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LADY IN THE WATER

The Worlds Of The Cove
Lady in the Water was shot entirely on location in Leavittown, Pennsylvania, approximately 20 miles outside of Philadelphia, at the site of a former 3M tape manufacturing plant. The 81 acre property provided an area large enough to construct the film's principal set, an expansive apartment building called The Cove, as well as warehouse space for interior sets, workshop and office space, and a massive water tank (previously used by 3M as a fire tank) for the underwater sequences.

The close proximity of the various facets of production on the compound made it possible for Shyamalan to shoot Lady in the Water in sequence. From the moment Cleveland introduces himself to Mr. Farber, the film was shot scene-for-scene as the story unfolds in the script (with the exception of the underwater sequences, which were filmed at the end of the production schedule).

The Cove – a U-shaped, 5 story, 57-unit apartment complex complete with a center courtyard, swimming pool and a detached bungalow bordering on a sprawling wooded meadow – was built from the ground up under the supervision of production designer Martin Childs.

Childs, an Oscar winner for his set designs for Shakespeare in Love, had never been to Philadelphia and drove around the city's suburbs to absorb the architecture as he was researching and developing ideas for the look of The Cove, which Shyamalan envisioned as a "transitory” building housing tenants whose lives are in state of flux. "I tried to imagine the sort of social feel that a building like The Cove might have, with its residents from different ethnic backgrounds, of different ages and social classes,” Childs recalls.

Rather than create a stylized structure with inherent architectural ambience (like the foreboding atmosphere exuded by a Gothic building, for example), Childs and Shyamalan purposely chose a nondescript design for The Cove – one that would give no hint of the diverse worlds cohabiting within or portend the events to come. "We decided to create a completely ‘blank' building that would be given character by the characters inside it,” Childs explains. "In a sense it was a blank page upon which the story could be written.”

A scale model was made of Childs' design for the complex, which he and his team strategically placed on the 3M property where the massive set was to be built. Then they calculated how sunlight would fall onto the building from various angles. Using computer diagrams to chart the trajectory of the sun and how it changed the light flow onto the building, Childs determined how to best position and construct the horseshoe-shaped structure, with its "open end” facing what would become a wooded area.

The art department and construction team built and dressed the complex in seven weeks. Nine of the units were "built out” and fully dressed as the residences of the film's principal characters. "The complex had everything but plumbing and heating,” confirms producer Sam Mercer. In fact, The Cove was so realistic, during production a memo was distributed to the cast and crew reminding them: Please do not use the sinks and/or bathrooms in the apartment sets. They may look real, but they're NOT!”

As in the story, each tenant's apartment is a microcosm unto itself, reflecting not only the character of the inhabitant, but how he or she relates to the outside world – from the warmth and tradition of Mrs. Choi's home to the learned and solitary feel of Mr. Leeds' bookish abode, to Mrs. Bell's nurturing, animal-friendly environment or the lethargic, unstructured vibe of the Smokers' apartment.

Childs and his art department so thoroughly outfitted the tenants' living spaces, many members of the cast remarked that they became more deeply acquainted with and connected to their characters upon entering their apartments. Some reactions were more visc

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