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Making "Surrogates" A Reality
"SURROGATES” marked a homecoming of sorts for director Mostow, a Connecticut native who graduated from Harvard University 25 years ago.

In addition to mounting the film in several neighborhoods around Boston—the Leather District, the Financial District, the South End, Chestnut Hill, and the home of his alma mater, Cambridge, among them—Mostow also filmed in such Boston suburbs as Worcester, home to the FBI headquarters in the city's shuttered downtown courthouse; Taunton—its abandoned Dever State Hospital mental institution doubled for The Prophet's Reservation commune; and Hopedale, where the former Draper Mill loom factory was the site for the film's more climactic moments.

Says producer Hoberman, "The interesting thing about Boston, from a filmmaker's point of view, are these historic structures and buildings that were built in the 1800s. It has this classic American brick-and-stone architecture alongside these glass monoliths. And the one thing Boston's done better than any city in the country is have it fit together. Our story is not really futuristic, but sort of in the present. And Boston, in its architecture, gives you that sense of both past and future, and we rode that line with it.”

To create this imaginative world pitting technology against humanity, Mostow recruited top filmmaking veterans, including production designer Jeff Mann and his art department, notably set decorator Fainche MacCarthy.

"One of the things I really liked about this movie was the wide range of looks and sets and locations and environments that we created and visited,” Mostow says. "In terms of all the looks and designs, we spent six months before we ever started building, just talking and conceptualizing, making sure that things were based in logic, which was satisfying both for myself and for our production designer, Jeff Mann. A lot of thought went into this, and a lot of really talented people did some great work.”

"This world is thrilling and interesting and visceral,” says Mann. "The graphic novel is a very moody, dark story set in this futuristic environment. In the movie, we set the story in a kind of parallel world. This technology of surrogacy is extremely advanced, but the surrogates in our story are tools. Their operators are absolutely responsible for the actions of this machine, just like you would do to any other machine.”

Mann designed several large set builds for the film, notably the DMZ habitat where a renegade band of humans have taken refuge from this technological world devoid of humanity and sensitivity.

There, one of the story's central action sequences takes place in a mammoth maze of rusted, rotting shipping containers piled atop each other like huge building blocks rattled in a massive earthquake. An apocalyptic wasteland framed against a rotting loom factory abandoned three decades ago that provided a stark backdrop to a society that Mann calls "extremely bleak.” "The DMZ zone is a trashladen slum,” says Mann. "It's a kind of commerce area for the Dreads, where they're recycling or stripping copper wire. They use these things to barter with in the surrogate world for the necessities they can't manifest for themselves in order to live in their isolated state.”

"The DMZ is this kind of war zone that surrounds the Reservation where the Dreads live and disconnect from society,” says Mostow. "It was full of burned-out vehicles and parts where these people try to make their living by manufacturing items that they can live on. This, along with the Reservation, were two sets in the movie that help make for a different experience for the audience.”

In stark contrast to this post-apocalyptic backdrop was the serenity of the Dever State Hospital, a sprawling, abandoned medical campus<


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