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The Film's Production
Once on the set of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, the cast not only had to get used to each other in character but also to the relatively uncommon situation of having two directors. "I had some trepidation about it, initially,” says Alan Arkin, "I thought it would double up the amount of direction I was getting. But they were great. They seem to speak the same language and it's almost like dealing with one person.” Due to their years of experience on the sets of commercials and music videos, Dayton and Faris have honed their partnership. "The fact that there are two of us simply means we always need to have a clear idea of what we want, and be all the more prepared,” says Dayton. "Our work is the intersection of our two sensibilities,” adds Faris.

But how does a marriage survive the intensity and five-alarm stress of a debut feature film shoot? "We tried not to think about the fact that we were together 23 hours a day,” offers Dayton. "We respect each other,” comments Faris, "and it hasn't gotten old, creatively or personally.” Perhaps Dayton has the most important sentiment: "I can't imagine going home to someone who had no idea what I was working on that day.”

For producer Peter Saraf there was only one downside to there being two directors on-set: "It was harder to see the monitor,” he laughs.

The actual production of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE was limited to an intense thirty days, spread across locations in southern California and the deserts of Arizona, in the hot summer of 2005. "It was a grueling shoot,” says Dayton. "But we wanted the realism of being out on the road.”

As the journey began, the filmmakers turned their attention to look and feel of the film. One of their primary goals was finding the right balance between the film's often twisted sense of humor and the realism necessary to hold the story together. "We knew the performances were the most important thing,” says Jonathan Dayton,” so we tried to ride a fine line between creating beautiful, interesting shots and never overshadowing the performances in the frame.”

Dayton and Faris collaborated closely with cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt -- who has previously captured such comedic worlds as the corporate life of OFFICE SPACE and the stylized fantasy of BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE – on creating quirky, fresh visuals that allow the Hoovers' personalities to take the spotlight. "There were no rules, except to use whatever felt right for the moment,” says Suhrstedt "We used a mixture of everything, with some shots decided ahead of time and others decided right on the spot.” To support this free-wheeling style of working, Suhrstedt decided to shoot the film on Super 35mm, as opposed to using anamorphic lenses. "It lets you use lighter equipment and better depth of field, which fit the shooting schedule perfectly,” he explains.

Suhrstedt also wanted to stay away from the typically bright, sunny tones associated with family comedies. "I'm not a big believer in the idea that comedies need to be intensely lit,” says Suhrstedt. "For this film, I wanted to light the actors naturalistically, and then make it about getting the right angles to capture the performances.”

When it came to finding angles, the biggest challenge was shooting inside what becomes the Hoovers' tightly-packed home for most of the story: their beaten-up, broken-down VW bus. In order to find interesting views from inside the vehicle, Suhrstedt first used a basic video camera to experiment with different shooting angles, ultimately compiling the shots that would work best.

Throughout the shooting, Suhrstedt also worked closely with production designer Kalina Ivanov, who also kept the focus on a familiar naturalism against which the chaos and catharsis of the trip plays out. "We did not want to exaggerate, we did not want to push, we always wanted to keep the look subtle and realistic,” explains Ivanov.



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