29 April, 2008

Twilight Set, Day One: Ecola State Park- La Push scenes

*Author’s Note: I was on set for three days, so there’s going to be at least three different entries- it was just too much good information to condense into one entry. It will most likely end up being more like four or five entries as I think I’m going to need to explore a few things about the adaptation process essay-style, but I’ll at least have an entry per day that I was on set. So here’s Day One, the others will be soon to follow.

Ecola State Park, Indian Beach- La Push scenes

The day was a bit of an adventure from the very beginning. I decided to leave Portland ridiculously early because I’m a smidge anal and never want to risk missing something due to delays (I’m the kind of person who arrives four hours before a domestic flight). So I left Portland at 8, even though I didn’t have to be at Cannon Beach until 11:30. My first sign that the day was going to be an event was when the temperature gauge on my rented Subaru read 31 degrees and these white things were hitting my windshield. Snow! Snow was falling, heavily, and quickly accumulating on the ground. That was fine, but as I descended through the pass, all of those fluffy white flakes turned into big, fat raindrops. The day promised to be a very wet one, so I was very grateful for my rain suit and Wellies!

Of course I was incredibly early, so I went to breakfast at a local diner and prepped my notes for the day, all while listening to the hammer of the rain on the windows and roof.

I had agreed to meet Peter Silbermann, the film’s publicist, at Base Camp, and after much confusion, two trips in the company van, finding a parking spot on the set and wandering down towards the beach, our paths finally crossed. Peter was gracious and welcoming, although I’m guessing he was initially a bit wary of me. He has been fending off rabid fans and set-crashers for 43 days of filming, and I’m sure he was hoping I wasn’t a part of that over-zealous crowd. By the end of the day I think he was confident I wasn’t going to run naked across the set or steal anything from Rob Pattinson’s trailer, as I was invited back for the subsequent day of filming.

This first day on set, they were filming the scene where Bella (played by Kristen Stewart) is walking down the beach of La Push and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is telling her the legend of ‘The Cold Ones,’ and the true nature of the Cullen family. I was still getting a feeling for the place: where I would be most out of the way but still able to observe things, and perhaps even where I could stay dry, so I just stood along the beach watching the sound guys set up, the lighting placed and replaced, the script supervisor double checking that the correct words were being uttered, the director running between all of these groups and the actors contemplating and waiting patiently to bring this pivotal scene from the book to life. They were filming on Indian Beach; a gentle crescent of sand, ringed in piles of sea-smoothed stones that stop abruptly at a sixty-foot cliff wall. Having seen the actual La Push a few weeks ago, this is actually more of what I pictured in my head for the beach. I found the actual La Push to be more developed than I thought it would be, and this beach at Ecola State park was remote, untouched, covered in multiple-colored stones, adjacent to a notorious cliff and the beach was covered in driftwood. Not as much as the actual La Push beach, but it still perfectly served my imagination for the location for this scene.

While staring at the scene with sheets of rain pouring over everything, I was introduced to Joan, Peter’s wife and a lovely, lovely lady. She pointed out who was who on the beach, giggled alongside me when we caught a glimpse of Kristen Stewart and Catherine Hardwicke, and explained what a few of the terms that I didn’t know were. Also on the beach were some of the staff of the Twilight Lexicon website. They are the number one Twilight fan site, and very pleasant people to be around. They are certainly fans and avid supporters of the books, films, and everything Twilight, but they are professional, patient and very friendly; and as they were also invited to the set by Peter, it was obvious that they did not fall into the category of crazy gate-crasher fans either. The crew filmed the scene numerous times from many angles, with Catherine Hardwicke running to the actors between takes to discuss their lines, facial expressions and expectations for each take. As this scene was wrapping up, they were originally planning on setting up the bonfire scene at the other end of the beach, but Mother Nature had other plans.

The rain was like standing under a waterfall. It pooled in every slightly sunken spot and gushed in tidal rivers down to the sea. It not only made delivering lines difficult, but it was dangerous for the crew, so they decided to change the location of the scene. I found this immediate change to the story to be really interesting. Of course my initial reaction to anything changing from the book is usually shock and disgust; I normally think of it as sacrilege… but the more time I spent on this set and the more time I’ve spent studying adaptations, I realize that there is no way for the film to be a perfect recreation of the book. It is going to be a new version of the book. Everything written must be conveyed visually, and possibly very differently than the image we have created in our minds; as a different medium, we can’t expect to have the same tools utilized to execute the feelings of the books. Just as we use different language in writing a letter to someone than we do in conversation, film has to be more fluid, and readily adaptable to appeal more visually. That being said, this film may have changed a number of things that I was surprised about, but the structure and spirit of the novel is always in the forefront of any change. It also helps that Stephenie Meyer, the author, was so involved in the adaptation process. She has read every word of the script and has approved it. She has said that she realizes that this is a different medium and certain changes need to occur; not only does she permit them, but she comes up with many of them and has even said that she wished she had thought of a few of the added elements herself!

Additionally, I began to realize that this is a workplace; the cast and crew have to adhere to certain levels of safety and time constraints, so they couldn’t wait around for the sky to clear to film a bonfire scene just because that’s how it was in the book. Instead, they moved the location to the opened door of Tyler’s parked van, and had the kids talking just as they would have been talking around the fire; the action was not interrupted and the dialogue, while perhaps not word for word from the book, translated the exact same feeling (at least to me) as the text of Twilight does. I did feel bad for Kristen Stewart by the end of it though as she had to eat Red Vines throughout the scene; I can’t even imagine how many she consumed. She must have been sick!

It was great to see these actors embrace the characters, live, in person. It didn’t take more than 10 seconds to believe that Kristen Stewart was Bella. She is a serious and dedicated actress who is most definitely channeling all that Bella encompasses; she seemed to be very internal, processing and preparing herself before every shot. Granted I haven’t seen a lot of actors in action, but I was very impressed by her process and performances. Not one of the actors struck me as incorrect, flippant or lackadaisical. There seemed to be a general respect for the work, and certainly a pleasant camaraderie among the actors both on and off camera. This was evident as they were goofing around in the catering tent just as I’m sure Sam, Embry and Jacob would have been rough-housing in their own down time too. I was also struck by the costuming of the actors. Sam, Embry and Jacob were dressed in an eclectic mix of teenage punk-wear, complete with converses and skinny jeans, and traditional tribal wear like woven blankets and knives. Bella had a simple maroon rain coat and adorable wellies, and Jessica’s pony-tailed head was covered by a cute pageboy cap.

Although the weather was tough- in fact all but one member of the crew agreed that it was the worst day of shooting they’d ever had in their careers (the one was stuck on K2 once and the helicopter couldn’t get up there to get them… certainly worse!)- the downtime during the squalls ended up being a very welcome thing as it gave me ample opportunities to talk with some members of the cast, as well as two of the wonderful producers, Greg Mooradian and Wyck Godfrey. Greg was one of the first people involved in the project, as it was he who first came upon Twilight before it was even published. He secured the rights, and was involved in the adaptation process from day one. I asked him why this book stood out amongst others that he had read, and he said that it wasn’t the prose or structure of Meyer’s work, and it wasn’t just the vampires. He saw “love story, love story, love story.” He said there was something so engaging about the “out of town girl who falls for the guy that her parents wouldn’t approve of, and is just taken in by the force of this first love; the struggle for love over death….giving up life to live forever with love.” He was “riveted by that conflict and [he] had never seen that film before.” He said he was sold the minute that Bella asked Edward how long he had been seventeen and Edward replied, “Awhile.” From that point on he was enthralled, and assumed that others would be swept up in the story just as he was; obviously others have been, as Twilight is a number one New York Times bestseller and it was the most recent book in the Twilight series, Eclipse, that knocked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows out of the number one spot.

Greg’s passion and enthusiasm for the work is evident as he describes working with Catherine Hardwicke (the director), Melissa Rosenberg (the screenwriter) and Stephenie Meyer (the author) to create a visually stunning film, full of excitement and action that never strays from the underlying love story of the book. His continuous mantra was “keep your eye on the prize.” Whatever adapting they had to do in order to make the successful novel translate into a successful film could never take away or cheapen the “prize” that was the love story between Bella and Edward. He emphasized that “everything we did came back to that.” They have made minor changes, particularly with regard to the location of some scenes that are static in the book (i.e. a discussion between Bella and Edward in the car might be moved outside so other things are happening visually instead of just the inside of the car), and they have admittedly beefed up some of the action sequences to make it visually exciting as well as more cross-genre. I couldn’t help but wonder if this move may appeal to guys who are forced to accompany their girlfriends to the film- they may surprise themselves and actually end up enjoying the film for its great story as well as its kick-ass stunts, fights and super-hero elements.

I then spoke to Wyck Godfrey, a veteran producer who has worked on a number of adaptations from Eragon to I, Robot, to The Nativity Story with Hardwicke and now Twilight, I asked him what was different about this film than other films he has worked on. He paused a moment, and then said, “I think this is the purest adaptation I’ve ever worked with. Even The Nativity Story, which was very close to the gospel and we had a great researcher working on that… this was just bang on. We went to great lengths to keep every beat that worked in the books and that the fans would be looking for.” Like Greg, he admitted that many things had to change because so much of the story was internal, in Bella’s mind, so it was difficult to dramatize that inner-action, but he read the book, and then read the script, and was floored by how close they were to each other.

We continued to chat for awhile about other works at which I was looking, they joked with me about working on “three good adaptations, and two bad adaptations,” (I’m assuming The Dark is Rising and The Golden Compass are the bad ones in their eyes, as they are in mine), we shared as many synonyms for rain, downpour, deluge etc. that we could come up with, and I was grilled about what the heck took me to Wales and how was I in Oregon at the drop of a hat if I was in school there. Lots of explaining commenced! At this point, of course Mother Nature laughed at us again as halfway through the filming of the van scene the skies began to clear, the rain stopped, and this thing called the Sun poked out from behind the craggy cliffs. Silly Oregon weather…

Sadly it was too late to set up the bonfire scene, but at least the end of the days filming had a bit of sunshine, just as it did in the book.

It was the final day of shooting for most of the humans (Jacob, Mike, Tyler, Sam, Embry…) so there were many hugs exchanged and cheers from the crew for a job well done. I snapped a few gorgeous pictures of the Oregon coast, of the director exalting in the experience, said goodbye to the Twilight Lexicon staff, and then left Ecola Park to head back to Portland for the evening, stoked for what my next day would bring me, but anxious to get dry and warm!

View All of the shots on my webshots album

Reelz.com was there the same day that I was, and they've just released a video of their day on set. It gives you a nice visual of the day!

Next: Port Angeles (as played by St. Helen’s, OR); dress shopping, the infamous restaurant scene, and meeting some very special guests.


Katie said...

I love your reports! You are a great writer. Looking forward to future entries. :)

Debbie said...

Wow! Your report was excellent and gave me a different perspective on how the adaptation process works. I think I can now appreciate or accept the differences that will be in the Twilight movie in comparison to the book. Thanks:) I also look forward to your future entries.

tiffshakes said...

This is great stuff. I am on my way to becoming a PhD student myself. I have two classes left of my masters. Your work sounds really interesting. I did a paper last semester on young adult lit, queer theory, and the re-writing of stories by bloggers / fan fiction. Keep up the excellent posts :-)

Barb said...

Yes! I have to agree! You are an excelent writter and you can share you feelings and express what many of us feel about this movie, the changes on the script and the amazing work the production is doing to keep the film inside Stephenie Meyer's essence. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. Lot of love from Latinoamerica.

Bella said...

Oh my gosh! AHHH! I'm in heaven! Thanks for you reports! ^^. They make me soo happy

Mimi said...

Dear ScullingOnSquam,
Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. Your writing is beautiful and your photographs are wonderful! I visited the area about 10 years ago and your photos have brought back many happy and pleasant memories. I couldn't agree more with Debbie, about gaining a new perspective on the adaptation process going from the novel to film making. I'm looking forward to more entries from you as well as the film. You're so fortunate to have been a part of this -- thanks again for sharing with us!

toni said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing your set experiences with us. You're so lucky! :D

Paula said...

How in the world do you find there schedule?:) I have just recently read the books and FELL IN LOVE WITH THEM!!!! I just can't get enough. I would love to see the set. I already live in the Northwest so it wouldn't be much of a travel for me! Thank you!

Annabelle said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have no idea how much you have made me want to see the movie now. It's given me a great perspective of the film adaptation. Can't wait for the report from Day 3!

m~ said...

I just read all of Stephenie Meyer's books last week on vacation after I had heard about her from another blog I frequent. Apparently I am a Twilight Mom.
I found your blog through twilight series theories. com You're descriptions are wonderful and I'm truly enjoying reading everything. I was actually fearful about going to the movie until you explained about the need for the adaptation process. I will keep reading.
Thanks again!

Beth said...

Thank you for taking the time to post this fantastic review! I enjoyed your site and look forward to future updates.

Hannah said...

what can you tell me about krys/embry?