These experts know how to help bring a film to life


Kasia Walicka Maimone, costume designer
After five weeks immersing herself in the wealth of photos, newsreel footage and biographies documenting the life of Amelia Earhart, Walicka Maimone came to the conclusion her subject was more than just a pioneering aviator, she was a fashion icon. "She wasn't the only one who representing those trends in fashion," Walicka Maimone observes, "but she was the one who crystallized them in the 1920s and 1930s, when the new contemporary modern language was being established." Walicka Maimone had a star (Hilary Swank) who had roughly the same physical build as her subject, but she nonetheless felt that a pinpoint-accurate re-creation of Earhart's wardrobe would be a mistake. So she narrowed the silhouettes of her boxier dresses and baggy flight suits and otherwise tightened and subtly updated the wardrobes of Earhart and other characters in the film. "We've lived through many decades since then, so our eyes are trained to see things differently," Walicka Maimone explains. "If some of the shapes from the era were quoted directly in contemporary times, it would be distracting."

Chris Boyes, sound re-recording mixer and sound designer
The mix team (including Boyes, Gary Summers and Andy Nelson) had a lot to juggle, including futuristic aircraft, a variety artillery, massive explosions and a bioluminescent jungle planet with rampaging dinosaur-like creatures. But the most demanding elements in their sonic workflow were the ears of director James Cameron. "Because Jim was also editing the picture, he spent hundreds of hours cutting his own sound effects, his own music and picking dialog," Boyes says. "Basically, Jim's edict to us was, 'If you ever have a question, listen to the temp. That's what I want you to mimic in 5.1.' " The film's sound editing team (which included Addison Teague) began creating the first creature sounds for the film around Christmas 2006 and the initial pre-dub didn't occur until January. "We'll spend a considerable amount on the mix and then Jim comes and works one-on-one with us, very intensely, for oftentimes 14-15 hours at a time, frame-by-frame if he needs to, and gets it to where he wants it," Boyes says. "Gary Summers says it's like starting out painting with a wide brush and in the end we're down to a brush with one camel hair and doing the very fine detail."

A Serious Man
Roger Deakins, cinematographer
Over the course of his four-decade career, Deakins has pulled off some flashy moves with his camera, from dangling it down an elevator shaft on a rope (1985's "Shakey") to floating under the legs of showgirls (1998's "The Big Lebowski"). But for this film, his 10th collaboration with filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, he wanted to take a simple, straightforward approach that didn't get in the way of its story about an unassuming Jewish college professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) in the '60s hit with a sudden avalanche of personal problems. However, a key scene in which the protagonist's son struggles to make it through his bar mitzvah while stoned on pot required a more extreme POV. "Joel and Ethan wanted to get this kind of woozy feeling reflected in the photography," Deakins says, "so we shot it on these swing and tilt lenses, which are really designed to keep things in focus. But we used it the other way, so you got this rapid drop-off in focus."

The Hurt Locker
Chris Innis and Bob Murawski, editors
Director Kathryn Bigelow shot this tense drama about a U.S. Army bomb squad in Iraq documentary-style in neighboring Jordan with three to four cameras running simultaneously at all times. The result: 200 hours of chaotic raw footage and a world of hurt for editors Innis and Murawski. "Sometimes we'd have to scan through five or six hours of multiple takes just to find that one close-up," Murawski says. Complicating matters, screenwriter Mark Boal made changes on set and the actors frequently improvised, so scenes tended to evolve over a series of takes. As a result, the editors would first do a "story pass" to put the scene together sequentially, then do an "aesthetic pass," finessing the performances and the visual composition. "The style that tends to go with this is jump cuts," Innis observes, "but we tried to go against that since we knew it was already going to be hard to watch handheld footage. We tried to be smooth and continuous with our cuts.

John Myhre, production designer
In this adaptation of a Tony-winning stage musical inspired by Federico Fellini's 1963 film classic "81⁄2," the key set is actually a set or, more accurately, an entire soundstage where Italian director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is scheduled to begin shooting the biggest film of his life in just two weeks. The problem is, he's not sure what the film is about. "We wanted this idea that he walks in and sees this nightmare of unfinished sets," Myhre explains. "We have a staircase of a grand opera house that goes up into an arched opening that just stops and pieces of the Roman Coliseum, with gorgeous sculptures just waiting to be shot, but it's not quite finished. It's basically a sculpture that is Guido Contini at that exact moment." Myhre constructed the set on Stage H at England's Shepperton Studios, outfitted with vintage equipment (crane, cameras and lights) appropriate to the film's early '60s setting. "Normally, I'm the one running around right before a shot covering up cables," Myhre says. "But here I was going to the director, saying, 'Hey, let me hang some cables from that beam and when the camera pans through you'll pass through them.' "

Star Trek
Mindy Hall, makeup department head; Joel Harlow, prosthetic makeup supervisor
Early on, the makeup team received the endorsement of a key Trekkie: The original Mr. Spock. "Leonard Nimoy told us that we made the best ears he'd ever had," Hall says. Why? For the first time in franchise history, the appliances were made out of silicon instead of foam latex. "It allowed us to have the translucency of a real ear, so if light was behind it, you'd see through it," Harlow says. Each Vulcan required two makeup artists, one for the ear and one for the face and eyebrows, while Romulans (who had more expanded nose bridges to give them a more animalistic look) required up to three people to apply the prosthetic appliances, wigs and other pieces. As a result, the makeup team would swell from a full-time staff of 20-plus to 40 or more artists on the busiest days, such as the cadet scenes aboard the Enterprise. They knew there were legions Trekkies eager to pounce on any misstep, but, at the end of the day, there was only one person they had to please: director J.J. Abrams. "He's got a very critical eye," Hall says, "so if things aren't done well, he's going to see it."

Tom Myers, supervising sound editor
Director Pete Docter wanted the film to feel like a Frank Capra movie from the 1940s, if Capra had made a computer-animated film about an elderly man named Carl who ties balloons to his house and floats off to South America in search of adventure. "The movie itself breathes more than most Pixar movies," Meyer says, "so we tried to match the visuals and just find the right one or two sound effects per scene and let them play and push the story forward." Myers and his team at Skywalker Sound had some adventures of their own acquiring the sounds, venturing into the field to record the roar of a vintage biplane doing aerial stunts and the humming engine of a soaring dirigible, as well as the construction site cacophony that signals the film's transition from Carl's fondly remembered past to the harsh realities of his present. "Things are fairly mono up to that point," Myers says. "That's where the surrounds really kick in, with people calling out and pile drivers and bulldozers. He's left in his house and the world has changed around him."