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MY DOG SKIP

About the Production (con't)
Re-creating small-town Mississippi as it existed over a half-century ago fell to the director, as well as production designer David Bomba and director of photography James Carter. While Bomba ensured the authenticity of everything from houses to hat racks, the task of capturing these images went to Carter.

"This is not a fast-paced movie; it's a character study," says Carter, who made his camera and lighting decisions based on the nature of the film as well as its performers -- kids and dogs. While avoiding the surreal look of human memory, Carter tried to give the film a slight period feel through the use of warmer, tungsten light -- more yellow during the day, a mix of whites and blues at night. Wide lenses were utilized to further draw the audience into the experience, giving a broad sense of being "surrounded by the time and place."

As Carter affirmed, however, "My Dog Skip" finds its strength as a character study and, as such, required credible clothes for its lead characters. Costume designer Edi Giguere went to many places to find what she needed: Los Angeles and Jackson, Mississippi rental houses, vintage clothes and thrift shops, and the closets and attics of local Canton residents.

"We decided that since these people just came out of the Depression, we would use that era as a guidepost. Since people wore things completely out during that time, the challenge was finding the real McCoy, instead of making new costumes and aging them," explains Giguere. For Willie and his gang, she enjoyed transforming them into "dirty ragamuffins" in knickers, old t-shirts and suspenders. "It was next to impossible to find shoes from that period but, as our research revealed, a lot of children didn't wear shoes, even in school." With their male role models involved in the war, the children also sported the occasional flight helmet and, for Willie, a military jacket in which he trained Skip.

Heading up the adult cast members were veteran actors Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane as Willie Morris's parents. As Jack Morris, a man who lives with the tragedy of war, Bacon thrilled the filmmakers with a performance that captured his character's physical and psychological pain. Says director Jay Russell, "I've worked with Kevin once before and he's one of my favorite American actors. He brings something to a film that a lot of actors don't -- he really thinks about the character. Jack is a man who sees his little boy getting caught up in the romance of World War II and he is concerned by that."

Says Bacon, "Jack Morris is a fairly embittered man and incredibly protective of his little boy. He's afraid of giving him a dog because he feels he won't be able to handle the loss when the dog gets hit by a car or runs away. Willie's a sensitive boy, but Jack thinks he's fragile. My father also wouldn't let me have a dog. That's one thing I can relate to."

Diane Lane plays pragmatic Ellen Morris. "Diane brings a depth to all of her performances," says John Lee Hancock. "When you look at her entire career, she's played so many varied and wonderful characters. She's perfect in the role of Ellen, who loves her husband but wants to help her son grow into a confident young man."

Says Lane, "Ellen sees that her boy is ready for a change. She doesn't know how to handle it and the boy's father isn't prepared to deal with it, so a dog is the perfect answer. A boy and his dog -- it's a classic situation because they're both completely enthusiastic about discove

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