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Production Design
Syriana was filmed on location, rather than on a soundstage, with production traveling around the globe to capture the inimitable essence of the landscape and societies they would be depicting. "For example, the light in the Persian Gulf is pretty irreplaceable,” says Gaghan. "There's so much construction going on all the time in Dubai that it throws an immense amount of dust into the air. So whether you're there in summer or winter, the sky is really leaden. You can't recreate that in the states.”

The locations also served to focus the actors and filmmakers on what they were attempting to capture. "The minute you go on location you sense exactly what you're trying to do,” explains Clooney. "Being in a Third World country, for example, is not a feeling you can capture filming on a soundstage. You're in Morocco and five times a day a siren goes off and everybody stops their cars and gets out in the middle of the streets and kneels down and prays. Being in a place informs any artistic work that's set there.”

Giving the film's interweaving storylines a visual continuity was cinematographer Robert Elswit, whose credits include Magnolia, Tomorrow Never Dies and Boogie Nights, who shot the entire movie using a pair of hand-held cameras. This unusual cinematographic approach was intended to give the film a quasi-documentary style, providing a sense of backroom intimacy and ripped-from -the-headlines urgency that slicker, mounted-camera shots couldn't provide.

Production designer Dan Weil (The Bourne Identity, The Fifth Element) spanned a multitude of national and economic boundaries in creating sets ranging from an Emir's palace to the humble barracks where itinerant oilfield workers are housed.

A crew of approximately 200 and a cast of more than 100 covered three continents over a period of five months to complete filming of Syriana.

Production began at a game preserve that location manager Todd Christensen found in Hondo, Texas, about an hour west of San Antonio. The 777 Ranch has one of the largest herds of exotic animals in North America on its 15,000 acres. It has been a destination resort for hunters and photographers for over 40 years and features over 50 species of deer, antelope, gazelle, oryx, ibex, goat, sheep and bison, among other animals from plains, jungles and forests around the globe.

Filming moved to the eastern U.S. locales of Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Annapolis where George Clooney and Matt Damon began filming.

Despite heavy post 9/11 security, the production was allowed to shoot on the streets of D.C., not far from the White House and Capitol Dome. The filmmakers had hoped that the political balance of the script would help in negotiating permissions to film in the politically sensitive environment of the nation's governing nerve center. Location manager Christensen had to meet with a panel of 12 personnel from the Justice Department who would decide if and how filming would occur in D.C. While all the locations involved certain restrictions, the company was able to achieve what it wanted within those parameters.

The production also gained a rare permission to film around the Maryland State Capitol building in Annapolis. Other U.S. locations included the Enoch Pratt Library in Washington which served as Donald Farish's Justice Department office, a 1940s diner in downtown Baltimore called the Sip ‘n Bite where Bob Barnes has an intense late night meeting with Dean Whiting, and the woodsy setting of the Piper Rudnick law firm, which served as CIA headquarters. The company also created the Tengiz oil field out of an industrial construction site in southern Baltimore.

Production then left the country to begin shooting in Casablanca. Morocco's largest city and commercial capital, Casablanca rests on one of


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