally figure out what they felt the very first time they met, the visual design of A LOT LIKE LOVE had to be as whirling and shifting as Oliver and Emily's relationship.

To capture the full scope of the tale's many turns, director Nigel Cole used more than 55 locations, from New York's Chinatown to Los Angeles' El Matador Beach. From the start, the filmmakers knew the production would have to be just as jet-setting and mobile as Oliver and Emily's lives. Explains producer Kevin Messick: "When you're telling a story about two people who are in constant motion and constantly meeting each other in different places, times and situations, a good part of the production becomes trying to capture that sense of kinetic excitement.”

Adds producer Armyan Bernstein: "The story of A LOT LIKE LOVE takes place during a period of seven years that were packed with cultural events—a period that traverses from Clinton to Bush, through a major economic fall, through different hair styles, clothing styles, music styles and lifestyles. And of course what's most interesting is that the attitude of our characters also changes over time—so there has to be a real sense of both an evolving world and an evolving friendship throughout the film.”

To make all these transitions—both in the external world and the internal lives of Emily and Oliver—come to life, Cole worked closely with director of photography John de Borman and production designer Tom Meyer.

For de Borman, the task at hand was to subtly reveal time marching forward and emotions shifting in and out as Oliver and Emily's relationship goes from cool flirtation to tight friendship to something perhaps a lot like love. To do this, de Borman begins the film with saturated, eye-popping colors and plenty of visual chaos, then slowly evolves the look into a warmer, more relaxed style that reflects the characters maturing and changing.

Cole and De Borman previously collaborated on Cole's first film, "Saving Grace,” and developed a kind of shorthand communication that blossomed during A LOT LIKE LOVE. "We got to a point where we really didn't even have to speak to each other,” says Cole. "John just seems to know what I like and he makes it happen seamlessly. I think the film looks gorgeous and it's all down to him.”

Meanwhile, production designer Meyer had the challenge of revealing Emily and Oliver's constantly changing lives through their changing surroundings. He began by talking extensively with Nigel Cole about the characters' backgrounds. "I really wanted Emily's world and Oliver's world to reflect who they are, where they come from and how they change,” he explains. "A big part of the film, of course, is contrasting the very different life choices that Oliver and Emily make right off the bat. Oliver wants life to proceed in a straight line—he has all his ducks in a row and that's something you see in his surroundings, while Emily's life takes more unusual twists and turns, which is reflected in the kinds of Bohemian neighborhoods in which she lives.”

He continues: "So, in New York, you have Oliver's world, which is the Upper East Side around Columbia, and then Emily's world, which is the Lower East Village. In Los Angeles, Oliver spends time with his family in the San Fernando Valley while Emily winds up on the funkier east side of Hollywood and Silverlake. It's a running theme throughout.”

One of Meyer's biggest tasks was finding a way to subtly move the characters, not only from city to city but through time. "It's much harder to have 1996 look like the past than to have, say, the 1950s look like the past,” notes Meyer. "The immediate past is a much more personal thing than the distant p

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