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EVAN ALMIGHTY

Ark Building For Dummies
Early on during the writing process, Shadyac sat with Oedekerk, discussing the ark and what they envisioned for it. Little did they know that their preliminary research would set the foundation for one of the film's most elaborate and jaw-dropping set pieces. The design and timing of the construction schedule of the ark set, complex to say the least, would become one of the biggest challenges for the company.

The Herculean task of designing and building a practical ark—both exterior and interior sets—rested with production designer Linda DeScenna, a close member of Shadyac's team who has worked closely with the director on four previous films. Alongside art director Jim Nedza and a construction department of several hundred people—headed by veteran builder Dennis DeWaay—DeScenna's art department rose to the challenge of not only conceptualizing and constructing several enormous structures, but doing so in a short amount of time to accommodate a shooting schedule built around Carell's hiatus from his television series.

Armed with detailed research—including ancient Biblical specifications found in the Book of Genesis, both modern and dated equipment and a bit of movie magic—they constructed a vessel that attracted much attention from animals and humans alike. To design and build a set piece of such an immense scale and not rely entirely on computer generated images was indeed an impressive sight—especially an ark that could dwarf the enormous creatures, such as elephants and giraffes, working alongside it.

The construction crew began preparing the site in the bucolic town of Crozet, Virginia, in January 2006. From laying the concrete foundation to building the eight 4,000-pound cedar-paneled steel ribs, the "sleeper” support beams, the keel—the main structural base that runs the full length of the ark—and the 59'-high carved-foam bow of the ark, they worked around the clock to have all the elements ready for filming in early April 2006.

The final rendering for the ark layout incorporated the original Biblical design and, surprisingly, elements from various children's books that contained familiar images the cast and crew knew from their youth. Comments DeScenna: "Tom wants as much stage and as much of the real thing as he can get. It helps him and, in turn, it helps his actors.”

"It's true,” remarks Shadyac with a nod. "I felt it was important for everyone, but especially for Steve, to stand there every day and think, ‘Oh, my God. What am I doing?' The ark was impressive, and I wanted it to resonate with the actors and crew.” Finding a practical location to mirror a detailed, plot-specific setting proved to be a fine coincidence for the filmmakers. A luxury housing development (in the midst of construction) nestled at the base of the stunning Shenandoah National Park would serve as home to the ark, as well as several other houses comprising the Baxters' new suburban neighborhood in the fictitious town of Huntsville.

An added challenge to the process of working at the location was the delicate balance of a synchronized construction and filming schedule, which was all subject to the whims of Virginia's notoriously mercurial weather.

Once the 250' (W) X 260' (L) X 8” (D) concrete base—the same thing engineers would use to build a runway at LAX for landing 747s upon—was laid into the Virginia countryside and covered in red clay soil, all phases of future ark construction would be dovetailed with the filming of the identical sequences over a six-week period. This resulted in a seamless ark-building schedule that complemented Evan's journey and progress of shipbuilding.

The production schedule was mind-boggling. The company would film the actors at the ark during the day or relocate to another location while DeWaay's crew worked throughout the night—or up to seven d

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