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THE GOLDFINCH

About The Production (Con'd)
RE-CREATING ART
"To lose something that should have been immortal..."
- Hobie
The title "character" of the film is also very rarely viewed-clumsily wrapped in newspaper and placed out of sight, though it is never out of mind. "There is a notion through the story that certain objects have a pull on people in the way The Goldfinch has a pull on Theo," Crowley remarks. "But however you define art, one thing most people would agree on is it's meant to be seen. The idea of keeping a work of art hidden, ostensibly lost to humanity, is on some level, a crime against the idea behind the impulse of that creation. Anything that can reach across time or across cultures and speak to somebody and perhaps make them feel a little less lonely, more seen, more emotionally connected to themselves, is of great value."

The priceless artwork at the center of the tale is part of the permanent collection of the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands. Fortunately, the Mauritshuis was able to provide the perfect "stand-in" for The Goldfinch. Production designer K.K. Barrett explains, "The museum used a 3D scanner to scan the surface and then rebuilt the painting in layers to scale. I admit, I was doubtful. I thought, 'This is going to look like a bad reproduction,' but when they held it up to the real painting, I was extremely impressed by how close they were. For some shots, we blew it up digitally and then a scenic artist over  painted it to give it exactly the same brushstrokes and textures we could see in the print."

During their visit to the Mauritshuis, the filmmakers relished the opportunity to see, firsthand, Carel Fabritius's beloved masterpiece, which survived the massive gunpowder explosion that killed its creator in 1654. "Seeing The Goldfinch was a profoundly powerful experience," Crowley recalls. "It seems to have a light emanating from inside, and no matter where you walk in the room, that little bird is watching you. I can't imagine anyone standing in front of it and not being moved on some level that's hard to articulate, which is the mark of an incredible piece of art, I think."

The curators at the Mauritshuis generously gave the behind-the-scenes team a lesson on the Dutch masters, which is the exhibit Theo and his mother are touring at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on the fateful day.

Across the Atlantic, The Met was also instrumental in helping Barrett's team create the film's art exhibit. Executive producer Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda says, "There were obviously some sensitivities about presenting a terrorist attack at the museum, but they knew it was a fictional story based on an important, prize-winning literary work. John Crowley did an amazing job explaining his vision for the film and got them excited about it. They took us under their wing and gave us access to their curators who showed us how to put together an authentic-looking art exhibit of our own."

The replicas of the artwork on the walls of the exhibit on the set had been created from high resolution images licensed from The Met, the Mauritshuis, the Rijksmuseum and others. The graphic and scenic departments printed the images on photographic paper and textured the prints to look like aged paintings. More than 80 reproductions, most notably including Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson, were created for the museum sequence.

ON LOCATION
"I didn't mean to do it. But I extinguished
a light...at the heart of the world."
- Theo Decker

NEW YORK
It would have been impossible to film the museum interiors at The Met, given the destruction that occurs, so Barrett's art department re-created several of the museum's connecting rooms in a large warehouse in Yonkers, often used for filming.

Flashbacks of the terrifying explosion and its aftermath recur in Theo's nightmares, both waking and sleeping. Relating their approach to the crucial sequence, cinematographer Roger Deakins offers, "It's very much about Theo's memory of the event, and we both thought it would be stronger if it was about the details and not the overall devastation. John very much wanted that when Theo wakes up in the dust, it is like he is in this kind of void really, almost to mirror his senses. And so we built on that."

"Roger thinks in images," Crowley states. "He loves to, as I do, soak up all the information about what's going on inside the story and what is the undercurrent beneath the scene. We went through the script and, early on, decided we would play with the element of focus in an effort to land Theo's relationship to his own memories and his fear that those of his mother are fading. His mother walking away is a key motif throughout the film and gave us a visual foothold on other aspects of the film."

The exterior scene following the bombing-as emergency responders rush in to help and Theo emerges, still shell-shocked, into the pouring rain-was filmed on site on the front steps of the museum. Although it is a relatively short scene, it was logistically challenging, as they had to shoot very early on a Sunday morning and be done and out before The Met opened.

For the Barbour's spacious home, where Theo first goes, the company initially scouted a number of Park Avenue apartments. However, Deakins allows, "We realized it would be impractical to film in an upper-floor apartment with the amount of rigging we would have had to do to make it work."

Instead, Barrett and his team located a house in Rye, New York, which, the production designer says, "had a layout similar to some of the apartments we'd seen. We made sure to erase anything that would give away we were in a house and it became the Barbour apartment." Barrett designed the Barbour home in a palette of cool tones, using shades of blue, which, Crowley points out, "was carried over to Mrs. Barbour's wardrobe in the first part of the film. In the second half, it does feel that the place hasn't had any attention in quite a few years."

The director continues, "Our costume designer, Kasia [Walicka Maimone], did the most wonderful job of not just costuming the actors but expressing the personalities of their characters through the lived-in patina of their clothes and the subtle balance of colors that she played with in designing their individual wardrobes."

Far from Park Avenue is Hobie's antique shop with its basement workshop below and his apartment above, nestled in Greenwich Village. Barrett notes, "It's two very distinct New Yorks-the bohemian downtown and the upper-crust uptown."

Ansel Elgort adds, "As a New Yorker myself, I love that we see different aspects of the city. When Theo is with the Barbours, they live in a fantastically expensive, stuffy Upper East Side apartment. Then he goes down to the Village, and you get that artistic, bohemian vibe. But both are New York and that's something that ties it all together."

The cluttered workshop set was constructed in the Yonkers warehouse, while a restaurant on 7th Avenue was converted into the store itself. Exterior scenes were shot on site in the Village.

While shooting "The Goldfinch" in New York City, the studio and filmmakers partnered with NYC Film Green, a first-of-its kind environmental sustainability designation program. Over the course of the entire production-also encompassing location filming in Albuquerque and Amsterdam-they adhered to the Producers Guild of America's Green Production Guide protocols with the cooperation and appreciation of cast and crew alike.

Spearheaded by Winkler-Ioffreda, their efforts, overall, significantly reduced waste, conserved energy and benefitted the communities, and made this one of the "greenest" shoots ever accomplished. Just a few of the positive steps included: a 74% landfill diversion rate in NYC by recycling, composting and donating materials; eschewing plastic water bottles in favor of reusable bottles, avoiding the use of more than 68,000 bottles; donating more than 4,270 meals to local foodbanks and shelters; reducing fuel use by renting hybrid vehicles; and repurposing materials from prior productions and preserving them for future projects. As a result, the production earned the NYC Film Green mark of distinction from the Mayor's office and an EMA Gold Seal from the Environmental Media Association.

ALBUQUERQUE AS LAS VEGAS
When Theo's dad shows up and takes Theo away, the young boy finds himself essentially stranded in the exurbs of Las Vegas-2,500 miles, and a world away, from the teeming metropolis of New York. Barrett attests, "He went from uptown to downtown...and then way out of town. It's a shock to the system for a kid who's grown up in the city to not just go to the desert but to a tract home in the middle of nowhere. The houses have lots of space, but they're bereft of personality or intrinsic value."

They are also bereft of people, leaving Theo, his father and Xandra living at the end of an empty dead-end road.

With the Las Vegas scenes, which were actually filmed in the outskirts of Albuquerque, the immediate impression Crowley wanted to give "was of a totally a historical environment in its absolutely bare, washed-out 'beigeness,'" he remarks. "I had this idea that nothing there should be older than Theo and Boris, and that the look and the feel of it should be completely 'other.' That whole section of the film is almost like a parody of family life that's been turned on its head and emotionally unbound, leaving these two feral kids to fend for themselves."

To further the disparity between the desert and the city, Deakins says, "Most of the Las Vegas scenes were deliberately shot in bright sunlight to get that hot, bleached-out look. A lot of the interiors were also quite brightly lit, in contrast to the New York scenes, which have a darker, softer ambiance." Apart from the lighting, the cinematographer adds, "We also went with slightly wider lenses to make everything feel more open, barren and hostile to Theo."

One memorable nighttime sequence involved a different approach. Theo and Boris, left to their own devices on Thanksgiving night, cap a heartbreakingly revealing conversation about loss and guilt by abruptly jumping in the dark pool. To achieve the underwater shot, Deakins says, "We utilized a HydroFlex system on a crane, which is essentially underwater housing for the Alexa camera. I could remotely operate the hydro head on a crane arm, so we didn't need a diver. The pool wasn't very deep, about eight feet, but we had to get the camera set right on the bottom of the pool to get a wide enough shot."

The scene posed another kind of challenge to Fegley and Wolfhard. Crowley recalls, "Albuquerque at night is freezing cold, and while we warmed up the water a little bit, we couldn't warm it up so much that there would be steam coming off of it because it's not supposed to be a heated pool. The scene was also difficult for Oakes and Finn because we wanted a very particular piece of action, but they couldn't see under the water, so they were literally feeling their way through it. We had to do take after take, so we set up a kind of makeshift Jacuzzi for them with hot water, so they could get warm between shots."

AMSTERDAM
Amsterdam was the final filming location, and for the filmmakers, there could be no substitution. Barrett confirms, "We couldn't shoot Amsterdam anywhere else in the world. No other city looks like it and there is a bit of a parallel because New York was originally New Amsterdam. The story drove us there and we couldn't wait to get there."

Deakins recalls, "At one point, they were discussing building the hotel room on a stage and using a Translight backing, but to me, it was key that the backdrop was real. We ended up shooting in an apartment that K.K. made look like a hotel room and it had this wonderful view of the canals, which just says Amsterdam and that lends so much to the film."

The production also benefitted from the local Dutch crews, who were instrumental in the filmmakers accomplishing everything they needed in only five days.

"The whole film opens up there and reaches its denouement there," adds Crowley. "It's the place where fine art intersects with criminal activity. And it's The Goldfinch that leads Theo from the finery of the New York art and antique world to rather shady dealings, literally in the underworld...in an underground car park in Amsterdam.

RESOLUTION
"...somehow, miracle after miracle, it survives...."
 Hobie
When principal photography wrapped, Crowley completed "The Goldfinch" in post, in collaboration with editor Kelley Dixon and composer Trevor Gureckis.

The director remarks, "With the score, I think we're lucky to witness the arrival of a major new musical voice in Trevor. As an audition piece, he wrote 12 minutes of music for the film, fully mindful that he might not get the job. But he won it...and then some."

In composing the score, Gureckis says, "I wanted to create a musical tapestry of modern electronics blended with modern orchestra that enhances the great work that's already there in the scenes. I was trying to capture what's happening inside the characters."

He goes on to say that the central theme of the score was inspired by Theo's journey "and how he is always reaching for something. In the same way, the score is always reaching for a resolution-the whole framework of the composition is set up around one chord that is never resolved until one climactic moment."

"Trevor created a musical expression of an idea that Roger and I had come up with as a means of dealing with Theo's relationship to his memory of his mother in the Met," Crowley expands. "He translated that into a repeated musical phrase that would always exit on a note that was not flourishing...that would leave tension in its wake. And then when you see young Theo and his mother, and you hear her speak for the first time and see her face what Trevor was able to do was to sort of let the music take flight."

The director reflects, "It's an acknowledgement of what Theo's mother had given him before that awful day-the terrible event, which cannot be changed...which is irredeemable. She gave him an appreciation of beauty and of the way in which beautiful objects can weave their way into your life and can become the thing that actually binds people together, in a very direct way, across time. That is something that speaks to an essential humanity and I think it's a profoundly important message."

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