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FAST COLOR

About The Film
A STORY THAT CAUGHT ON QUICKLY
Director Julia Hart and her husband, producer Jordan Horowitz, cowrote their original script for "Fast Color" in early 2016 soon after the birth of their son.

Says Hart, "I wanted to tell a story that had women and mothers as superheroes. So much of the superhero iconography is male-dominated. It's about destruction. It's about creating a bunch of buildings and then blowing them up to save the world. I wanted to tell the female version of that, which is to create something in order to save the world."

What they came up with was a character-driven family drama elevated with a high-concept fantasy through-line, and set in a parched, deteriorating landscape of broken Americana where there's an ongoing drought.

"It's a female-driven superhero origin story that's the backdrop of a family drama about three generations of women," says cowriter-producer Horowitz. "Julia's work tends to be very humanistic. I think that is always the core of what she does and the way that we write. We are really interested in character, first and foremost. And following where character leads you. In that respect it is a drama, because it is about people," he reasons. "For us behavioral authenticity is really important. So those are all aspects of the drama. But we like putting those things against a backdrop of something that feels a bit more genre, a bit more cinematic, sort of a bigger scope than just people in a room talking. So the people are at the forefront of the work, but I do think there are also elements of fantasy, elements of science fiction, elements of world building in a way that genre films tend to be world building."

The characters took on more and more specificity as they worked on the script.

Describes Hart, "It's about a woman dealing with any number of problems that are specific to her and have to do with the fact that she has superhuman abilities and they have presented struggles in her personal life, and she finds herself at a moment in her life where she has been on the run and in hiding for so long that it finally catches up to her. She can't hide and run anymore. The only place she has left to go is home. And it turns out that all she needed was to reconnect with her family in order to learn how to harness her abilities."

While writing, the partners were influenced by early Spielberg movies as well as the female buddy film "Thelma and Louise." Recalls Hart, "We talked a lot about the way sci-fi films used to be more human. You look at 'Close Encounters.' You look at the early Amblin stuff. It's got the spectacle and visual aspects, but it's also got humanity in the characters and the relationships between the characters."

Reflects Horowitz, "There's a lot of hope in Spielberg's work, against something that could be otherwise disastrous. He tends to find that humanity, especially in his early work. That resonated. There's some Coen brothers stuff that resonated like 'No Country for Old Men' since we're sort of in the setting of that and there is a stillness, especially in the Ellis storyline. We wanted that to feel like a pretty traditional sheriff investigating what may or may not have happened, and trying to figure out truth. The Coen brothers tend to do that really well in a very naturalistic and stylized way."

The ambiguous timeframe and setting of "Fast Color" was conceived as a sort of alternate reality. Explains Hart, "It's as if the drought started in the nineties or early 2000's, so it's almost as if it's a parallel universe, and a universe where things started to get worse more quickly. I like to think of it as a cautionary tale for where we are headed if we are not more careful with our planet and with our resources. Water could become as limited and precious as gasoline."

The screenwriters' progress on "Fast Color" went rapidly-"Like lightening," says Hart-and in summer 2016 they sent the script to fast-rising English actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, seeking to attach her for the starring role.

Recalls Mbatha-Raw, "I really responded to the fact that it was a completely unique story. I'd never read anything of this tone." She called her agent to set up a meeting and soon was in. "For me," conveys Mbatha-Raw, "it's a drama about three women learning to own their own power."

ON THE AWARDS CIRCUIT
While on the awards circuit in fall 2016 with his film "La La Land," producer Horowitz came to know producers Mickey Liddell and Pete Shilaimon of LD Entertainment, who were on the same circuit with their film "Jackie." Horowitz gave them the "Fast Color" screenplay.

Liddell and Shilaimon read the script and greenlit it within days, deciding LD would step up to fully finance "Fast Color."

"For me it really felt like a spiritual journey. I love films that have some sort of spiritual message in them but don't hit you over the head with it," evaluates producer Liddell. "I think it's a great message to put out into the world: that we're all individuals and we all have special things to say and do. That you're an individual and what you say really does matter and you can make a big difference. Because the world is so corporate and so big, we think, I don't have a voice anymore, and I think this movie really talks about that."

"It feels like a drama with a fantastical, spiritual twist. A fantastical drama about love, and in love you find forgiveness. Then there are the special powers that the three women possess -- the spiritual, metaphysical powers. There's a superhero element since these women have these powers," reflects producer Shilaimon. "It reminded me so much of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild.' 'Beasts' was so fantastical and magical and beautiful and visually stunning."

Adds executive producer Michael Glassman of LD Entertainment, "I see it as a warning, but one that carries with it a great deal of hope."

By January 2017, the producers and Hart were scouting locations in New Mexico and signing on the rest of the cast.

THE CAST COMES TOGETHER
Director Hart always envisioned Gugu Mbatha-Raw ("Beauty & the Beast," "Miss Sloane") in the movie's leading role of Ruth. For Mbatha-Raw, the appeal of the film was that, "It was a female-driven story about three generations of women. The mother-daughter dynamics were interesting to me. Also, I liked the elements of magic realism. For me, it felt very emotional and cinematic. The world is very similar to the world we live in, but just a bit off. It's very grounded and recognizable, but still different enough to spark your imagination."

Director Hart was also able to cast her first choice for the character of Ruth's mother, Bo: Lorraine Toussaint ("Orange is the New Black," "Selma"). "The script was wonderful," says Toussaint. "It was unusual to see not only three generations of women who seem to possess unusual abilities and it's in the blood and though we never name it, it's clearly passed on from generation to generation, and then it was even rarer to see women of color, black women."

Cast in the role of Ruth's 10-year-old daughter, Lila, was 10-year-old Saniyya Sidney ("Hidden Figures," "Fences"), for whom the family relationships resonated most. "You learn that no matter what, you can always fix what's broken," proposes Sidney.

Accomplished actor David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck," "Eight Men Out") came on for the role of Sheriff Dean Ellis. "It's a very grounded and evocative story about what a family might be going through in a rather remote, desiccated place," appraises Strathairn. "It's kind of a town in limbo in a remote place, dealing with drought and abandonment, like many, many little towns in America. It could be now. It's very clever how it hovers, much like an allegory or a poetic expression."

Playing stranger in town Bill is Christopher Denham ("Argo," "Shutter Island"). "I sort of think of it as magical realism. It's very much grounded in the real world but there are elements of fantasy and magic in it. When I first read the script I was reminded of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' where it's set in a slightly distant future or alternate present, and you were dealing with these elements of fantasy that are just above the surface of something we can completely relate to. It's an allegorical sort of reality," suggests Denham. "I think this story in some ways goes back to Lysistrata and the Trojan women and Demeter -- these women that have these abilities that come out of this situation in which men are trying to co-opt their power. Right? And they have to take a stand for what is right and for their own agency in the world. In many ways these characters are archetypes. There is the mother, the grandmother, and the daughter. But what's great about the script is it's so individualized."

MAKING THE CHARACTERS THEIR OWN
Gugu Mbatha-Raw discussed the character of Ruth with director Hart at length, and decided, "Ruth is a woman struggling with her past and her sense of self and I think essentially she is learning to find out who she is. She is not really secure in her identity when we meet her. And she's not secure in her power as a woman and a mother and a daughter. She's a woman struggling, wrestling with her sense of self. Literally speaking, Ruth has seizures, which are of such a magnitude that they literally create earthquakes. But really, her big struggle is owning that special ability."

The way Mbatha-Raw views the lead character, "She is a woman who has abused drugs and alcohol in the past and that was a way of numbing her power because she wasn't able to control it and was afraid of it. It's a complex psychological bundle for her because she's trying to go through this process of these convulsions and she's trying to work out what they mean for her and how to control them and how they can become a good force." Director Hart notes, "I watch Gugu and I believe that she is vulnerable and delicate and also capable of kicking butt and being a superhero." Producer Shilaimon observes, "Gugu is such a compassionate person. I think she brings a sensitivity and strength to this role."

Lorraine Toussaint developed the role of Bo, or Bonnie, reading the Discovery of Witches series by Deborah Harkness and deciding that, "Bonnie is rural, earthy, a mother, a grandmother, a lover as it turns out, secluded, secretive, and very isolated. There's something about people when they are so isolated: they become insular. She's contained."

Says Hart, "There is no one else for me that is Bo. Lorraine is so powerful and just owns any space she walks into. She is also capable of being so gentle and so loving."

Taking on the part of Ruth's 10-year-old daughter, Lila, was 10-year-old Saniyya Sidney, who declares, "Lila is very wise. She's very strong. I believe that she is what draws her mother and grandmother back together again. They don't have the best relationship and she tries to fix it."

Veteran actor David Strathairn portrays Sheriff Dean Ellis, whose safeguarding of the women turns out to be more deeply felt than is first revealed. "Dean all in all is a good guy," evaluates Strathairn. "The special powers thing is kind of an interesting overlay that comes with the territory, but I think it's more of an allegory than it is any kind of sci-fi element. There are always things that exist in the passing of the torch to a child, whether it's a special power or it's just a characteristic. There is a legacy between the mother, the daughter, the granddaughter that is a universal thing that has created the set of usual brambles that families go through, even if they're extraterrestrial or superpowers."

Commends producer Shilaimon, "Dean is the grounded one."

Christopher Denham reasons of his character, who's chasing Ruth, "Bill is a bit of an enigma. He works for a shadowy government agency that is not named but it's implied that it's part of this world that sort of falling apart, a last vestige of this military industrial complex. I don't think that Bill is necessarily the villain. I think that Bill's agenda is ambiguous and it's sort of an obstacle to Ruth's path to freedom. He's coming after Ruth and trying to bring her back to his researchers."

ON LOCATION IN NEW MEXICO
A production office was opened in Albuquerque in January 2017. While writing the screenplay, says director Hart, "We pretty much felt that New Mexico would be the perfect place for it because it has dry, arid landscapes but it also has trees, so it could feel like it could be someplace else in America. And because of the incredible skies."

Offers producer Shilaimon, "There is an energy field, there's something mystical about New Mexico."

Principle photography began in March near northwest Albuquerque's Shooting Range Park, for filming of the scenes of Ruth fighting to escape from Bill's car on the desert road and then running through the desert. The roadside diner scenes where Ruth meets Bill were shot at the Café 66 diner in southwest Albuquerque.

The opening scenes of the film where Ruth escapes from the rundown building were shot at Albuquerque's seedy downtown Railyard. For the scenes at the roadside bar where Ruth is briefly employed by the friendly bartender, production traveled east of Albuquerque to Tijeras, a rugged canyon village in the Manzano Mountains.

Most the movie was shot in the town of Estancia, a ranching and farming community with a population of about 1,600 where production relocated for the month of April. Just over an hour's drive east of Albuquerque, Estancia is reached by driving down miles of two-lane highway. It has a friendly smalltown ambiance that feels as much "Texas" and "Kansas" as "New Mexico," with its cattle, horses, and downtown lake stocked with fish. The pastoral community has huge blue skies. At an elevation of 6,100 feet, the rural Estancia Valley has attracted homesteaders for centuries.

Remembers location manager Deborah Wakshull, "As we were scouting, the vision was to find a small town that felt like anywhere America. It had to feel as if it once had a vibrant life but because of catastrophic climate conditions the town sadly become semi-desolate as people moved away. The cinematic appeal to Estancia is that it is just that, a town that once had ten thousand people living it but as soon as the railroad closed down so did much of the town. The vestiges of the main street with many old buildings now closed, its dusty streets, and an aura of barrenness became the perfect character for the film."

Production filmed the scenes at the Garrison police station, general store, and downtown Garrison in downtown Estancia, where the town authorities kindly shut down the main highway into town for days on end, detouring traffic to nearby roads.

Producer Shilaimon settled into the location, noticing how, "Estancia feels different. It's bare but there is beauty. It's completely removed from the world. The main street feels like somebody put a row of buildings on each side, and everything around it is bare. And the skies are magical. The row of buildings, and then everything around is barren for miles and miles. The farmhouse is completely remote."

For the last several weeks of filming, production relocated to a hundred-year-old shingled brown-and-white farmhouse that stood two stories high. It was situated just outside Estancia, flanked by two small barns, a shed, and farm fields.

Production designer Gae Buckley responded to the fact that, "The house has history to it. You could see that people have lived in this house for a really long time, and I loved that. I feel that our characters have lived in this house for generations as you read through their journal. So I love the fact that this house has so many layers of history to it."

Actor Strathairn looked around, observing, "The landscape here is perfect for this movie. The vistas are amazing. Big sky. A lot of room. The energy of the desert landscape is very potent. Look at this lost, remote, forgotten town and what's happening inside it."

Mbatha-Raw was likewise absorbed in the setting, realizing, "Certainly being out here in Albuquerque and in the desert, in a setting where you often see cowboys in this male-dominated open, big-sky country landscape, you don't often see a woman who looks like me in the center of this kind of movie and this landscape. A woman on the run in the desert. It's an iconography that we so often associate with men."

A SPARSE AND ENDLESS WORLD
The world of "Fast Color" is bare and barren, a near post-apocalyptic world of scarcity due to a devastating drought.

Director Hart's vision was that the world should feel like everywhere and nowhere. As she puts it, "I like when movies feel universal and authentic, when you don't point to a specific real time and place through the clothing or the sets or the locations. That there can be a beautiful sort of broken

Americana that doesn't have to exist in any one space but can exist for all time. So we tried very hard to pick pieces for the wardrobe and pick pieces for the sets and locations so that they could feel very specific and authentic, but at the same time universal."

Muses producer Liddell, "I see the time as today, if rain stopped today, and what it would be like in five years. It's very similar to the world that we live in, but water is life, and when water and life start draining out of people, it makes them very different. They get into, This is mine and this is yours, and you can only have this much. It really scares people."

Production designer Buckley shares, "We decided it was actually a nonspecific timeless place where it hasn't rained in 12 years. The world hasn't been exploded. It hasn't been torched by fire. It's just sad, abandoned, dried out, dusty, and nothing has been washed. It takes place in a nonspecific place in the United States, a place that might have had wheat fields and cornfields at one time, and not necessarily the Southwest. It's set in the poorer communities that have been abandoned. There might be water and money somewhere else in the country, but people have abandoned these places and they are leaving so they have boarded up things. There's no garbage collection. Community services have fallen apart."

The color palette for production design was restrained and compressed, dominated by muted tans, grays, and blues, with the intent that when Ruth finally sees the colors incited by her special powers, it is a dramatic contrast.

The set dressing, props, wardrobe, and picture vehicles range from the 1970s up to 2005. Objects were chosen that could feel specific and authentic.

In downtown Estancia, Buckley observed, "This one little block that we were shooting on actually had a lot of buildings that were already out of business and defunct. So we had some things to hinge our sets on, that we didn't have to do too many things to. Some buildings in town were bright and cheery and pink and yellow, and those we painted to look sad and boarded them up."

Ruth's costumes were inspired by seventies and eighties punk music fashion, as epitomized by Patti Smith, X, and X-Ray Spex. Describes costume designer Elizabeth Warn, "For Ruth, I used a lot of punk references. She wears a high-collared overcoat at the beginning. It looks almost like a cape. It's something she loses her femininity in, but when she takes it off we are aware of her as a woman. She doesn't use a lot of color." Her other costumes included a pinky blush-colored shirt, an old sweater that she cut off, a vintage pair of ripped jeans, and a vintage nylon bomber jacket in olive green.

Bo's back-story is that she's connected to the earth and has an almost psychic connection to trees and plants, so muted greens and blues were brought into her costumes to reflect that. Lila wears faded yellows and pinks, with the costume designer and director believing that yellow connotes joy. Sheriff Ellis wears jeans and a simple snap-front shirt with a patch declaring "Sheriff" on it.

For the most part, the world of "Fast Color" is a world where synthetic dyes don't exist anymore, except for a few characters that come from the cities. Other than that, the idea was that everything would feel faded and washed out, the colors desaturated, and nothing was created after 2005.

Adds Warn, "Most of the characters have a limitation in their closets. This is not a world of abundance."

WORKING WITH DIRECTOR HART
Director Hart had a firm vision on set and worked closely with the cast. Mbatha-Raw comments, "She's very specific with her directions. She has a very specific vision for this world. She has a very big heart."

Notes actor Strathairn, "Julia knows what she wants and that's great. She's very certain in what she wants. She's got the heart of the film in the palm of her hand. Bo is the font of everything. Ruth is the pulse and energy. It's a very human story even with the superpower stuff attached."

Toussaint found that, "Julia is tender and fierce and passionate and incredibly creative and remarkably collaborative."

UNDERSTANDING THE SPECIAL POWERS
The special powers of Ruth, Bo, and Lila are both literal and allegorical, functioning on the plot level and connoting a deeper level of compassion. Producer Horowitz believes, "Allowing these women to kind of harness their power works as a parable or allegory in terms of forgiveness and empathy and seeing other people, and the strength you can find in yourself when you allow yourself to see other people, and see yourself in other people, and see your flaws and be at peace with them."

"Ruth's powers start off as a destructive entity," points out producer Shilaimon. "The metamorphosis from destruction to hope and life is very telling."

According to director/writer Hart, the concept of the special powers was inspired by the Greek myth of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and her daughter Persephone, who are united for only half of each year, during which the seasons of creation-the spring and summer--occur.

Elaborates Hart, "So it's the idea that a mother's love is creation, and there would be drought when mother and daughter are apart. And when mother and daughter come together and reconnect, the world comes back to life again."

Hart and Horowitz gave that idea a new twist in their "Fast Color" screenplay.

Says Hart, "The women in this family for generations have been able to affect the energy of objects. They have been able to dematerialize solid objects and then put them back together. And then Ruth comes along and Ruth's powers are different. It's the same principle but she's able to control more than just your everyday objects. It's the idea of creating something original. There aren't many representations of female superpower in a real, authentic way. It's important to me that they be real. I don't want some superhuman woman in spandex taking down an unrealistic amount of enemies. I want my female superheroes to be real and to be vulnerable and to be healing and to be learning."

The special powers are both a blessing and a curse. "I think all special abilities are both a gift and a curse," contends Hart. "It's a blessing to be gifted but then with that comes the weight of other people wanting it for themselves and other people wanting to harness it and other people wanting to take it away from you. Ultimately what the women learn is it's more important to focus on the blessing than the curse."

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