Production values


Neda Armian

-- On compromising with a specialty label to make Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married" on a low budget (Sony Pictures Classics)

"Here was the joke: (SPC co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard) would say, 'This is a little more than what we're used to spending.' And I'd say, 'This is a lot less than what we're used to spending.' "

Todd Black

-- On working with director Gabriele Muccino and star Will Smith to get the details right for "Seven Pounds" (Sony)

"Will and Gabriele took a month to rehearse. They would bring in the different characters that we would cast and rehearse each scene. For a week, it would be Rosario (Dawson), and for another day it would be another actor. And every day they would come out of rehearsal and sit with myself, (producers) James (Lassiter) and Jason (Blumenthal) and Steve (Tisch) and say, 'Here's what came out of this scene today. They would fine-tune it, so that it was easier for Will to perform and more specific for Gabriele to direct. It was all about the specifics."

G. Mac Brown

-- On the unexpected benefits of unpredictable weather while shooting "Australia" (Fox)

"Australia's wet season is six months of constant rain. During the dry season, it never rains. To shoot there, you have to be there at just the right time. So we planned everything per all the research and shot our first week in Sydney, then nine weeks in Bowen, Queensland, then Darwin and Kununurra for six weeks. All goes well in Sydney, and we move to Bowen, where after the first few weeks, it starts to rain. And it rains and rains and rains. Baz (Luhrmann), unlike any other director I have worked with, embraces the rain. He thrives in it. Even though the scenes were written to be hot and dry, Baz and his company just plow ahead. The result is incredible: a gray, murky look that money could never buy. Brilliant."

Pieter Jan Brugge

-- On shooting in the Lithuanian forests where thousands of Jews were killed during World War II, for "Defiance" (Paramount Vantage)

"It's always present in the back of your mind -- when you walk through that area and have done the research and know what people went through. Few came out alive, so there's no way not to be affected by it. People who made it through that time wanted to be involved (in the film) because they wanted to pay tribute. We had core groups of extras who showed up every day, in wardrobe, at 5 in the morning. One of these extras was a woman in her late 70s, a survivor. There is an impact you can't easily put into words. It became a part of the soul of the movie."

Judy Craymer

-- On approaching Meryl Streep to star in "Mamma Mia!" (Universal)

"We knew that Meryl loved the show, because when she saw it on Broadway she sent a letter to the cast saying, 'I had the best time.' Seven years later, when we were casting the movie, she was at the top of our list. Of course, we had to do our detective work to see how good her voice was because you could not play that part without really being able to sing the songs with power. We knew she had sung at the end of (1990's) 'Postcards From the Edge' and in (2006's) 'A Prairie Home Companion,' so we sent clips of them to (ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus), and they said, 'Yes, she has great timbre.' So (director Phyllida Lloyd and I) approached her agents around November (2007), and by early December we were on a plane to New York to meet her. She walked into the room and I screamed, and she screamed back. It was like: 'Oh, my God! I'm meeting Meryl Streep!' She said, 'So you want me to play Donna?' And we were like, 'Yes!' "

Scott Franklin

-- On convincing Mickey Rourke to sing in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

"In the bar scene, Mickey and Marisa (Tomei) had to sing 'Round and Round' (by Ratt). Mickey's not a fan of hair metal, nor is he a fan of singing and dancing on camera. The day before, Mickey came to us and said, 'I can't sing "Round and Round" on camera. I don't know the words; I don't want to know the words. I'm going to make an ass of myself.' (I said), 'What do you want us to do, Mickey? We're shooting this tomorrow. This is the song we cleared.' And he said, 'I've got to call Axl.' So he calls (Guns N' Roses singer) Axl Rose, who puts us in touch with this one, who puts us in touch with that one, and all morning Darren (Aronofsky) is saying, 'Where the hell is Scott?' I'm on the phone with Axl's camp and Guns N' Roses' lawyers trying to get the rights to 'Sweet Child o' Mine.' Probably four hours. When I come to the set, they're breaking for lunch. I pull Darren aside and say, 'We got "Sweet Child o' Mine."' And he says, 'Great, we just shot Marisa singing "Round and Round." ' What do we do? What happens when Mickey finds out we've got 'Sweet Child o' Mine'? Do we tell him now or at the end of the day? We ended up letting him sing 'Round and Round' a couple of times to see how he felt. Then we told him. Ultimately, he said he was happy and let us save 'Sweet Child o' Mine' for another day."

Robert Lorenz

-- On director-star Clint Eastwood's strategy of using inexperienced Hmong-American actors for "Gran Torino" (Warner Bros.)

"Clint likes things to be fresh and spontaneous and not overly rehearsed because then they become stale, particularly with someone who's new at it. He doesn't want them to formulate a specific performance that they will be unwilling to change, so he'd rather do it on the day. There's no question that it was quite a challenge for him. He was the lead actor, with pages of dialogue to remember every day, then on top of that he was selecting the shots and directing these young actors who'd never even been on a set before and trying to help them -- from understanding the craft in broad terms to very specific tricks of filmmaking. You could see his mind working in some cases where he was trying to concentrate on his performance but trying to be wary of the performance he was getting from the other actor who was in the same shot with him.

You could tell it was a challenge, but he pulled it off magnificently."

Frank Marshall

-- On how he and partner Kathleen Kennedy collaborate with filmmakers, as they did with David Fincher on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount)

"We try to surround ourselves with people who know a lot more about what they're doing than we do. We believe that we're in service to the director, and we try to support the director's vision and help motivate everybody else on that team. It's a benign dictatorship once you start shooting; there's somebody yelling 'Roll!' and 'Cut!' You can influence it and you can talk about it, but they decide to make that decision."

Sam Mendes

-- On producing and directing his wife, Kate Winslet, in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks/Paramount Vantage)

"I wasn't particularly different between Kate and Leonardo DiCaprio because they're very similar in the way they work. They

just get on incredibly well, and they work incredibly well together,

and they're very similar. My main task with Kate and Leo was to make sure they felt that they were the center of the film and that theirs was the central relationship -- rather than it being about Kate and me.

I felt the person in the most difficult situation was Leo, so the most important thing for me was to make him feel comfortable. And I leave it to others to judge whether the chemistry onscreen is good or not, but I think they're a great screen couple."

Emma Thomas

-- On producing husband Christopher Nolan's films, including "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)

"Chris and I first met it in college. We were involved in a film society, and we began working together. There's a certain trust between us, a closeness that you wouldn't normally have (in the film business). He knows I don't have an agenda, and if I do, he knows it. The challenge is how to make it work with the kids. We have four. Many times you will hear producers say they are working on two or three projects at a time. I never take on more than one project at time. My kids are my other project. The only real problem when you work together is at times it is difficult to switch off work. But having four kids makes that easier. Chris likes to shoot five-day weeks so we have the weekends off. Kids are the ultimate distraction, and I think we are able to bring much more to our work because of that."

Compiled by Matthew Belloni, Alex Ben Block,  Shannon L. Bowen, Judith I. Brennan, Chris Koseluk, Todd Longwell and Cristy Lytal.