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CHOKE

The Design Of The Film
"Even the most ordinary person might have a fantastically rich, private, secret life, and I find that concept really cheerful.” -- Chuck Palahniuk

In true indie fashion, CHOKE was shot in just 25 lightning-paced days, primarily in Essex County, New Jersey, which fortuitously contained all of the unusual elements needed for the story, including an abandoned mental hospital, a preserved Colonial village and a zoo, many of which the producers were able to wrangle for use without fees. They were even able to take advantage of the crew from HBO's "The Sopranos” series, which had just shut down for good. "It was all very kismet,” says producer Tripp Vinson, "because we could not have afforded to create or even shoot at all these locations without this turn of luck.”

Despite the budgetary constraints and challenging locations, Clark Gregg made the most of all his creative resources, especially an artistic team headed by director of photography Tim Orr and production designer Roshelle Berliner. "Tim and Roshelle did a fantastic job of creating the very lush world of CHOKE on a very tough budget,” says Gregg.

Orr shot the film in 16mm, but aimed to avoid the more typical dark and grainy look of an indie film – opting for a brighter, more fantastical realm for Victor and his cohorts. "Tim had a sensibility that really matched the film,” says Beau Flynn. "Clark didn't want to make it gritty and muted – he wanted the look of the film to have color, energy and life, and Tim was able to find precisely the right balance in his work.”

Adds Gregg: "Tim was able to light the film in such a way that made it possible to move between extremes of tone. It's buoyant one minute and more gritty the next as you move from laughter to heartbreak. He also works incredibly fast.”

Meanwhile, Roshelle Berliner had her hands full with two tricky locations: Colonial Dunsboro, the simulated historic village where Victor is employed as an indentured servant; and St. Anthony's, the sprawling private mental hospital where his mother Ida is being cared for with the money he earns by choking in restaurants.

Palahniuk notes that he originally created the humorously intolerant world of Dunsboro based on experiences friends of his had working at Disneyland – where the employees must never break character -- inspiring a workplace in which insubordination can be punished by a day in the stocks. To bring to life this amusement park-style view of history, Berliner had the luck to start with the now defunct colonial theme park in New Jersey, which until it closed in 2006, was a living museum replete with Colonial houses, general store and a stone grist mill. The village's many preserved locations lent a perfect touch of authenticity to the antic moments that unfold there.

"Roshelle did a great job taking the Colonial village's practical locations and making it feel not only real and alive but also give it this kind of run-down feeling that was so important,” says Vinson. "She found a really nice tone.”

For St. Anthony's Hospital, Berliner was able to start from another extraordinary base: the now abandoned Essex County Psychiatric Hospital in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, which had been built at the turn of the century (then known as the Essex County Asylum for the Insane) and became a populous, 350-acre mental institution replete with red-brick Victorian buildings, as well its own power house, laundromat and theatre in the 50s and 60s, before psychiatric treatment radically changed with the advent of pharmaceutical drugs. In 2007, with a new hospital opened up nearby, the facility closed for good and was slated to be torn down to put up condos.

The place turned out to be architecturally stunning, as well as dripping with an eerie, pungent sense of the past that added to the film's intensity of atmosphere. So thi

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