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CHILDREN OF MEN

Shooting And Cameras
Cuarón made the conscious decision early on to shoot as many long sequences as he could in Children of Men, removing some of the rhythmic, artificial cuts associated with current cinema and allowing for a more realistic, cinéma vérité style—"to squeeze the frame to the last of its potential…to hold the frame until there's nothing else we can tell in that frame and, all the time, following Theo's perception,” he offers.

To achieve this, he utilized wide lenses and a roving "curious” camera in an attempt to elicit an emotional response to the characters being portrayed in a certain space at just the right time. This meant a higher level of choreography from cast and crew to orchestrate these difficult, lengthy, near-documentary takes. More rehearsal time was taken during production to prepare for the more intricate shots, in order to maximize time within the restrictions of location shooting. In the end, these longer takes (Cuarón reasoned) would cut down on the time spent in editing, with the seamless look he wanted already begun by the cinematography. The overall goal: Keep the audience in the film and plugged into the drama of Theo's journey.

To achieve Cuarón's desired look, camera operator George Richmond shot for 16 weeks with a handheld camera. The resulting shots are tactilely real, giving a feeling of being in the moment while following Theo on his turbulent journey. Lubezki offers, "The camera almost became another person on set—a curious, inquisitive person who follows our main character and, at times, becomes very nervous and edgy. This puts the audience in the environment and gives them a sense of ‘real' time.”

This is never more evident than in one of the longest, most action-filled sequences toward the end of the film, when "we follow characters through the streets in the midst of battles into this apartment building, being shelled from the outside by the army with freedom fighters shooting back from inside. And we follow room to room, floor to floor, in one single shot. I had this instinct to tell everybody, ‘Don't worry, we can always cut.' But everyone—the ADs, the stunt people, the visual effects, the cast, the crew—took it as a crusade and said, ‘No way, we're not going to cut! We're going to go all the way through!'” relates Cuarón.

The final sequence took four days of preparation with no cameras rolling. On the fifth day, several failed attempts occurred. Then, just before day's end, the scene came together, per the director, "better than I could have hoped, because there were little accidents along the way that made it more lively!”

Clare-Hope Ashitey recalls, "Alfonso tends to build up his scenes in layers, and between each shot and each take, he'll add comments, which really help you to layer your performance. Soon, he's created something so different from what you started with.”

The look and style of the film was another one of the elements that attracted Caine to the project: "So it's 2027, and these futuristic films tend to be expensive-looking and slick, but ours is dirty and shadowy. They usually put dolly tracks down, but our film was shot using handheld, so it looks something like a newsreel. That was the final thing that swayed me to do it. I actually thought, ‘Aha, here's a director who's actually thinking!'”

Some of the takes involved in the long sequence of shots could only work during certain times on any given day. Producer Abraham says, "It's been difficult shooting in the U.K. in the middle of winter, because you have a limited amount of time where there's enough light to expose the film.”

Every detail of a shot was diligently prepared prior to a take, which didn't leave much room for mistakes. But, says Owen, "We had an amazing camera operator who literally, from day one, put the camera in incredible positions. He did extrao

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