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WE OWN THE NIGHT

About The Production
Cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay had impressed Gray with the work he did on the indie film Rodger Dodger, which the director had seen when he was participating in a Sundance lab in Utah. He wanted to meet Baca-Asay because his photography was fantastic in a "very un-showy, very immediate way.”

When the two of them met and began to talk, Baca-Asay recommended that they look at the artwork of Vincent Desiderio, an American contemporary realist. "He made me go out and buy this artist's book,” Gray recalls, "and of course there were fabulous and macabre paintings but there was this beautiful lighting to them. I thought, this guy is really interesting.”

Capturing both the authentic texture and iconic imagery of New York in the late 1980s was the task assigned to production designer Ford Wheeler, who had been the set decorator on Gray's two previous films.

"Production design is an ability to understand character and interpret in terms of material possessions and environment,” suggests Gray. "Ford had been with me from the first two movies and he really knew my taste.”

Previously the set decorator on such director-driven films as Flirting With Disaster, Any Given Sunday and Birth, Wheeler was pleased to re-team with someone who has strong artistic tastes.

"James always wants a certain style,” says Wheeler. "He likes the colors to be modest and have a painterly element. In fact, James and Michael Clancy, the costume designer and Joaquin, the DP and I all went to the Metropolitan Museum… and we looked at classical paintings and discussed the ways in which we wanted our movie to have those classical but beautiful elements.”

"James also made a book of different visual references – all sorts of things that represented the heightened reality he wanted for his 1988-set film,” explains Wheeler, who came up with the idea that Bobby would have a Polaroid collection and would snap Polaroids of his friends when they were partying. "It's not a very original idea, because it's exactly what I did in 1988,” he says.

Shooting in New York City was a priority for Gray and fortunately, the producers backed him up. "New York just gives the movie the authenticity and realism it needs,” says producer Butan. "Down to the faces of the crowd, the extras, the looks of the buildings…it needed to be real and gritty and differentiate itself from a lot of other films or television shows. The supporting actors and extras in our movie are real-deal New York.”

The locations department found three different sites that would make up the exterior and interior of the fictitious El Caribe club. The dramatic exterior was Reverend Ike's Christ United "Palace Cathedral” in Upper Manhattan's Washington Heights section (formerly the Loews 175th Street movie theater). The bar of the club was filmed in the 1920s-era Loews Theater in the Bronx and El Caribe's enormous dance floor belongs to that of the iconic Webster Hall in Lower Manhattan.

Learning to expect the unexpected, Wheeler explains that the company was due to shoot a big scene in a field of very tall marshy grass – but discovered when visiting the location two days before filming that the entire field had burned to the roots. This had a cascading effect on the rest of the schedule – and production designer Wheeler was forced to dress Bobby's apartment location in just a day.

"Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it,” says Wheeler. "My idea for his apartment was to give him nice furniture like a big couch and a big coffee table and a big TV. But he also didn't necessarily have to be incredible showy. There was a layer of casualness over the whole thing – a little messy with a shirt here and there.”

During the ten-week shoot, the cast and crew shot in the boroughs of the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, often in the seediest neighborhoods – to capture t

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