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Directors & Their Troops: Morten Tyldum on His ‘Imitation Game’ Team

Morten Tyldum makes his English-language directing debut with “The Imitation Game,” about British genius Alan Turing breaking the Nazis’ Enigma code. He and his production team worked under difficult circumstances because of the subject matter.  Tyldum said, “Iwanted to shoot some of it where it happened, with the real locations, real props. We were always reminded of the importance of what we were doing: Both in front of and behind the camera, everybody wanted to do justice to Alan Turing. We didn’t have craft service, didn’t have proper heating. But it was a tremendous experience because we became like a family on a mission.”

Cinematography, Oscar Faura
“I wanted the film to have a classic feel to it, an epic story style, yet there are a lot of interiors. I saw ‘The Impossible’ and knew I had found my d.p. He lights so beautifully. He has a poetic sense of realism, and his lighting is so precise and atmospheric. We shot in eight weeks, so we had to move fast. And there were long scenes, sometimes with six people talking. He and I discussed what kind of atmosphere we wanted, and we saw a lot of historical films together. There was a lot of night shooting, and sometimes scenes take place during the blackouts, so it was a big challenge. Another challenge: What kind of genre is it? It’s a spy thriller, a love story, character drama? So we talked about how it would all be interwoven, how to make it one — when we wanted to go handheld, where the camera moves. He was phenomenal: After the shoot, he went to a hotel room and then did gradings for the colorist.”

Production design, Maria Djurkovic
“Her approach is about capturing the essence of the characters. The wallpapers in Alan Turing’s house are codes, with dots and lines; it’s very subtle, but she’s trying to define him. It means so much for the actors; there are a million things for actors to look at and touch, and it feels real. The machine is based on Alan Turing’s machine, and it’s a living thing. We opened it up, and there are red cables, like bloodlines. The design is mind-blowing. Also, you have to see it in different stages, and we didn’t shoot in order, and she had to go back and forth, which was very complicated. She’s so precise in details and she’s relentless. This was a small movie, $14 million-$15 million, and how she was able to do all those sets, it baffles me. In one of the bombed-out street scenes, I talked to her about showing sandbags on a corner area. Next day, she’d sandbagged the whole street. I ask for something and she does three times what I ask for. It was a pleasure. She’s an artist.”

Editing, William Goldenberg
“Editing this film is so complex, because you’re running among three time periods, and there are six or seven story arcs. And with all that, and jumping between time periods, it could be jarring and confusing, but he made it flow so beautifully, you’re never confused. He has such understanding of storytelling, his sense of character and rhythm is flawless. He knows when to reveal things, when to hold on, and when to let go. The beauty is that you don’t think about it, you just get involved in the story. Billy became my favorite editor after I saw ‘Heat.’ I’m still surprised we even asked him! He was the hottest editor in Hollywood, nominated for Oscars for both ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Argo,’ which he won for. We were a small film, but he responded to the story. It’s a privilege editing with him.”

Music, Alexandre Desplat
“He couldn’t do it at first, because of scheduling. Fortunately, it changed and he had time. He wanted to do it; he said, ‘This movie inspires me.’ He came to L.A. for two and a half weeks. I was there every day, and I still have no idea how he made it happen. It’s such a personal story, and he managed the hardest thing, which is to bring an original voice to the movie, at the same time supporting the overall vision. He makes everything better. He comes and lifts it. He played something for me and I said ‘more uplift here.’ Then he goes over and this beautiful music just comes! I don’t think he slept much for two and a half weeks; it was just work and work. The music comes out of character, and he is able to express that in music. I still tear up every time, because his music is so emotional but restrained. I think he’s a true genius.”

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