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THE THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE

About The Physical Production
Bier, whose early works illustrated the principles of Dogma 95, an avantgarde filmmaking movement started in 1995 by Danish directors including Lars von Trier, is well known for the fluid movement of her camera.

”She uses handheld cameras, and she gets very, very close to people, sometimes into their eyeballs, you know, literally,” says an admiring Mendes. "She's very free in rehearsals and watching her shoot, she's got two cameras going most of the time. She moves with them. But her real study is human beings and the species.”

When filming began on location in Vancouver, Bier's style of working with the actors was as radical and open as the movement of her camera. "We rehearsed the day's scenes every morning for about one and a half to two hours,” explains Bier. "And we often changed a lot at that point. It's a very creative process. And it demands a lot of responsibility, a lot of creativity from the actors.”

"The rehearsals were conducted in the environment of the house, which is the key set in the movie,” adds producer Mercer. "We would make lunch, dinner, and go out and play ball in the yard. That helped getting everyone comfortable, so when it came time to do the scenes, they were a unit.”

"The script is the script, and of course it's the bible and we want to honor that,” says Berry. "But Susanne is a great advocate for taking the words and making them your own, saying basically what the writer intended, but putting it into you own body so that it sounds natural coming out of your mouth.

"Susanne did a terrific job of keeping everyone listening and open to exploring different interpretations of the different moments in a scene,” Berry continues. I have proposed things and she's taken them and run with them. It's been great in that way. It feels like we're all on the same page.”

"I don't believe in preconceived scenes,” explains Bier. "I believe in knowing a lot about what the scene is about, but I also believe in being open, because great actors – and these are great actors – have an immense interaction and an immense knowledge of their own characters. We never know when we get there in the morning what the day's going to be, what the scenes are going to be, and that's fun and it's exciting…and it's terrifying.”

The element of trust the actors had in the director also extended to their co-stars. "The other actors you're working with always influence you,” says Berry. "And usually they make you better. You can really help make each other better by being present in the moment and really understanding your own character and always making choices. Benicio's very much like that. He has definite ideas about who he is as an actor and about the character. You have to respect that and you work with him on that.”

Del Toro found working with Berry equally beneficial. "With Halle you just listen. There's not a false beat in her. So all you have to do is be there and watch what's going on.”

Although dialogue may have changed in the course of production, what remained consistent was that handheld cameras were always in motion as part of Bier's signature style. To collaborate with her as the film's cinematographer, Mendes suggested Tom Stern. "Tom was the gaffer on ‘American Beauty' and ‘Road to Perdition',” explains Mendes. "He worked very closely with Conrad Hall, who was the great cinematographer on those movies, and he was given his first chance as director of photography by Clint Eastwood on ‘Blood Work'.”

Stern's subsequent collaboration with Eastwood has resulted in such acclaimed films as "Million Dollar Baby,” "Flags of Our Fathers” and "Letters from Iwo Jima.” "Tom had to light all the sets 360 degrees because we were literally shooting in all directions in various takes,” explains Bier. "So it does put a lot of demands on the crew.<

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