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THE NIGHT LISTENER

About The Design
The visual design of THE NIGHT LISTENER was specifically calibrated by Patrick Stettner to play tricks with the mind, to lay out psychological clues and to forge a realm in which the imagined mixes up seamlessly with the real, leaving the audience caught up in the same doubts and enigmas as the characters.

To capture the feeling of fantasy and reality colliding, Stettner worked closely with his creative team including cinematographer Lisa Rinzler, production designer Michael Shaw and costume designer Marina Draghici. They in turn lined the film's frames with subtle repetitions and cycles of patterns, colors and imagery. For example, the motif of a shirt in Gabriel Noone's New York becomes wallpaper in Donna and Pete's Wisconsin – with details such as these constantly calling the authenticity of what the audience is seeing into question. Stettner also collaborated with director of photography Rinzler, whose credits range from the acclaimed biopic POLLACK to the recent THE WAR WITHIN, to achieve a classically elegant, yet deeply saturated look that further adds to the film's aura of suspense and mystery.

The film was shot largely in New York State, with the stark, wintry landscapes of upstate Ulster and Orange counties standing in for Wisconsin – allowing the crew to move easily between Gabriel's New York City and the Logand's rural Midwestern hinterlands.

Throughout, Stettner knew he was building a complicated house of mirrors – and that he had to have the entire cast and crew playing along with him. "I wanted to make sure at every point the audience experiences a similar deception to that which Gabriel goes through,” Stettner explains.

To do this, Stettner shot all the scenes between Gabriel and Pete talking on the phone with Robin Williams and Rory Culkin first. He then took the audio from the takes he liked best and gave them to Toni Collette, who in turn recorded her imitation of Rory doing each of the scenes. "In the film, every time you see a shot of Gabriel on the phone,” Stettner notes, "you are actually hearing Toni's voice as Rory.” A "phone-fuzz” layer was then added to these recordings to hide the slight tonal difference in their voices and allow the audience to experience the Pete / Donna voice as Gabriel does.

There is one exception. "In the final scene where Robin talks on the bed with Pete/Donna, we actually have two tracks -- one of Rory and one of Toni -- which phase in and out, and meld together,” Stettner explains. "If you listen very carefully at times you can hear two voices. I wanted there to be this eerie sense of both Donna and Pete co-existing.”

The makers of THE NIGHT LISTENER have asked the media to try to avoid revealing too much about the true nature of certain characters as they talk about the film, so that audiences will get maximum enjoyment from the mystery. Along those lines, Stettner has a final note, regarding the question of whether or not Pete is "real.”

"Regardless of what I, or Armistead, or Terry, or the character of Gabriel believes to be the case, I was determined, with this version of THE NIGHT LISTENER, to avoid completely answering that question, because for me it's the wrong question,” he says. "This film is, among many things, about how a fact doesn't necessarily have a value greater than a fiction. Truth comes in many different forms. Gabriel has changed because of his relationship to this boy – his experience is real – so to proclaim Pete complete fiction or a lie is to debase the value of Gabriel's transformation. And I didn't want to do that.”

Stettner continues: "In a sense, Donna is just a distorted mirror of Gabriel, and in many ways the two of them are just distorted mirrors of all of us, including the filmmakers - who are now telling this story. What we all share is the yearning to use stories to find meaning and value in our lives.”

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