As you all know by now, I’m kind of really into the behind the scenes stuff where it comes to film making. I know for a lot of people they are kind of forgotten elements, or not even forgotten more like oblivious elements. However after taking basically 5 years worth of continuous film studies courses, yeah– the people who make the films we love and adore so much are not to be ignored, not even a little bit. Okay, you can ignore them, but I reserve the right to judge you for not knowing that one person didn’t just stick a camera somewhere, and asked a bunch of people to memorize some lines, and say them into said camera. Which brings us to now, and the obsessive nature in which we examine nearly every aspect of the making of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by going with the scraps of information we have access to. In my case, IMDb.com is my new best friend, and it probably owes me cash at this point in our relationship, or something, perhaps it owes me sex, who knows! Anyway behind the scenes people I am currently fascinated with though, ’cause that is the point of this article, are the men whose names have taken up residency under the production titles of Production Design, and Art Direction, basically the areas of film production that house some of my most favoritist things– set design! Yep, set design being the aspect of film production that involves all that fancy stuff called furniture, and set dressings, i.e, the fun stuff! Okay, fun for me.
All right, so these are the dudes who are in charge of everything that we see in the background, or– these are the people who are in charge of the over all look of the film where it comes to set design. Do not be confused, these people do not decide how the film will be shot, that aspect of the production is in the hands of the cinematographer, the lighting department, the editors, and the director. Okay, so here they are! Philip Messina is back as the head of production design, he was at the helm for The Hunger Games, so anyone who was worried about continuity where it comes to that aspect of the series, rest easy– same guy’s in charge, it’s not going to be like watching The Wizard of Oz, and then Return to Oz, which look nothing alike, because they were made almost 50 years apart
from each other, have an entirely different look, feel, oh– and cast. What I think is comforting, or intriguing about Mr. Messina though, is his body of work outside of The Hunger Games, I’ll name some projects off, and if you haven’t seen them, watch them ASAP. He worked on the pilot episode of Freaks and Geeks, which was a short-lived, critically acclaimed, and over all cult hit series on NBC, look it up and be amazed by the roster of people who worked on this sadly short-lived project. Next we’ve got Erin Brokovich, then we’ve got Traffic, and then Ocean’s Eleven, and 8 Mile, then Solaris (no, I have not seen the original), ooh, then Ocean’s Twelve, which I did not see, so just like you I’m going to have to go watch it ASAP, what else? The Good German, Che: Part Two, The Last Airbender, and then Machine Gun Preacher. There are a couple of lemons on this list, like Airbender, but I’m going to say this– Airbender looked amazing, and that was his job, and he did it well.
Who’s next!? Ah yes, John Collins is back as supervising art director, um– personally his dossier makes me nervous for our children, so I’m just going to skip to the men whose names are underneath his! Adam Davis’ dossier doesn’t make me nervous, it kind of piques my interest a little, ’cause hey– looky there he worked on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and ooh, he was the assistant art director on Super 8. But, ew, he worked on a Jessica Simpson filmed concert, oh well– we can’t all be perfect, besides Francis Lawrence our director extraordinaire is practically the music video king. What’s, I mean who’s next, why it’s Robert Fechtman, who no one has likely heard of, which is sad, because this man has had a diverse career. I’m serious, this man has worked on films that span genres, and budget limits, and just, here are a few just so you get a taste– on Star Trek: Into Darkness he was a set designer, Pineapple Express he was assistant art director, Mirror Mirror he was a set designer, he worked on Memoirs of a Geasha, The Aviator, The Holiday, both Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and At World’s End, Constantine (ah ha, where he met Francis Lawrence!), Three Kings, and my favorite worst bad action movie of the 90s, Starship Troopers. Safely I believe I can say, the man’s ability to design a myriad of different kinds of sets, is probably up there with some of the greatest artists whose work now adorns postcards, and dorm rooms.
Last name! We’re at the last name, and he’s got a whole title and category reserved just for him. He must feel really special. His name is, Larry Dias, and he is the head set decorator, meaning he’s in charge of the small details the I like to stare at for hours, and contemplate their over all meaning, because just like him– I am special too. Back to Larry, who just like Mr. Fechtman, has had a diverse career. Larry unlike Fechtman is a one of the returnees from the original Hunger Games camp, but that won’t stop me from re-examining and marveling over the fact that he worked on Serenity, The Village, and Inception. Nope, not at all.
I’m just going to say it guys, no wonder the Snow-val Office was so impeccably designed, and– our beloved Catching Fire I think is in very safe hands.
Them There Eyes
The title of this article sounds like a girl group circa 1965, they sway a lot, and they wear color coordinated outfits, they also say “shoop” a lot, and “na, na, na“. Okay, maybe they don’t, but they might say this– I think the demographic for The Hunger Games franchise has finally reached beyond what the studio originally thought it was, i.e. teenage girls, and their boyfriends being reluctantly dragged to the movie theatre, also possibly parents being dragged to the movies as well.
It’s no big reveal when I say that none of the writers who work for Victor’s Village fall into any of those categories, yep– we’re all women, childless, and all over the age of 25, unless of course we’re lying, and we’re really all 12, 14, and 17, in love with Justin Bieber, and have no idea who Anne Frank is. It’s also no big reveal when I state, at least for me, it’s been difficult being a fan of this series when according to society, I’m not supposed to like it. I’ve personally never thought of The Hunger Games trilogy as a series that’s a cookie cutter young adult novel series, it’s just very well– adult to me. True, there’s no sex, there’s no swearing, which also according to society teenagers don’t ever do, therefore it’s left out of a large chunk of the literature that’s geared towards that age bracket. But, yeah– if young adults aren’t having sex, and not swearing, than someone better get me a TARDIS, so I can go back in time and tell probably 80% of the people I knew in high school and college, to well– stop having of the sex, and swearing like sailors.
How, or why do I think the demographic has changed though? Three words, Iron Man 3. Yep, yesterday at Cinemacon in Las Vegas it was announced by Francis Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Elizabeth Banks, that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s first teaser trailer will be attached to Iron Man 3 when it’s released in the next several weeks. Iron Man 3‘s demographic is not teenager girls, it’s just not– Iron Man 3‘s demographic is actually young adult males ages 12 and up, and dominantly this audience has also read the source material that Iron Man 3 will be based on. Kind of a sharp pivot to the left, don’t ya’ think? Especially considering that The Hunger Games‘ first teaser trailer, and first full length trailer were both attached to the teenage girls Mecca of a film franchise, The Twilight Saga.
Times are a-changin’, and they come with comic books.
Them There Eyes
They’re really and truly not finished filming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Did you know that? God, I hope you knew that, ’cause I knew that– but what I didn’t know, or didn’t see coming was them choosing of all places to shoot scenes from Catching Fire is… New Jersey. Get your heads out of your asses, ’cause New Jersey isn’t all Jersey Shore, with Guidos, and Juice-heads, and– whatever, I don’t watch MTV so I really can’t spout off the colloquialisms. It’s true though, Catching Fire as of today the 25th of January, was shot in part in northern New Jersey, okay at least one or two scenes– I think.
The skinny is this: Locals have been buzzing recently about permits being acquired, and locations being scouted, and today all was confirmed, because the trailers showed up, and areas of a state park called Ringwood were cornered off so Francis Lawrence and his team of misfit toys, which includes the usual suspects of Jennifer Lawrence, and I’m taking an educated guess here, possibly Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, perhaps even Mr. Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Mr. Donald Sutherland, could film there– maybe. That or they were there to play dress up and play mean game of Charades! Now, I’m speculating here, but since the location is a state park lousy with wooded areas, that they’re filming bits and bobs for scenes taking place in District 12. Please note as well that today it was very cold in Northern New Jersey, actually it’s below freezing there right now as I type, so they may be taking advantage of all the winter that’s going on, and going for authenticity where it comes to certain scenes we all remember devouring like scalding hot chocolate. I also speculate that since the park is also home to gardens, and a stately looking house, that they may be filming portions of the Capitol Victory Tour Gala, thus why Sutherland and co. might be in attendance– I really don’t know if they are, don’t hurt me if they aren’t.
Well, location, location, location as they say– I hope they feature the Garden State well. She really needs the TLC right now.
Francis Lawrence has finally spoken to the media! Not just a few short, sweet clips, but a full-blown interview with MTV.
There were a lot of great tidbits, bit our favorite was Francis respectfully stating that he’ll be doing things a bit differently than Gary Ross:
“I liked what Gary did a lot, but I have a different style than he does,” Lawrence explained. “So it was very easy for me to come in the room and sit down with the people involved in the movie and sort of say, ‘Here’s what I like about what Gary did that I would latch on to and hold onto and embrace, and here’s the way I would do it differently.’”
We love The Hunger Games, but we can see why Francis would want to change some things. We’ve already seen a marked, positive change in the costume design. What else could we possibly hope for?
The Terror - We were often concerned during The Hunger Games, but we were never really scared for the characters. In fact, we only got startled when the mutts first made their appearance because HOLY CRAP, WE CANNOT HANDLE JUMP SCARES. We’re not talking about fear in a horror movie sort of way, but in an suspenseful “This is awful! Why is this happening? Oh dear goodness I’m dying inside…” sort of way. Lawrence executed this type of suspense pretty successfully in I Am Legend, so we’d love to see him bring that to Catching Fire.
The Pacing - The Hunger Games had odd pacing, in our opinion. Certain scenes were quick and full of danger… and in others, Katniss was just camping. It was a constant shift between scenes that seemed way too long and important moments flitting by too quickly. A big part of this correlates with the lack of true fear for the characters throughout. Overall, it certainly doesn’t ruin the movie, but we think a steadied pace would compliment Catching Fire well.
The Camaraderie - The Careers aren’t friends in The Hunger Games, but they have an understanding. At least temporarily, they’re a unit. They care about each other, though not as much as they care about themselves. That doesn’t quite happen in the movie. They’re just a band of rowdy kids without any real connection other than their Districts. With even more history between the tributes in Catching Fire, their complex relationships will hopefully come across more clearly.
The Character Psyches - One other thing Francis Lawrence mentioned that really excited us was making PTSD more evident in Haymitch. We want this to extend to all the characters in Catching Fire. Young and old, they are all scarred and they all suffer from some form of distress that they all deal with differently. But none of the tributes of the 75th Annual Hunger Games can be doe-eyed and unaware. They need to be rough on the inside, forever changed by the mentality of the games.
Gary Ross started the franchise off right, but if changes are going to be made, hopefully they help highlight the unique situations and characters presented in Catching Fire and make the story we love so much better.
We Don’t Direct Movies, So Someone’s Gotta Do It!
The Girl With The Pearl
Sometimes, when hearing unconfirmed rumors regarding the Hunger Games movies, we’re so wrapped up in wanting confirmation at the time, but then, we don’t even realize it when we get it if it comes with other, shinier treasures like the first movie stills. In the Entertainment Weekly article that came out last week, there was a lot of that going around, but what really jumped out at me was the news about just why Michael Arndt was tapped for the screenplay.
To refresh your memory, here is the quote:
Originally Simon Beaufoy was hired to write the adaptation under Ross’ supervision. When Ross left, so did Beaufoy.
Huge news for us since we had NOT heard a thing before this saying that Beaufoy actually backed out completely; we just assumed that Arndt was doing rewrites. Rather unfortunate, but that’s Hollywood for you.
But that’s not all. It continues with:
Director [Francis] Lawrence and author Suzanne Collins holed up for three days in her publisher’s office with take-out food and chocolate. Together they drafted the film’s outline.
Again REALLY big news. One of the biggest questions we had about Catching Fire prior to this article was just how involved has Suzanne Collins been this time around. We all knew about how well she and Gary Ross worked together, but there was a huge question mark about her and Francis Lawrence. So ten or so months down the line, when the inevitable grumbling about why such and such was changed or left out of the movie, we will know that Suzanne Collins had a say.
And then of course Michael Arndt was brought on to pretty much fill in the outline with his undoubtedly smart dialogue. If you’ve seen Little Miss Sunshine, you know what I’m talking about.
So in case you missed this little revelation, you’re welcome. It’s easy to miss since it wasn’t even in the main article.
Now let’s talk about Plutarch’s pajamas
What’s to come, though, are months and months of what could inevitably make it or break it for the movie.
Post production is where they take all the raw footage that was shot and make it into a movie.
So what does Francis Lawrence & Co. have to look forward to while we sit and wait (and wait and wait)?
What gets me about as nervous as thinking about the script itself is how this film is going to be edited. Francis Lawrence’s background is in music videos, which tend to be more cleverly edited than blockbuster films. Lawrence also hasn’t directed many movies so we’ll see.
As far as scoring goes, that comes much later, but I for one am glad that James Newton Howard has more time. I’m looking forward to hearing how he develops and expands upon the themes put in place in The Hunger Games for Catching Fire.
And the effects. We’re hoping for an upgrade as far as effects go, considering many people weren’t all too impressed with the effects in The Hunger Games. It’s likely we’ll get it though, since the budget for the movie is much larger than the first movie’s and they have a lot more time. And Catching Fire needs it. We’re not sure how close the movie version of the arena will be to the book’s description but it is far less natural than the one in The Hunger Games. Josh Hutcherson teased it a little bit in an interview, saying he’s seen renderings of the effects for the way the water will look and that they’re awesome.
So while it seems like such a long wait for Hunger Games fans, remember that the filmmakers are hard at work trying to make a movie that will do the book justice. Time is what they need, and they’ve got it.
And #TrailerWatch begins… now!
Earlier this week, Gary Ross said in an interview that it would have taken him at least eight months to properly prep and film Catching Fire. At the same time, Fox announced that it did not have a finished script for X-Men: Days of Future Past (the title apparently refers to a time jumping subplot of the comics. Thanks, floralsandstripes!) and thus will delay filming until April. If Fox had realized that they weren’t adequately prepared earlier, Gary would have gotten his eight months.
OH, THE POSSIBILITIES!
A whole world of shoulda, coulda, woulda just opened up beneath our feet! Don’t feel guilty for wondering! We ALL wonder, even those of us who are cautiously optimistic about Francis Lawrence.
But then I remember my fiance’s response to The Hunger Games movie…
Me: OMG I AM BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS BECAUSE THERE IS A HUNGER GAMES MOVIE AND I HAVE SEEN IT! DIDN’T YOU LOVE IT?!
Him: Yeah, it was pretty good.
Me: Pretty good?! PRETTY GOOD?! Don’t you mean spectacular?
Him: I’m not saying it was bad. It was good! I just feel like something was missing.
(Quick Note: My fiance is not the movie critic type. He doesn’t hate on much of anything.)
The non-THG fanatics in my life had similar positive-but-still-pretty-neutral reactions. We can see it, even though that will never stop us from watching the movie repeatedly.
At the time, we weren’t really aware of Gary Ross’ process, as described by the man himself in this quote:
“I wear two hats. I don’t wear one hat. When you write and you direct that’s a linear process, it’s not a simultaneous process. I would’ve had to have written a script and prepped the whole movie in four months and on the first movie that’s a process that took me eight months. And I thought [Catching Fire] was a more difficult adaptation, not an easier one. I didn’t really feel I had the time I needed to live up to my own standards. And I haven’t had a moment’s regret.”
Before you get all hasty: COOL IT, HOMIES! YOU’RE MAKIN’ A SCENE! This is not a Gary Ross hate post! We’ve noticed that it’s kind of hip to hate on Gary Ross now that he’s left the franchise, but that ain’t happening here. Gary Ross was always be Boss for kickstarting this fandom right, but maybe this quote proves that a change in the reins isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The script for Catching Fire was the work of two Oscar winners, Simon Beaufoy and (allegedly!) Michael Ardnt, which probably wouldn’t have happened with Gary Ross at the helm. He writes the final version of all his film scripts. He’s a talented writer, but other talented writers may have been cut out of the picture. Gary had a very heavy hand in everything, including deciding every camera angle before shooting ever began and designing sets based on his specific vision. He describes his “neurotic” involvement in the DVD extras. Again, these aren’t bad things, but there’s valuable input from others being cast aside in what seems to be the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” approach.
We agree with what Hunger Games Fireside Chat discussed about three weeks ago: The more co-operative approach that Francis Lawrence is taking could yield interesting results. There’s more risk! It could blow up in his face. The costume designer or set guy or lighting supervisor could suck and an angry mob of fans will storm the Lionsgate office in an attempt to be the Mockingjay and lead a rebellion against Francis! We imagine they’d poke him with Mockingjay pins. BUT there could also be more surprise and vigor. One thing about The Hunger Games is that it’s pretty monotone. You can sense the strict control over the production as you watch it. Maybe Lawrence allowing other crew members be more actively involved in the creative process will breathe new life into the series.
Plus, if Gary Ross has no regrets about backing away from the series, maybe we shouldn’t feel that way either. We’ll always wonder what HIS Catching Fire looked like, but we’re interested to see the new team’s version even more.
“I Think She Would Tell You It’s Okay to Wonder” (Name that book!),
The Girl With The Pearl
Can it be real?! Good timing? Dedication? Perhaps even a shot at continuity? Yes, it is so!
Lionsgate has bucked the annoying but hip new trend of hiring a new director for every film in a franchise and signed Francis Lawrence up to direct Mockingjay Part 1 and 2! We’ve aired our grievances with too much change in a single franchise before and we were expecting the “different director for each book” approach after Gary Ross decided not to come back (as if Lionsgate could act like “Oh, that? We totally did that on purpose! Trend alert!”) We’re psyched to see an effort to keep things steadily rolling along.
That being said, feelings are still mixed. The people over at Lionsgate trust Francis Lawrence with The Hunger Games franchise, otherwise they wouldn’t have re-hired him for the pivotal, intense ending to the series. He’s made it clear that he wants to do the series justice and do right by the fans. The dude is doing something right.
But we can’t trust him yet! Nothing personal, Frankie! We can only trust our own opinions, but we haven’t even been able to form them. We won’t even see a teaser trailer for another several months. There’s over a year until the release of Catching Fire and it hurts so much to even think about that! We’ve seen other work by Francis, but that doesn’t give us any real hints about his ability to successfully interpret the second and third installments of Hunger Games, even if he’s worked on fantasy before.
Without anything to go on, even we remain cautiously skeptical. Every actor in the franchise could say he’s great, but that doesn’t always lead to outstanding final products. We want it to be outstanding, of course! If it’s not, this site is going to get uber depressing at an alarming rate.
In short, it comes down to this…
Congratulations Francis! Now Don’t Screw It Up!
The Girl With The Pearl
Flying under seemingly all major media outlets radars, that are supposed to have their ear to the grindstone about what’s being toted as the biggest franchise of this decade– Catching Fire finally has a cinematographer. Meet Mr. Jo Willems, his IMDb page has very little factual information about him as a person, no bio– just that he was born in Belgium. So, we’re just adding even more diverse people to The Hunger Games family! Count it off: We’ve got Francis Lawrence, who was born in Austria, Meta Golding is Haitian– but grew up all over the world, and got her start with acting in Italy, Bruno Gunn has dual citizenship with the US and Italy, Liam Hemsworth is from Australia, Paula Malcomson is from Ireland, Amanda Plummer is Canadian, and for the most part the rest of the cast and crew is from the United States– and now we have a Belgian born cinematographer, not too shabby, right?
Jo Willems is a pleasant surprise for me, I’ve personally been itching to know who would be in charge of the photographic side, the look in part, if you will– of this film. I’m a photographer myself so how things will look on film is important to me. Mr. Willems though, as I said, is a pleasant surprise of a choice. His style is very modern– and I’m happy to inform you all that of the three films I’ve seen of his, there was no shaky-cam!
No, Willems style is like this: Overhead shots of the main characters, then cutting to a forward medium shot, then close-ups of characters faces, this guy is in love with facial close-ups. So, I can say this without a doubt, Catching Fire will be ripe with reactionary close-up shots of the main characters. Willems also likes to use different filters, and possibly film-stock, he likes to switch from rich almost too saturated colors, to muted tones, usually this seems to be a device to explain time difference, or different states of mind for the main characters. Now, the three films I’ve seen that he worked on were Hard Candy (2005), beside the fact that this is an amazing film acting-wise, direction-wise, and writing-wise, it would literally be nothing without Willems cinematography. Seriously, I imagine if this film was taken on by someone like David Hennings (Blue Crush and Hanna Montana: The Movie), and the film would have likely been panned by the critics for a visual style not matching the caliber of acting, writing, or direction the project deserved.
Confessions of a Shopaholic from 2009 is the second film of Willems I’ve seen, and here he again utilizes close-ups, but even more so he uses slow-motion to portray dreamlike states, he also utilized this in Hard Candy. Next up is probably his most notable project Limitless, which I personally liked enough to watch three times, and I liked it for many reasons, a couple of them being the acting, as well as the photography and over all look of the film. In Limitless I think Willems now almost trade-mark style of coming in at main characters from above, moving to medium shots, then close ups was seemingly finalized, and with this project he was able to really stretch his wings where it came to colors, filters, and speed. Limitless from an artistic visual perspective is interesting as hell, and I recommend watching it, I also highly recommend Hard Candy. It also needs to be said that I always thought that Lawrence would choose a cinematographer he’s worked with before, and I was right– Willems and Lawrence have worked on three projects together, Gotham, Touch, and Britney Spears: Greatest Hits – My Prerogative– so they know each others personalities, which is always good.
Now, if only we knew if Annie Cresta made the cut.
Them There Eyes
I’ve said previously that we’d likely be in for dry-spells regarding casting news, but did I ever expect that I’d wake up every weekday for the last two weeks since Mr. Claflin was cast, expecting to get casting news on the remaining, and now the most anticipated Tribute casting left on the roster? Um, yeah– that would be a resounding NO, especially with looming reports stating that principle photography is starting next week!
Show of proverbial hands! How many of us thought that we’d get our Beetee before we got our Finnick, and with weeks stretched between them– just not in the fashion that’s becoming the begrudging norm of the last stretch of several days? I’m raising my hand with you all. The history of this franchise, however has already told us that casting announcements can, and will probably continue to fall on our heads even after principle photography has got underway. Stopping myself from saying a string of unintelligible words here, Beetee– is not a character I ever expected to still not have official casting information on less than one week from production beginning! Am I right, or am I right? Okay, let’s not run our selves into the ground, shall we? Let’s examine what could possibly be holding up getting our dear technological genius, ’cause frankly if I don’t put it into writing, and out there– I just might do something stupid, like become a Hipster.
Peut-être, and I don’t think I’m reaching out into nothing when I say this, Francis Lawrence could quite possibly be the biggest casting control freak on the face of the known earth? I say this because gauging (which I always secretly think should be pronounced gouging, as if you needed to know that), from the agency in charge of casting extras, sorry “background supporting artists”, and what they have shared about the casting process– Lawrence is painstakingly weeding through EVEN the background players. Take a look at this quote taken directly from CL Casting’s Facebook page, “the director is picking from videos. He wants to see your facial expressions and emotions. He wants people that can tell a story without hearing a word out of their mouth.” Seriously, if he’s taking the amount of time it takes to look through video clips of possible extras, finding the remaining Tributes could be just as slow going. Mull on that thought for a spell.
Now do yourself the favor and forget that, and take this thought into your head, Beetee’s this close to being cast, however contractual negotiations have hit a snag, and they’re sitting on their thumbs until whomever, or whatever concedes, and signs on the dotted line? Holds about as much water as Lawrence clocking in all that time looking at video clips, right? I think so. Here’s the last fly in the ointment, if you will– they lost their Beetee. Here’s a scenario in my mind: They had him, negotiations were underway, but then he backed out, and decided to go do another film, a TV show, maybe a Broadway play, become a Buddhist monk, or maybe, just maybe– he died. So, where does that leave the production? It leaves it to shoot around any and all scenes that include Beetee until they find someone to fill out his wire-rims. All I know is that the casting of this role can go one of three ways: Our Beetee could be the best actor yet to be cast, he could be the actor who needs to prove himself the most, or he could just be totally meh.
Tomorrow though, as my almost habitual routine dictates, at 9 am PST, I’ll be waiting once again to see if Beetee is finally given a face.
Them There Eyes