‘Brooklyn’ Director John Crowley Praises Key Collaborations

Fox Searchlight’s “Brooklyn” was filmed on a tight budget, mostly in Montreal, a challenge for artisans to re-create 1950s New York and Ireland. Director John Crowley spoke with Variety about his key collaborators.

Cinematography, Yves Belanger
I saw “Dallas Buyers Club” and he seemed to have an intuitive feel for actors’ faces. That’s what we really needed in this film. Photographing a small town in Ireland is tricky; it can easily turn into picture-postcard pretty. I wanted to create an emotional connection between Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) and the audience. The look is the Dardenne brothers meet John Ford, if that’s not too glib. It’s the contained-focus naturalism that’s European and contemporary, with something classical and American.

Editor, Jake Roberts
The editing is very linear, in the best sense of the word. With Saoirse’s performance, it wasn’t about “discovering” the film through editing. It was all about calibrating the emotional spine of the film. You have time to build the relationship with Tony (Emory Cohen) and a shorter amount of time with Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). We also worked hard in the edit on her arrival in America; we kept going back to it to make sure the journey had as much wonder as we could extract from the material.

Production designer, Francois Seguin
When we first met to see if we could re-create Brooklyn in Montreal, he said, “It’s impossible” and gave me all the reasons; I thought, “You’re the guy for us, this is great!” It kept coming back to emotions, rather than elegant frames. You want to feel like there wasn’t a lot going on economically in that town, without it being depressing. There’s an idea that Ireland in the 1950s is grim and gray, but I wanted to see the world through a young person’s eyes. He was also very good about costs. If he was told, “Sorry, you have only 50 euros for that set, not 100,’ he would scratch his head and say “All right” and figure it out. There was always a lack of money, but never a lack of spirit.

“With Saoirse’s performance it wasn’t about ‘discovering’ the film through editing. It was all about calibrating the emotional spine of the film.”
John Crowley

Costume designer, Odile Dicks-Mireaux
The transformation of Eilis from pale and mousy to a strong young woman had to be carefully measured. Odile has brilliant taste. We didn’t want it to be a costume parade of the fantastic colors and shapes of ’50s clothes. They had to be clothes.

Composer, Michael Brook
One of Michael’s inspirations was Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ work for “The Road.” Michael does not think in cliches. He listened to the temp score, understood what we wanted and threw it away. Which I loved. Often you hear the ghost of the temp score, but he made his own thing.

Production sound mixers, Barry O’Sullivan & Claude La Haye; sound designer, Glenn Freemantle
It was difficult to get location sound. The quality of sound they were capturing on the set was ace. Glenn Fremantle and his team brought a wonderful organic quality TO how sound could reflect her loneliness, particularly in the first part, but it was never too expressionistic. And his team of dialogue editors were brilliant.

Casting, Fiona Weir
Nobody knows what casting directors do and it’s so critical. Eilis had two key relationships and if we’d gotten one of these guys wrong, you wouldn’t have a film. Plus, the young girls in the boarding house, the village people, it was all quite a task to pull off. Fiona was key to the process and did a great job. And she happens to be my wife.

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