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THE SAVAGES

About The Film's Design
Production on THE SAVAGES traversed from the heart of urban New York City to Buffalo and on to the manicured retirement villages of Sun City, Arizona – reflecting the clashing worlds of the all three Savage family members. The film was shot in a dizzying 30 days, which as Tamara Jenkins succinctly states, "isn't a hell of a lot of time to go through so much emotionally.”

From the beginning, Jenkins was aware the filming would be hard on her cast and crew. Shooting in hospitals and nursing homes while working incredibly long hours on such tough material was simply brutal,” she admits. "But it was very important that the physical world of the movie felt real.”

Part of that realism emerged from the locations Jenkins and her creative team chose. "We literally toured the nursing homes, senior centers, retirement villages and hospitals of New York and Arizona,” she recalls. "One of the most fascinating places for me was Sun City, which I'd never been to before, but ended up researching while I was writing the screenplay. It is one of America's premiere retirement communities and it's just this very odd kind of geriatric fantasyland. I really wanted the film to contrast this world where Lenny Savage starts with the stark reality of his move to Buffalo.”

Jenkins collaborated closely with her cinematographer Mott Hupfel -- a rising talent who recently won acclaim for his black & white work on THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE -- in developing a naturalistic look that keeps THE SAVAGES feeling unadorned and utterly true to life. "BETTIE PAGE was so wonderfully stylized but I wanted a more organic feeling for this film and Mott was completely brilliant with that,” says Jenkins. "It certainly wasn't a glamorous shoot – the two of us spent days wandering around abandoned hospitals bundled up in coats and hats – but thank God, Mott has this great, sarcastic sense of humor.”

Ultimately, Hupfel would emphasize a loose, visual style for the film that Jenkins says hit just the right notes. "It's a look that is purposefully imperfect, not cleaned up and completely real,” she says.

Also working closely with Jenkins and Hupfel was production designer Jane Ann Stewart who has worked on all four of Alexander Payne's movies, most recently creating a nuanced view of the wine country in SIDEWAYS. For THE SAVAGES, Stewart had the opportunity to recreate realms most people only encounter when their own lives are in crisis – the kinds of place you might be inside but never really see.

"Jane was great for this story because she's the kind of production designer whose work is so brutally honest that you never even realize her films are designed in any way. She has a powerful radar for anything that's false. She also has a wicked sense of humor which definitely helped while visiting all the nursing homes we researched.”

Among the numerous nursing homes and hospitals the production used were the Hudson Senior Residence in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York; The Westchester Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing in Mount Vernon (which served as the location for the poignant scene in which Lenny has a public outburst while watching THE JAZZ SINGER with his children on Movie Night); the Concord Division of Staten Island University hospital, a former doctor's hospital that hasn't been used for three years; and the St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains.

None could be described as the most rousing of settings. "Nobody likes to film in hospitals and it does start to wear on you after a time,” confesses Laura Linney. "Everybody was quite happy when we got out of the hospitals and the nursing homes.”

Other key locations included Wendy and Jon's antithetical homes: Wendy's thimble-sized East Village apartment in the middle of everything and Jon's ramshackle house outside of it all. For Wendy's place, the filmmake

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