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These two distinct phases of pre-production (one a couple of weeks, the other a couple of days), geared as much towards the actors as the production, helped achieve LaBute's desired effect, once shooting began: that "these people felt like they had lived

These two distinct phases of pre-production (one a couple of weeks, the other a couple of days), geared as much towards the actors as the production, helped achieve LaBute's desired effect, once shooting began: that "these people felt like they had lived together in this city for a while." Patric feels that the retreat "brought everyone closer together with a unity of purpose."

Production began, following the retreat, in October 1997. Among the locations utilized was an antiquarian bookshop that is the scene of several key encounters in the film. Those scenes, Patric points out, consist of "two people acting in a complex scene. That's what you want to do as an actor -- it's like walking the high wire." From the producer's standpoint, Patric notes that the bookshop scenes also consisted of "a reasonably intricate Steadicam move" that needed to be mapped out. Keener remembers, "With all the camera equipment and the other stuff, it really took a lot of concentration."

However, LaBute points out that, from the script stage to the finished film, "there are no scenes that take place outside." Further, he notes, "I'm not one who really likes establishing shots or inserts. I've never found it as interesting to look at a close-up of a phone as it is to look at a person talking on the phone. I've been lucky enough, through two films, to have worked with an editor, Joel Plotch, who has a like sensibility: letting character and story logic move the action, rather than simply trying to please the audience."

By the time filming began, the rehearsal period was already paying dividends, as Patric recalls: "It enabled us to react to each other in-character." Keener reminds that, on-set, "The adrenaline is different. The crew's there. The stakes are higher. You're really doing it. It heightens everything. It's good to know all the words, which is essentially what the rehearsal [period was] for."

LaBute's emphasis on actors over visuals was implemented on-set. Even so, Brenneman reminds, "the pictures also support the story. [Director of Photography] Nancy Schreiber is incredible at her job. She has a strong visual sense about her." Schreiber' s eye for detail complements what LaBute calls his "tendency to observe." As a film director framing his shots, he explains, "I sit back and watch as if I were looking at a nature show. In nature documentaries, when the baby seals are killed, the camera doesn't pull back. The filmmaker shows it. That's how I tend to think of my films: this is the way life is. I think it would be far more cruel to not show the truth." In the same vein, LaBute prefers what he calls "spare filmmaking -- removed from the action -- and still. It has a distancing effect."

Adding to that "distancing effect" were a unified force of design personnel. Charles Breen (Production Designer) and April Napier (Costume Design) brought their unique sensibilities to the project, drawing on such diverse inspirations as Honore Fragonard, Francis Bacon, Edward Hopper, and the current worlds of fashion and music. Breen and Napier were also given access to a wealth of clothing and home furnishings through Calvin Klein, which further streamlined and enhanced the look of the project. The actors were also instrumental in influencing the feel of the

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