Designing The Film
With such strong characters to work with in CHARLIE BARTLETT, director Jon Poll always knew he would need an equally strong, contemporary visual style to bring Charlie's worlds at home and school to vibrant life. He began with storyboards that expressed a realistic but dynamic view of 21st Century teen life. He then collaborated closely with cinematographer Paul Sarossy, production designer Tamara Deverell and costume designer Luis Sequeira to turn his ideas into reality on the screen.
Poll considered more than 80 cinematographers before settling on Sarossy, who has won awards for his work on such films as the chilling thriller "The Wicker Man" and Atom Egoyan's elegiac drama "The Sweet Hereafter." Poll says that Sarossy "made the pictures that were in my head even more real and interesting." In keeping with Poll's storyboards, Sarossy developed unique looks for each Charlie Bartlett's diverse environments, keeping the camera very static with clean, formal angles whenever he's on his mother's estate, but then descending into a grittier, far more kinetic feeling with hand-held cameras and stark lighting when Charlie's at school.
Comments Poll: "Paul was able to create an extraordinarily visual movie with a very strong sense of place and style. It was a pleasure and a joy to work with him - and the movie looks beautiful."
Meanwhile, production designer Tamara Deverell, who most recently designed the family feature "Firehouse Dog," tackled a wide range of locales for the film, ranging from Charlie's luxurious and formal home to the funky Student Lounge that was built - and then destroyed - for the production. "Tamara had this ability to create sets that looked like they had always been there, even if she just built them a few days before, and always felt incredibly real," Poll says.
Costume designer Luis Sequeira, who recently designed the costumes for the acclaimed thriller "Breach," made it his mandate to nail the appropriate uniform of every clique, gang and team at a modern high school. "Luis made everyone look like so true-to-life," notes Poll, "and that added to the whole atmosphere."
Adds actress Megan Park, who plays Whitney Drummond, of the film's design: "The whole thing just screamed of my own high school experience."
Throughout, the producers give Jon Poll credit for inspiring everyone on the set, from cast to crew. Producer David Permut believes that Poll's extensive editing background gave him a unique advantage on the set, where he was always looking at the "big picture." "As a world-class editor, Jon's mind is constantly turning and he always thinking in terms of options and all the different ways of going," Permut explains. "In every aspect of the film, he's really captured the spirit and the tone of CHARLIE BARTLETT.
For Poll, that spirit is inspired most of all by Charlie himself - a character who breaks barriers by being at once funny and serious, lovable and provocative, amusing and revealing. Sums up Poll: "I really hope that audiences laugh at Charlie's outrageousness and then are surprised at how much they're moved."
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