Wynn Thomas, Cinderella Man
Recreating a landmark boxing venue so closely associated with New York City - a municipality that has historically swept away its architectural history - was the challenge for Cinderella Man's production designer Wynn Thomas.
So he did what so many film-makers do. He went to Toronto.
"We looked in New York and the tri-state area, Philadelphia, even Montreal," says the veteran production designer, who has worked with the likes of Ron Howard, Spike Lee, and Harold Ramis.
"But Toronto offered a lot more in the way of exteriors, plus it had this arena. The trade-off on location shooting is that you look for a place that's half-way there, and then you add what you need."
The arena in question was Maple Leaf Gardens, the former home of the ice hockey team and a building erected in 1929, making it perfect for Howard's story of Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock. Thomas, who was art director on 1988 boxing movie Homeboy, starring Mickey Rourke, had never worked on a period boxing film. And the challenges were quite specific.
"When you're trying to recreate an arena, it's not just the architecture. The lighting was different. There's a different feel. There was less advertising then, so you don't have a lot of obvious visual markers."
Thomas also had to visualise the North Bergen, New Jersey, neighbourhood where Braddock lived and Toronto also served for that. "We took over a neighbourhood and re-facaded the streets. It worked really well," he says.
Jack Fisk, The New World
Terrence Malick and his long-time production designer Jack Fisk are scouting devotees and enjoyed themselves preparing for the 17th century colonial saga The New World.
"We like to visit locations, share photographs and pictures and challenge each other to come up with the best research," says Fisk, whose task it was to recreate the legendary (and now vanished) Jamestown Fort and the nearby Native American village.
"We found a site at the Chickahominy River some seven miles from the original fort in Virginia. Construction began on May 1 2004, and we got the fort walls up by June 1 and had everything done by July. It took us 30 days to build the fort's perimeter fence with the help of chainsaws and modern methods, so it's amazing to read in the records that it took the original settlers the same amount of time."
Fisk spent a lot of time consulting the Jamestown Narratives, a chronicle of colonial life whose contributors include John Smith, the English adventurer who was saved by Pocahontas and is played in the film by Colin Farrell. Fisk also collaborated with Dr Bill Kelso, the lead archaeologist on the Jamestown Fort excavation site.
"The fort was built with the authentic wattle and daub technique, which involves driving posts into the ground, weaving sticks in between, and covering with mud. For the Indian village across the river, we built a framework of saplings, covered with woven mats, and then covered with mud and paint."
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