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Design And Style Of The Film
Filming for Man of the Year commenced on November 28, 2005, and wrapped on February 11, 2006. The majority of the comedy was lensed in the Northeast, and key principal photography occurred in New York City and the District of Columbia to capture the signature shots available in the two capitals that helped fashion American democracy. Above all, Levinson felt two things were crucial to setting the tone of the film: specific camera work and balance of improv with his carefully scripted comedy. He chose British cinematographer Dick Pope to give a documentary-style feel to the production, and he worked with his actors, particularly Williams, to get the perfect level of scripted and improv jokes that would make the comedy feel seamless.

Pope, a longtime collaborator of Mike Nichols, comes from a documentary filmmaking background. Levinson's interest in working with his DP to shoot the film with handheld cameras allowed them to keep the momentum going while Tom Dobbs plugged along on the campaign trail, speaking on stage to an audience or one on one on his American tour. This decision often allowed Pope and Levinson to eliminate the need to stop and fix film.

The director didn't want an overly produced look or slickly shot visuals for the comedy, rather he wanted to tell the story organically. Together with Pope and production designer Stefania Cella, the team created sequences that were more evening news than sweeping drama. "I didn't want a film that's very handsome looking,” notes Levinson. "That would not be correct to the type of movie we are doing. It would work against this project.”

The weather on set would not always cooperate for the players. Shooting in the Northeast region of the U.S. during the dead of winter led to many bitter cold days for the production. "Laura was running around in pajamas and a coat for part of the movie,” recalls Levinson. For the scenes where she had to make a quick getaway from her motel, the crew was shooting in temperatures that were three degrees below zero.

Fortunately, Levinson wasn't one to dawdle in the freezing winter weather while he took signature shots. "We did a lot of work in the cold,” recalls Lewis Black. "We're walking across this tarmac to a plane in a scene where Tom Dobbs' team boards a plane. After the first take, we were out of there. Barry's good at getting it right the first time.”

Producer James G. Robinson also liked the shooting style ways of his director.

"He's a pro,” Robinson notes. "Barry's not afraid to say, ‘This seemed like a good idea yesterday. Maybe today we should shoot it differently.'”

Laura Linney had a particularly interesting scene for an actor as cinematographer Pope captured her "meltdown” in long, extended sequences. Out to disprove Ellie as a psychotic, her company, Delacroy, hires a thug to dose her with a cocktail that would send the voting tech into a spinning rampage in the company cafeteria. "It was quite fun,” Linney offers. "Films are not like plays where you must consistently keep your body warm and keep ‘actor fit.' If you have an opportunity to work in front of the camera all day long on a big chunk…grab it, do it.”

To prepare his actors for the shoot, Levinson asked they watch the 1992 debate with the then-incumbent George H.W. Bush, Texas billionaire Ross Perot and a young Arkansas governor by the name of Bill Clinton. Williams recalls of the session how he was struck that Perot came out very strong and Clinton strategically chose to not become defensive, winning him the debate. "Clinton dealt with questions directly, honestly and the others seemed lost,” offers Williams. This would prove a valuable lesson he would take into his character of Dobbs.

While the majority of the shoot was scripted, Levinson would play around with improv, especially for Williams. "When y


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