About The Production
Principal photography on "PAYBACK"
commenced in Chicago on September 17, 1997.
Chicago was chosen as a location because the city has a big urban
look to it and some of the best-designed, Greek and Deco power
buildings in America. Yet the age, the character and the alleys,
have a harsh and rusted appearance. The filmmakers wanted to visualize
a city that was deteriorating. They didn't want modern or mirrored
buildings or things that were shiny metallic-just old stone buildings
that were cold and gray.
According to Helgeland, part of the feel of the movie "will
be a little rough around the edges and not polished at all. It's
very stylized, very suited for a black and white movie. I'm also
trying to make the time period very non-specific. You never know
what city you're in. It's not Chicago; it's not New York. It's
a place that exists in a movie, a great place to trap the characters
and see what makes them tick. You'll never see a building that
was built after 1940. You'll never see a mall. Cars are older
cars, nothing newer than an '89. The movie's also got an ironic
slant to it that reveals some dark humor. Mel's character is the
straight man. No jokes. Just funny stuff happening all around
him in a twisted sort of way."
"One of our biggest challenges was how we were going to visually
communicate the story," says director of photography Ericson
Core, "so we used the 'bleached by-pass' method of processing
the film to reduce the colors to bare minimums."
"The city is definitely a character," continues Core.
"If there's ever an image of sky, it is broken by jagged
pieces of buildings. We are locked inside this city. The city's
a pretty strong character and that's Porter's world. You feel
that in the grittiness of it. My lighting and the type of film
stock are based on the characters of the script. Super 35 has
more grain, more grit and it helps us in depicting these surreal
characters. It adds to the noir quality of the film, a lot of
shadows, a lot of edge, a lot of darkness."
"We're trying to keep Mel's character centered and specific
most of the time," says Core, "showing his character
as a very single-minded, very determined person traveling through
this world, a visual metaphor of sorts. We may use several off-centered
angles of other characters, then come back to one single shot
For Richard Hoover, blending his production design with the use
of the "bleached by-pass" process, which leaves the
original black and white negative on top of the colored layers
of the film stock, created a new challenge.
"To get rid of color in the city was a lot tougher than we
thought," admits Hoover. "The yellows were too bright,
so we had buckets of brown pigment, mixed in. We had to have a
painter in the morning ready to paint out the red curbs which
would wash out at the end of the day's filming."
"I had to take the color out of the wardrobe," says
costumer Ha Nguyen. "So, I concentrated my designs to take
advantage of the fabrics, textures and unusual cuts-gray suits,
white shirts, funky hats, sleazey jackets, trashy skirts, spiked
heels. All Vegas cheap and city cool."
"It's retro, "says Gibson, "in the way that Brian
is shooting it. Nobody's wearing any bright colors. There's some
pretty wacky stuff in it -- its harsh, gritty, ironic and funny.
You're gonna see things done that one can't do in polite society."
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