George Nolfi talks shooting in Gotham
Director George Nolfi admits he was “courting disaster” when he decided to shoot his ambitious “The Adjustment Bureau” in New York City.
The script, which he wrote, called for filming in about 90 locations over 65 days, with specific weather integral to the storytelling. The sci-fi romance was conceived as a challenging visual merry-go-round in which the characters travel instantly between far-flung Gotham locations — downtown Manhattan to Yankee Stadium to the top of Rockefeller Center — through a mysterious system of doorways that open from one place to the next.
Plus, Nolfi wanted to shoot in a metropolis with a reputation for high costs and complicated logistics that more experienced helmers have found it easier re-create in Toronto and other cities.
“I knew that as a first-time director I was asking for some pretty big things,” said Nolfi. “The movie had to be in New York but I had questions whether it was logistically possible, and where it would go budgetarily.” Not surprisingly, one of his first steps was to partner with seasoned Gotham producer Bill Carraro.
Carraro knew that an extension of New York State’s 30% film tax incentive was critical to the project. Along with other advocates he traveled to Albany, the state capital, to lobby with lawmakers. “For our budget goals, without the tax offset (the production) would have been approached completely differently,” Carraro said.
Another seasoned New Yorker who joined the film early on was production designer Kevin Thompson. He helped pull off such feats as covering all the bookshelves in the New York public library’s cavernous reading room overnight for a one-day shoot starting the next morning, and figuring out ways to seamlessly match up the looks of totally different environments as Matt Damon, Emily Blunt jump from one to another.
Thompson and d.p. John Toll put their heads together to find solutions for shooting the film’s most puzzling sequences — especially the finale, where the film’s surreality rises another notch in a scene taking place on what the filmmakers called the “Escher stairs,” where they play complex visual tricks on the roof of the GE building.
“When I first proposed those shots they looked at me with blank stares,” said Nolfi, “But they figured it out.”
The scene ended up requiring elaborate crane shots and the blending of practical locations and green-screen work done at Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios.
With the help of vfx supervisor Mark Russell, they made it all work. “We created a weird, bizarre environment that didn’t make sense,” said Toll. “Sometimes it was fun figuring it all out, sometimes it was hard, but it was all good in the end.”
“As a director, you can have a pretty crazy vision,” said Nolfi. “When people put their heads together and do it within the budget, it’s an amazing thing to behold.”
Bookings & Signings
WME signed designer and artist H.R. Giger (“Alien”) for film, TV and vidgames. Deal was brokered by Section 9 Entertainment. Meanwhile, former WME agent Troy Knowles has joined WPA, which signed d.p.’s Karl Walter Lindenlaub (“Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian”), Jonathan Sela (“Law Abiding Citizen”), Jeff Cutter (“Catch.44”), Nancy Schreiber (“Motherhood”), Jacek Laskus,” (“Multiple Sarcasms”) and Robert Bruce McCleery (“Don’t Fade Away”); production designer Bradley Garlock (“Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style”); and producer Adam Cramer (“Rango”).
WPA booked producers Michael Fottrell on Robert Schwentke’s “R.I.P.D.,” Jonathan Black on Jesse Baget’s “Mississippi Wild,” Jeanne Van Cott on Fox pilot “Exit Strategy,” Joel Hatch on James Brolin’s “Ruby,” and Thomas Busch on Barry Battles’ “Baytown Disco”; d.p.’s Barry Markowitz on “Mississippi Wild,” Igor Jadue-Lillo on NBC pilot “S.I.L.A.,” Jeff Cutter on Fox pilot “Locke and Key,” Peter Holland on Nathan Todd’s “A Belfast Story,” Will Barratt Nat Geo’s “Rock Solid,” Jacek Laskus on Tasha Smith’s “Soul Ties,” Yaron Levy on Paul Soter’s “Dark Circles” and John Barr on Craig Moss’ “Bad Ass.”
Innovative Artists signed stunt coordinator Kevin Scott (“Battleship”) and booked: line producer Bob Simon on ABC pilot “The River”; d.p.’s Michael Price on Fox pilot “Iceland,” Denny Hall on CBS’ “Burn Notice,” David Chapman on NBC’s “The Magic Eye,” Tim Suhrstedt on Fox pilot “Chicks and Dicks,” Theo Van de Sande on ABC pilot “Identity,” John Newby on CW pilot “Cooper & Stone” and Armando Salas on Daniel Hsia’s “Americatown”; production designers Michael Wylie on NBC pilot “Wonder Woman,” Gary Frutkoff on NBC pilot “S.I.L.A.,” Corey Kaplan on CBS pilot “The Doctor,” Andrew Menzies on “Identity” and Larry Bennett on NBC “The Crossing”; editors Ned Bastille on Comedy Central pilot “Playing with Guns” and Dorian Harris on CBS pilot “Person of Interest”; costume designers Sanya Hays on Len Wiseman’s “Total Recall 2,” Marissa Borsetto on ABC pilots “Smothered” and “Man Up,” Deena Appel on ABC pilot “Grace,” and Cate Adair on ABC pilot “Hallelujah.”
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