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THE NEW WORLD

Designing and Rebuilding
One of the earliest challenges faced by the production team was determining where to shoot the film. Initially, they were skeptical they would be able to find an area that could adequately resemble the world which European settlers first encountered in America. 

"We thought that in a million years there's no place left in the United States that looks as untouched as the James and Chickahominy Rivers would have been in 1607,” says Green. "We thought it would be in some mysterious place where no one lives, so we looked at obscure regions in Canada where there were hopefully untouched forests and rivers.

"But (production designer) Jack Fisk, who lives in Virginia, felt that we shouldn't go anywhere else until we saw where it all started. So Terry, Jack and I traveled to see the original site of James Fort, and to the Jamestown Settlement recreation nearby. Then we took a boat up the Chickahominy River to see how the landscape flowed, and we thought, gosh, there are a whole lot of stretches that weren't quite as settled as we thought they might be. At one point, we came around a bend in the river and saw a big old concrete fish house with a ‘For Sale' sign on it. We didn't think we could afford to shoot in Virginia, but with our collective aversion to runaway productions, and with a lot of help from the State of Virginia, we decided that we had to make it work. There's a look in Virginia that's nowhere else.”

Green credits the Virginia government with helping make it feasible for the production to shoot in the state where the story took place so many years ago.

"The Virginia Film Office really helped pave the way for us to shoot there,” says Green. "The unions wanted us in Virginia, the crews wanted us in Virginia and the actors wanted us in Virginia. Then Governor Warner really threw his weight behind us, and that was it. It's one of the rare examples of a historical film shooting in almost the exact place where the events originally occurred, and that fish house became the site of the Jamestown fort.”

Setting up production in the idyllic Virginia countryside was only the beginning of creating the remarkable environment in which The New World would take place. To bring that world to life, Malick turned to his longtime collaborator, production designer Jack Fisk.

"Walking on to one of Jack Fisk's sets is like walking into Caravaggio's studio,” says his New World colleague, costume designer Jacqueline West. "It's like going back in time.”

For Fisk, his work on The New World brought with it a set of challenges unlike any he had faced before.

"Although I live in Virginia, I didn't know that much about either the Indian or Anglo cultures at that time Jamestown was settled…just what I had learned in history class,” says Fisk.

In order to educate himself about these cultures, Fisk embarked on a crash course which would result in the most authentic depictions of life in early 17th century North America yet seen on film. 

"I got excited because I knew that the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement was coming up and thought that it was a story that should be told, about both cultures,” says Fisk. "To create James Fort, I studied all of the writings of the colonists, primarily the Jamestown Narratives, what remains of their eyewitness accounts.

"I was fortunate the Jamestown Rediscovery Project was happening so close to where we were shooting,” continues Fisk. "In researching James Fort, we all worked from the same written materials, but the archaeologists are working from real things they find in the ground. Some of the information they gave me at our first meeting encouraged me to alter our original design of the fort.”

For art director David Crank, the chance to build the fort was the culmination of a childhood dream. 

"Having grown up

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