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"Dramatically, it made so much sense to be in New Orleans,” says producer Costigan. "The city, like the characters, was devastated by a sudden act of God. It was changed forever by a disturbance (Hurricane Katrina) beyond anyone's control and it needs to rebuild, but there are no easy answers. It has the same ‘what next?' quality as the three characters.”

The filmmakers selected locations that reflect the reality of living in the city. "There was an incredible authenticity to the world the actors were inhabiting,” says Scott. "The restaurant where Mallory and Lois eat po' boys is two blocks from her house. It's a 10-minute drive to Bourbon Street. The Bywater, where she lives, is near the shipyards and train yards, an area that was very badly flooded. On the façade of the house, there are still the Xs that were put there by National Guard. They would spray paint a code on each house indicating the number of dead and injured. I saw it as an amazing metaphor for Mallory.”

Scott's New Orleans is not the picturesque, romanticized city depicted in many other movies, but rather the run-down, on-the-edge home of a girl struggling to get by. "I looked at a lot of films shot in New Orleans,” he says. "There are so many clichés. Most are very attractive, but not realistic. It's a very colorful, exotic and dangerous place. It has a lot of bang and clatter, in contrast to the hermetically sealed box where the Rileys live. We were interested in using that contrast.”

The unique ambiance of New Orleans influenced everything from the film's color palette to the music created for its score. Scott says the cool azure light that permeates the film occurred naturally. "In New Orleans, there's a humidity in the daytime,” he says. "It is often overcast and hazy, which lends a blueness to the light. I didn't want to correct the color, because once you start fiddling with stuff like that, you start stepping away from reality.”

The icy colors of Doug and Lois' Indianapolis home were drawn from a different source, the work of Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi. "I'd seen an exhibition of his work in London before shooting began,” Scott says. "The paintings were images of women standing alone in hallways and they tended toward soft, cooler tones of blues and grays. I felt it was necessary to incorporate that in the film because it reminded me of the notion of still water—not stagnant water, because that implies decay, but still water.”

The director made another unexpected choice for the movie's moody, delicate score. While New Orleans is known for raucous, energetic music from Dixieland to Zydeco, Scott chose to use a very different sound, while still incorporating the musical heritage of the city. "I love New Orleans jazz and funk, but it wasn't appropriate to the story,” he says. "I try to be meticulous with music. I listen to music more than I watch movies. It's one of my passions.”

Scott brought in Marc Streitenfeld, who has composed music for blockbusters including AMERICAN GANGSTER and ROBIN HOOD. "Mark seemed to get the film completely,” he says. "We worked together on what the instrumentation should be. In keeping with the setting, we use traditional instruments in the American music vernacular that are common in New Orleans, like banjo, harmonica and some percussion instruments.

"We used several pieces by Dr. John,” continues Scott. "Tinkly piano with no vocals. I tried to stay in Doug's point of view and keep it in line with that. Doug's a quiet man. He's trying to get away from the madding crowd. I wanted it to have the rhythm of Doug's heart, his unsteadiness and the feeling inside him.”

Producer Michael Costigan hopes all the carefully selected elements add up to an experience that will move and inspire the audience. "I want people to really connect with these characters and relate to their stories,” he says. "I hope the truth of what they go through shines through, which means no easy answers. It's genuinely uplifting because it's real.”

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