Laurence Bennett

Laurence Bennett

are montaged into scenes, the visual effects are some set-extensions and a little bit of digital replacement for some of the street scenes and one interior on location. Phillipe Aubry was the vis effects supervisor and he came over (from France) and worked with us for much of the shoot. He was absolutely a delight. One of the most fun, easy, workable people I’ve ever encountered. He just made it really simple. We showed him research for how we thought city backgrounds might be extended and he did a great, great job of it. Made it look seamless.

AS: I noticed how you also used some painted backdrops from the old days…
LB:
Yes, onstage we only used painted drops. There’s really nothing that I could find still in existence from the twenties or thirties but we used the oldest primarily black and white drops we could find. When I came across a couple of drops from Casablanca in black and white down at JC Backings I had to figure out how to put one of them to good use! Michel responded immediately and we decided to make one of Peppy’s films set in Morocco. It was like unrolling a holy relic.

AS: Did you paint the sets in black and white?
LB:
The sets that were shot as film sets within the picture were rendered in black and white. And the stage sets that we built that were meant to be portraying real life in the picture were rendered in naturalistic colors.

AS: You did tests to see what they would look like in black and white?
LB:
Yes, we tested all the wallpapers and fabrics and paint samples before we committed. My department and [costume designer] Mark Bridges’ department continued testing things in black and white during the shoot as questions arose.

AS: How was working with Michel Hazanavicius as a director? Is he very visual?
LB:
He’s tremendously visual. Not only did he write a beautiful, inspiring gem of a script, he basically storyboarded the entire picture. He had a very shot-specific idea about how to approach each scene. And while he was open to change and input, he was very good at communicating what it is he felt he needed to get out of each scene and how he wanted to approach it. His enthusiasm and his vision were really infectious.

AS: You worked with director Paul Haggis on a few films, how was he different to work with?
LB:
Paul and I go back a long way. Paul says that I can always tell what it is he wants, that I can tell what he’s thinking. Which is a frightening thought! We just have a way of discussing the visual elements of an

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About the Interviewer

Tom Lisowski is a production designer who has designed swamp mazes shot in China, crumbling cliffs in Utah, future arenas in South Central, dilapidated tenements and twisted laboratories under luxurious mansions... William Anthony is a Los Angeles-based commercial and editorial photographer specializing in portraiture, lifestyle and documentary imagery... Guest photographer Nelson Cragg is an award-winning cinematographer who shoots and directs television, feature films, and commercial projects. Contact ArtStars: tom@artstars.us