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THE CONSPIRATOR

Setting The Scene
Everyone appreciated the southern hospitality of shooting in Savannah, Georgia. Although General Sherman burned Atlanta during the civil war, he spared Savannah, so the city retains much of the federal architecture of the period and was a good match for 1865 Washington. Samuels says, "It gave us the greatest amount of uninterrupted period architecture.” And Falk points out "the people of Savannah understand that the minor annoyances of a film crew are temporary, so they've been great.”

They found all they needed here, including military locations, with Civil War-era Fort Pulaski stepping in for Washington's Arsenal Penitentiary. Only Ford's Theater had to be built. "Savannah's a lovely, vibrant artistic community,” observes Ivanov, "They've really embraced us and have gone out of their way to help us.”

Still, on her first day in Savannah, Ivanov was taken aback by the palm trees and Spanish moss. "But, then I got out of the car and started walking the streets and thinking like I was living in 1865 -- what side of the street would I walk on? What would it look like? Suddenly, I started seeing how picture perfect Savannah was for our film.” She says everyone was thrilled to see how perfectly the streets matched period Washington once they were dressed and filled with carriages and actors in period costumes. "We even went to the trouble of building carriage steps and put in hitching posts,” she recalled.

The production lined the streets with lamp posts lit by gas to complete the effect. "Everything in our film is gaslight or kerosene or candlelight. Every thing is organic to the period,” reports Ivanov. For Sigel this meant an extra challenge, "the hardest thing when you're doing a film set in 1865 is you've got no excuse for light. There was no electricity.” He recalls setting up to shoot a scene in Aiken's small home. "There were four or five gas table lamps and I just turned off the movie lights to see what it would be like. Just feet away and we couldn't see each other's faces.”

The production used several of the local historical mansions, something Ivanov finds can be "tricky.” She says, "We have to be very sensitive and not damage anything. So, we've collaborated with the owners extensively and my crew has been very gentle.” She says they always bring their own drapes and most set dressing. "Yes, we're in a historic home but I am going to create a character and follow the color palette we've developed.” Melissa Levander, the set decorator, is responsible for locating authentic or reproduction furniture, lamps, decorative pieces and other period items to fill the spaces Ivanov creates. She was also pressed for time due to the truncated prep period, so before leaving L.A., she filled a couple of trucks with items from rental houses, "so we would have enough to choose from.” Levander also sourced items locally, renting from Savannah antique dealers. She explains, "We mixed some Empire furniture with rustic pieces, so many different styles, but a lot of the museum homes also had amazing pieces that we could use.” Levander says she and Ivanov focused on color, texture and a period tone, "We didn't want it to feel at all contemporary.”

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