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Shooting in Louisiana
As the filmmakers scouted locations for the production, they decided they could get exactly the look they needed by shooting the majority of the fantasy-adventure in Louisiana. Discussing their choice, Weitz says, "It's cool to be in a city that's getting on its feet after being socked in the jaw. There's this beautiful old run-down theater in New Orleans that we used for various scenes. We used it for the freak show in the beginning of the movie, and this is where Darren's parents are kidnapped and then strung up—in silent movie fashion—by Mr. Tiny.”

Production designer William Arnold notes that Louisiana offered amazing visuals of which the team could take advantage. "With the great live oak trees that are here—on Darren's street, for example—we wanted the film to feel somewhat Middle America,” he says. "These oaks were able to become a through-line in The Vampire's Assistant. In the cemetery scene, the graveyard looks so spooky at night with those great old oak trees. With the Cirque campground, it was the same thing. We were able to create oak trees, as if they were out in the country. We wanted to shoot under these old living trees that offered the canopy and the beautiful light underneath.”

Early on, Weitz decided that he wanted a theater that was on the outskirts of town and falling apart to be Darren and Steve's introduction to the mad world of the Cirque's stage show. "There is something very secret about this freak show,” explains Shuler Donner. "We found a very downgraded theater that was in disrepair and had a lot of flood damage from Hurricane Katrina. It had the parameters we wanted: the elevated stage and very ornate designs. It fixed up perfectly.”

Bridges at the City Park in New Orleans were used to take Darren into the Cirque, but when it came to designing the traveling show and the actual grounds where the freaks lived, the team transformed a Winn-Dixie grocery warehouse into the home camp. Because much of what the audience sees are night exteriors, it had to look dark and mysterious. But shooting a film with actors who were under 18 provided challenges with timing; there were certain hours in which the team couldn't shoot. Rather than filming at night, it proved much more feasible to build the traveling show as an interior. That way, production designer Arnold could light it for night or day and have much more control of the situation and shooting hours for cinematographer James Muro.

Arnold worked with Weitz and conceptual artists to imagine the world of the Cirque Du Freak. They knew they wanted each tent, hut or house to reflect its unique occupant. For the team, it was important that the audience could walk with Darren and discover an otherworldly place.

Leslie notes that, for Darren: "It's like discovering Brigadoon. The Cirque is tucked away, out of sight. You put the wagons in a circle, and everywhere you look there's some interesting detail.

Whether it's the merman's little house where you actually see water running or Evra's tent, which looks like it's covered in scales, the attention to detail is amazing.”

"It's like nothing you've seen before,” adds Shuler Donner. "There is a roundness to the way that all the tents are laid out that encompasses them as a family. Each tent is per the character. Evra's tent is snakeskin, and Mr. Tall's tent is, of course, very tall. Because of her beard, Madame Truska's has many items hanging. Each tent is very elaborate in the Cirque, and Paul wanted bright, saturated colors. When Darren gets there, he realizes it's an exciting, fun place to be.”

After Darren is first turned into a vampire, he is six feet under in a grave at a cemetery, about to be rescued from the ground by Larten Crepsley. To shoot that scene

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