SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
The Future is Now and Then
Seeking Friend for the End of the World takes place sometime in the
future - but not too far away.
Writer/director Lorene Scafaria explains, "I always intended to be vague
about it in the telling. The only time we see a date is on a bottle of cough
syrup, and we don't know if the expiration date is coming up or it's
already come and gone.
"By being only relatively in the future, I had options to play with the look
of the film. [Production designer] Chris Spellman and [director of
photography] Tim Orr helped create the aesthetic for the movie."
Spellman remembers, "When Lorene and I first met up, we talked about
some films that she wanted me to see."
"I was inspired by films like Defending Your Life and Songs from the
Second Floor, movies which created their own world," says Scafaria, who
also discussed with Spellman how the design, sets and set dressing
should not overpower the story and characters - as in many an end-of-the-
world tale - but instead inform them. "Chris and I figured out the tiny
little stories within our story, whether it was for an object or for a person
you see only fleetingly."
Producer Mark Roybal found that "the aesthetic that's been achieved is
that of a future which is recognizable. Since things are not overdesigned,
there is no detracting from the heart of the story.
"Chris was so good at doing research when it was needed; for example,
the plot point of if a small plane could in fact transport someone
overseas was something that he ratified."
Spellman notes, "We went with what the script dictated. Tim - whom I've
worked with before - and Lorene and I went through it page by page, and
discussed what the mood might be in terms of lighting, for instance."
Scafaria reveals, "I had had high hopes we would get Tim for Nick &
Norah's Infinite Playlist; I'd seen and loved his work. When that didn't pan
out, I became obsessed with working with him some day, and I felt so
fortunate when we landed him for this - my first time out as director.
"We mapped out the entire shot list well before production started, then
revised it as we went along, and certainly improvised when we had to on
a given day. It was a very symbiotic collaboration. We agreed on our
process together out of the gate, coordinating on shot composition. I
come from a theater background, so I had to keep reminding myself to
try to get as much coverage as possible. I learned more from Tim than
from anyone else, and often referred to our time together as 'my film
school with Tim Orr.'"
The writer/director also worked closely with Orr's actual film school
classmate and longtime collaborator, film editor Zene Baker; during
filming, Scafaria would watch all of the dailies as she went along and then
discuss them with Baker, which in turn made the post-production phase
progress that much more efficiently.
Like Spellman, costume designer Kristin Burke was tasked with
anticipating the near future. She notes, "When a script ventures even a
little bit into the future, you naturally wonder, 'Okay, what are we going
to be wearing? What fabric are we going to have that we don't have now?'
"But Lorene wanted to make the clothing as classic as possible, so that
the film doesn't date itself and also so it wouldn't be implausible. For
example, where were we 10 years ago and how much is the fashion
sensibility different from today's? Well, it's not that far; between 1972
and 1962, now there was a huge gap."
She elaborates, "What we were trying to do overall was 'retro future,' and
as accessibly as possible for the viewer. As apocalyptic as this story
might seem, it's not depressing, and our costuming reflects that."
Burke was particularly pleased to be able to costume Knightley for a rare
non-"costume" role. The designer says, "Penny is eclectically minded; we
were looking to create a look for Keira which spoke to that. The way
Penny dresses incorporates vintage elements and something of that
"While there were no corsets for Keira on this movie, Penny is
accessorized with something from the past - vinyl record albums."
The Next and Last Songs You Hear
While Dodge totes along Sorry, Penny hand-carries vinyl albums from her
coveted record collection.
As Lorene Scafaria muses, "There's always that 'what if' question; in case
of a fire, what are you going to grab when you're on your way out the
door? What can you in fact physically carry?
"Dodge by then feels responsible for the dog, but for Penny these albums
have long had meaning to her; her record collection is something that
she's taken care of for years and years - in part because it is a connection
to her parents."
Scafaria reveals, "Music is important to me, so I felt that this story
wouldn't be complete without it. Part of showing Penny's journey was
through what - if not who - she has."
Production designer Chris Spellman and his team didn't have to search
far for the record albums that Keira Knightley would be clutching;
Penny's urgently streamlined collection is curated from Scafaria's own.
Specific songs, albums, and artists had been written into the script from
the earliest drafts.
When asked which albums she would rescue in case of fire - or worse -
the writer/director says, "Lou Reed's 'Coney Island Baby,' some Gene
Clark, The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds,' The Beatles."
Knightley states that her picks would have to be "Supertramp and Talking
Heads. Also, if in fact the world were ending, I would get on the road to
Steve Carell would not take "albums because my car lacks a turntable. My
family would go to Disney World, with a steady stream of Justin Bieber
and Selena Gomez; what the kids are listening to these days -
"'What the kids are listening to these days?' I just sounded about 85 years
oldâ€¦I would eat a lot of junk food, but I wouldn't steal it; I would
purchase cupcakes and brownies. Chinese food and pizza, too."
Scafaria muses, "I might stay put; I'm happy in L.A. I might drive north. I
do have a 'what if' box ready to grab, plus my dogs and the person I'm
with. I would want to be with friends and family as much as possible."
Producer Mark Roybal says, "There would have to be one serious camper
with full entertainment, and a limitless supply of gas so we could go
anywhere we wanted. There would be debaucherous eating and drinking -
within the confines of safety, since I have kids. But I do think there would
be hot dogs for breakfast.
"Our family road trip's soundtrack would include 'Harvest Moon,' by Neil
Young. That was our wedding song. Also, U2's 'Joshua Tree,' The Band,
and lots of Adele, because my kids love to belt out her songs."
Producer Joy Gorman Wettels demurs, "I'd do anything within reason
that's under a good rationale. If the idea of living on an island in Greece
is moot, I would just try to relax."
For everyone on the set, variations on these questions and answers were
invariably put forth and debated on a daily basis. What Scafaria had
described as the "wonderful group of actors," many of whom were on-set
for just a couple of days, proved eager to chat with each other and the
crew between takes, comparing notes on ultimate musical collections and
cities of their final destinations.
Actor Derek Luke offers, "I'd go and find people to help, or friends that I
need to apologize to."
Actress Connie Britton reflects, "I would probably drive across the
country and I would listen to every single kind of music, especially music
from my childhood and Prince's '1999,' even though he was off with the
year by a littl
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