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MORNING GLORY

If I Can Make It There
Morning Glory could not have been shot anywhere else but New York City, the center of American ambition, the home of national morning news and the town where Becky Fuller always dreamed she'd one day get a chance get to make her mark. Roger Michell not only weaves the spirit of the city through the film, he also used a real, working Manhattan television studio that adds to the work-place authenticity that underscores the film's comedy.

Michell teamed up with an artistic crew that includes director of photography Alwin Küchler, production designer Mark Friedberg and costume designer Frank Fleming to bring to life the sheer mania of "Daybreak” within the dazzling energy of the Big Apple.

"I always love working in New York,” says the director. "It has so many different personalities that you can never run out of ways to express a story through the city. I especially like the way Morning Glory alternates between these very cramped, claustrophobic, intense interiors and then you get a big, exhilarating lungful of air in moments when Becky is outside, crossing the Hudson on the ferry, or walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn. She takes inspiration from the city.”

Adds J.J Abrams: "You just can't capture that energy, that light, that scope of New York anywhere else. The feeling of shooting in New York is 100% different from any other city, and Roger really embraced it to make it an essential part of the film.”

Just as Aline Brosh McKenna had done before him, Michell took his own journey into the land of morning news before starting production, so he would be ready to create "Daybreak,” as a "show within a show.” He came away impressed with what it takes to succeed in that world and with a whole lot of respect for what Becky Fuller faces in her new job.

"People in morning television lead odd, challenging lives. They start at 3 in the morning, they finish by 10 o'clock and by the next day, they can't even remember what happened on the last show because all the scrambling, the fighting, the competitiveness and the ecstasy that comes from getting a scoop start all over again. I can see how it can be very addictive, but also how easily you could get burnt out,” he muses. When Michell and his team were ready to bring "Daybreak” to life, the first challenge was finding a home for it. Ultimately, production designer Mark Friedberg crafted the sets inside a real, if now defunct, television studio known as Metropolis, located in Spanish Harlem. Once, Metropolis had hosted such Golden Age of TV classics as "Your Show of Shows” and "Howdy Doody,” but now it was just a shell of a building that still bore such key studio details as lighting grids across the ceilings. Inside this shell, Friedberg created the faded, in-need-of-an-overhaul look of "Daybreak” from scratch.

"Mark did a genius job creating what in his mind would be the fourth-rated morning television show in America,” says Clark. "It's all sort of stuck in this weird 80s time warp and it looks fantastic.”

At Michell's behest, Freidberg also created a whole identity for the fictional network IBS, whose hit shows include, with a touch of irony, a drama entitled "Found.”

"My biggest ambition for the look of the film,” says Michell, "was that everything should feel absolutely real. I didn't want any mock-ups, I wanted a proper working studio and that's what we had. We had an actual control room and the people were actually controlling all the knobs and buttons in it and that was a big thrill.”

He goes on: "I think audiences always love to see what goes on backstage, and there's a wonderful backstaginess to Morning Glory where you get to see the great, comic contrast between what appears effortless on television and all the sweat, toil and misery happening the second the camera is off. That's reflected in the sets, which feature corridors jam-packed with props, people dressed in Knights of the Middles Ages outfits, as well as ostriches, camels and all sorts of guests rushing through the halls every morning.”

For cinematographer Alwin Küchler (Solitary Man, Sunshine) the task at hand was a double one. He not only had to shoot a movie, he also had to simultaneously shoot live television, which often meant that at any one time that three film cameras and three television cameras might all be in operation.

To make the live television even more realistic, Michell brought in veteran television director Don King, who has worked on such morning shows as "Today Show” and "The View,” to help helm the live broadcasts of "Daybreak” within Morning Glory.

"Roger was adamant that everything on the ‘Daybreak' operate like a real show,” says Riedel. "I think all of the details just make us fall even more in love with the characters and their relationships.”

Michell even sent Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton off to "anchor bootcamp.” "They had to learn all the little tricks of how to work in a multi-camera environment, which is not as easy as it looks,” he notes. "It was very important that they look like they know what they're doing as anchors, and they really, really did.”

For all his preparation and attention to design-level detail, Michell also kept that spark of chaos that makes comedy happen very much alive on the set. "My approach is to prepare as much as possible, but then when you're shooting, you wait for that moment you didn't expect,” he explains. "This cast was very alive with each other and very funny so those moments came often.”

One of those moments arrived in spades when Matt Malloy playing Ernie, "Daybreak's” put-upon weatherman, is compelled by Becky Fuller to push the envelope by leaping out of planes, getting tossed about by mega-roller coasters and going for a spin in a supersonic F-14.

"Matt was absolutely hilarious,” says McAdams. "He had us all in hysterics.”

"He basically stole the whole show,” adds Diane Keaton.

In the end, the deep appreciation the actors and crew on Morning Glory developed for each other began to resemble what happens to the people working on "Daybreak” – as they're brought closer than anyone could have imagined by Becky Fuller's unflagging determination to make the relationships work, no matter how many sparks are thrown in the process.

"This film isn't your conventional romantic comedy,” sums up Michell. "There is romance in it and plenty of friction, but it's really about people creating a family. By the end of the film, all these people who work together in this tiny, crazy world discover that they have a family in each other. It's something Mike Pomeroy, Harrison's character, has never had. It's something Becky Fuller has always been looking for. And, despite the unlikely mix of all these people, and all the insults they throw at each other, sure enough, they come together and Becky succeeds.”

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