'Blood' transition not in vain
Texas town stands in for turn-of-century CaliforniaWhile "There Will Be Blood" is set during the turn-of-the-century California oil rush, Paul Thomas Anderson and his production team had to leave the state to find its locations.
"We scouted all over California looking for a California that doesn't exist anymore," said producer JoAnne Sellar, who also produced Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love," "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights." "There's always a Burger King or a Starbucks or a freeway in the way. You can't get away from it. We couldn't have a 360 (degree) view."
The production scouted nearby states, but what Anderson was looking for was something that would give his vision "scope," Sellar said. Then they came across some pictures sent by the Texas Film Commission of a private ranch near a small town named Marfa. Anderson was intrigued enough to take a trip out there, and as they say in the biz, he "fell in love with the place."
The ranch had the vistas that approximated the long-lost California, the space to build all the sets and the needed privacy. It even had a private rail line that was only used a couple times a month.
But the hard work was just about to begin: The production had to create an entire community from scratch. Under the guidance of production designers, carpenters reported for duty three months before the start of principal photography to build the town of Little Boston, the train depot and the home of preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). The production even constructed a life-size oil derrick, designed to historic specifications, that they burned down for one of the film's key scenes.
"Everything you see on the film was built," Sellar said. "There was nothing there; it was just an empty piece of land."
That empty piece of land also happened to be in the middle of nowhere. The nearest airport was three hours away in El Paso, and there weren't any local crews to speak of, thus necessitating transporting everything into a town of 2,000 people.
But the remoteness of the production helped the actors, Sellar said. "When you went to work on this ranch, you felt you were going back in time," she said. "There were no distractions, and we were totally in the movie. When we did come back to L.A., it was a culture shock because you got so used to living in that environment."