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The Design Of The Film
As with each one of his films, M. Night Shyamalan had a strong vision of how he wanted THE HAPPENING to look and feel before he ever arrived on the set. Surrounded by a group of artists, many of whom he has collaborated with before – including cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, costume designer Betsy Heimann and composer James Newton Howard – as well as some new faces, including award-winning production designer Jeannine Oppewall, he established the film's basic creative ground rules: to turn fright and anxiety into their own strange beauty by keeping things simple.

"I wanted a very naturalistic thriller style, very clean, almost Old School, going back to before we had all these gadgets and computers, when it was all about direct, resonant storytelling,” he says. "We talked about looking at how we would make the movie if we didn't have all these new tools and about how to really make it feel like a 2008 version of a 1950s paranoia movie.”

While THE HAPPENING is about nature going drastically awry and turning against humanity, the production would come to rely heavily on nature's assistance. A week before filming began Shyamalan gathered his production team and told them: "This is going to be a different film journey for all of us; a road movie in a sense. Eighty-five percent of our locations are outside and the completion of the film will be up to Mother Nature's cooperation. We are at the mercy of the elements.”

And so it was. The filmmaking team worked in sync with the weather and the landscapes, which influenced the entire design of the film. Notes multiple Oscar-nominated production designer Jeannine Oppewall, who went to school in Pennsylvania: "I think many of us had an unspoken understanding of the how the land and locations would help tell this story and how important it was going to be to create realistic sets for Elliot and Alma to move through as they journey from Philadelphia to the countryside. For me, this is the landscape of my youth and I relate to it very strongly, just as I believe Night does from having grown up here.”

Filming began August 6, 2007, notably nine years to the day since the start of production on The Sixth Sense. Shot in sequence, the 44-day production took place at a blazing speed, always on the move, switching locations every few days as the production spread out from city to small towns, following the trajectory of Elliot and Alma as they hit the road, hoping to escape. The idea was to keep the sensation of people on the run prominent in the minds of everyone working on the film.

"Every location was a new adventure,” says Jose Rodriguez. "This really was a road show and we never knew exactly what we'd be rolling up to when we came to yet another location. I think that created a great energy because everybody had to be constantly on their game. There was never time to get accustomed to a location, or slow down, which really helped to keep the actors and the crew in the middle of this intense journey every step of the way. They really felt it and I think the audience will feel it.”

Among the film's few major interior locations was the iconic 30th Street train station in Philadelphia, a major commuter hub halfway between New York City and Washington, D.C., where Elliot, Alma, Julian and Jess start their journey to escape the city, along with hundreds of others. Amtrak granted the production rare access to the station's halls and lobbies so long as they were able to continue running their trains, and the filmmakers were thrilled to have the chance to roam the nation's second most active railway station and capture the marble grandeur of the station's 1930s art deco design. "It's just one of those building you walk into and go, ‘Wow, this is an incredibly beautiful structure,'” comments Rodriguez.

At the train station, as in the rest of the film,<


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