David Gordon Green on His Group of Artisans for ‘Our Brand Is Crisis’

TIFF 2015 red carpet photos
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Director David Gordon Green is proud of “Our Brand Is Crisis” and especially enthused about his collaborators’ work on the film. The Warner Bros. movie, a political satire about two Americans (Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton) consulting on a Bolivian election, opened domestically Oct. 30 to mixed reviews and slim box office returns. In a conversation with Variety, Green praised scripter Peter Straughan (inspired by the 2005 documentary by Rachel Boynton), his cast (including Scoot McNairy, pictured above with the director) and his artisan team. Here, Green talks about some of his key below-the-line collaborators.

Cinematography, Tim Orr
“We’re looking for the right light, the right time of day, the right depth. We filmed in Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Colorado and Los Angeles. There’s different lights in different environments; we had to achieve a ‘Bolivian look’; a lot of our work was about traveling to locations and exploring where to set the production. Tim and I went to college together at North Carolina School of the Arts, and he’s shot 11 or 12 films and TV shows and a lot of commercials with me. At this point, we read each other’s minds and appreciate the same aesthetics. The most challenging scene was the big demonstration at the end of the film. It had a lot of elements, with hundreds of extras, multiple cameras and limited time, with clouds coming in. So the important things are to have a collaborator like Tim — he’s a wingman, you’re always fighting the same fight — and to make sure you have a good first assistant camera and we had Jimmy Jensen, who is the best of the best.”

Editing, Colin Patton
“You can never have too much coverage. I love to improvise, I love the unexpected and the uncertain. I like multiple cameras in the highly improvised sequences, so Tim tried to find a nice way to light and shoot cross-cameras, then Colin has what he needs to play with in the editing room. Colin was an assistant editor on ‘Pineapple Express’ and a few other films with me. When I jumped into an independent-minded chapter of my career, with ‘Prince Avalanche’ and ‘Manglehorn,’ I brought him on board as editor, and this is his first big studio movie. We kept going back to the end of the film. It’s tricky. You’ve built a complicated narrative, and you need the right tone — how emotional to go with the end, so trying to find that thin line with music and picture.”

Production design, Richard A. Wright
“When we first got on board this film, we went to Bolivia with a camera and took thousands of photos of random things, ‘this is the type of vibe.’ There are a million aspects of Bolivia in La Paz alone, and we wanted to make sure we were capturing the needed specifics. Then we came home and assembled what we wanted in a collage, to try to put the palette together. An abandoned building became our campaign headquarters, so there was maybe 10% of our sets on a soundstage. He’s another college buddy. We’re working again now on a show in South Carolina.”

Casting, Alexa L. Fogel, Karmen Leech, John Williams
“I’ve done a number of works with Alexa, and she did our name casting out of New York. Karmen and John are my casting associates in Austin, Texas, whom I worked with a lot; they came in to find the day-players and regional actors. They all tag-teamed to create a pretty amazing ensemble for us.”

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