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Pre-Production Begins
The production came together with breakneck speed after Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg decided to focus on ‘War of the Worlds.'' Producer Kathleen Kennedy recalls a conversation she had with Spielberg early on. "Steven said to me, ‘Okay, we're going to make this movie and we need to prep it quickly and we're going to start shooting in three months,” Kennedy recalls. "But don't freak out when you look at the script. Just recognize that there are three people in the movie — that's the heart of the film, and every now and then 1,000 people are running around in the background.”

In fall of 2004, production teams were quickly set up on both coasts to prepare for the start date, scouting locations up and down the Eastern Seaboard and preparing stages and sets which would be used when the company returned to Los Angeles after the winter holiday. "We had an East Coast production company in full swing with a lot of East Coast crew,” says Kennedy, "then, simultaneously, we had a West Coast crew prepping what we would be coming back to.”

Pre-production took place in essentially half the amount of time normally allotted to a film of similar size and scope. Spielberg notes, however, "This wasn't a cram course for ‘War of the Worlds.' This was my longest schedule in about 12 years. We took our time.”

"There are certain reasons that we were able to make this movie so fast,” comments director of photography and longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski. "First of all, you're working with a director who's extremely confident, who is very familiar with the genre, who knows how to make movies.

Everyone agrees there are few directors with the experience and vision to put a project of this size and scope together with such deftness. "It's terrifying because it's so fast, but it's also incredibly energizing,” comments costume designer Joanna Johnston. "I don't know anybody who works as fast as Steven does. He knows exactly what he wants.” Spielberg's clarity, decisiveness, and easy communication with the team he assembled, many of whom are veterans of several Spielberg projects, ensured that the project would proceed on schedule.

The crew's efficiency during the preproduction period was a result of the production team's familiarity with each other and the director. "The majority of people heading all the major departments, including myself, have been with Steven for 15 to 20 years,” says Kennedy.

Of the team assembled, most had worked with Spielberg before, many on multiple projects over several decades: producer Kathleen Kennedy (15 films), producer Cohn Wilson (10 films), cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (9 films), production designer Rick Carter (6 films), editor Michael Kahn (19 films), composer John Williams (21 films), senior visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren (10 films), costume designer Joanna Johnston (4 films), stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong (5 films), set decorator Anne Kuljian (3 films), property master Doug Harlocker (2 films), and sound mixer Ron Judkins (11 films).

"I attribute a great deal of the ability to be able to achieve this schedule to the group of people that we put together,” says producer Cohn Wilson, who began with Spielberg as an editor and has produced several features with him over the years. "A lot of the key individuals have a shorthand because they have so much history together.

Spielberg's unique capacity to occupy both the worlds of visual effects and the world the camera sees was evidenced in the earliest stages of prep. The shooting schedule reflected the need to give Dennis Muren, Pablo Helman and their team at Industrial Light & Magic as much time as possible with the visual effects sequences. "We knew we had a fair number of effects and we knew we had a limited post-production schedule,” says Kennedy. "We recognized that it was important to get on film those large seque

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