Breaking Dawn: One Story, Two Movies

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Breaking Dawn: One Story, Two MoviesThe added challenge of making two epic motion pictures, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and the even more ambitious The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, at the same time and in two major production centers, forced filmmakers to often concurrently prep sets many thousands of miles apart. The production set up two home bases – one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where most of the interior shooting was completed; and the other in Vancouver, BC where most of the exterior work of the Pacific Northwest-based story was shot. The project also required a field trip to Brazil, which required yet a third production team, known as The World Unit. While the main shooting company started filming in Louisiana, crews in Canada (many returning to the franchise) were scouting remote wilderness locations and constructing the large-scale Cullen house and various other sets.

Following twenty weeks of prep, production used block shooting for efficiency in terms of locations, actor availability, looks, props, set dressing, and sets. “At the very early stages of development, we had to address all the things that create the signature of the character looks; wigs, make-up, contact lenses, and wardrobe; and then also the sets themselves. Bill and I sat down and went through the whole list, covering every character, every set, every venue, and every location,” shares co-producer Bill Bannerman.

“However, the homework that has to be resolved for Part 2 is very different from the homework that has to be resolved for the beginning of Part 1, and you had to have all those issues addressed before you start filming,” says Bannerman. “But Bill Condon is a genius – highly intellectual to the point that he’s able to comprehend every facet of production, both from a creative vision and a physical execution perspective. Bill looks at the grand canvas and understands the various colors and how you execute those elements.”

The main unit alone logged 101 shooting days. “The logistical demands of this chapter alone are high,” admits Bannerman. “The logistical demands of the two parts put together have been even greater… three countries with multiple units – main unit, second units, action units, plate units, effects units, and aerial units. We had to break it down into these dynamics just to make it a very difficult, but challenging chess game.”

“We wound up leaving only the exterior scenes to Vancouver in winter and early spring. So, that turned out to be a real challenge because we didn’t have anywhere else inside to go when it either rained or snowed, and that’s what it did most every day,” laughs Condon. “So, that turned out to be a hidden price that we paid for doing so much of the work down in Baton Rouge.”

“From the beginning, Bill Bannerman tirelessly worked out a plan for how to shoot these two movies together and in a time frame where we could split the shoot between stages (and some locations) in Louisiana, and then all of our exteriors, where we’ve always shot in the Pacific Northwest,” explains producer Wyck Godfrey. “But, it’s created other challenges. When we got to Vancouver, we didn’t have as much cover (inside work) as you would like, but it was important in terms of utilizing the tax credits in Louisiana. It was a complicated mix. Plus, your lead actress having to bounce, sometimes daily, between being human and being a vampire.”

Kristen Stewart comments, “We’ve approached the project as a whole. Everything’s being shot like one big movie, since the book is not broken up into two different stories. It’s been as confusing as anything shot out of sequence, but very long.”

“Literally some days we would film a scene from the beginning of the first movie in the morning, have lunch, and then film a scene from the end of the second movie in the afternoon. It was crazy,” comments Taylor Lautner. “All of the characters change so much from the first movie to the second. Jacob changes a ton, so it was tough to keep track of where Jacob is in his journey. But we had Bill Condon to help, as well as Stephenie and all of the cast. It was challenging, probably one of the most challenging things so far in this franchise.”

“From a creative standpoint, the nuances of it for Bill and the actors are that they each have to create their own emotional journeys for two separate movies. From a production standpoint, you’re worried about post-production on movie 1, just focusing on making sure all of the elements for movie 1 are in the can by the April wrap for a November release, and 98 percent of the elements for movie 2,” adds Godfrey.

Producers assembled a talented and celebrated core team of department heads to surround director Bill Condon to bring his vision for the final two films to the screen including: Oscar winning director of photography Guillermo Navarro, ASC, production designer Richard Sherman, costume designer Michael Wilkinson, and returning 2nd unit director E.J. Foerster. With only a year from the start of filming to the release of the first epic film, a massive visual effects team led by Oscar® winning visual effects supervisor John Bruno, plus editor Virginia “Ginny” Katz, and Twilight Saga veterans, music composer Carter Burwell and music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, began their work when the films were still shooting and worked tirelessly through a breakneck six-month post-production schedule to complete the first film for a November release date, marked on the calendars of millions of fans worldwide.

“For me it’s been a lot of fun to help arm Bill with a great visual team, that will take him into areas that he hasn’t gone before. This has tons of visual effects, with a more expansive palette than Bill’s worked with before. So first I wanted to make sure we got Bill an amazing director of photography and an amazing visual effects supervisor. Guillermo Navarro’s shooting the film, he’s won an Academy Award®; John Bruno’s our visual effects supervisor, he’s won an Academy Award®… we’ve pretty much stacked the deck,” says Godfrey.

“We were fortunate to get John Bruno just coming off of Avatar. I had worked with him before and he’s one of the best visual effects supervisors in the world,” states Godfrey. “He’s so knowledgeable about what can be accomplished digitally and with other techniques. Then we went after Guillermo Navarro, who is Guillermo del Toro’s cinematographer. He’s fantastic and is somebody I’ve tried to work with before and he’s never been available. The three of us went to breakfast and Guillermo spoke with such a sense of magic. Plus he understands, not only how to beautifully light and shoot two people in an intimate setting, but also how to create large environments.”

Another Twilight Saga veteran – 1st assistant director Justin Muller – returned to help organize the mammoth project. “This core group came together in the very early stages of prep and we spent a lot of weeks fine-tuning, to make sure that everybody would understand not only Bill’s vision, but ramp up his vision, to take Breaking Dawn to a whole new level. Justin is the day-to-day mechanical skipper of the ship,” explains Bannerman. “On every project, especially when you’re dealing with multiple units and multiple countries, you need an assistant director who can drive it all forward, and Justin enables me to take care of the multiple other elements that are taking place at the same time. Justin is a very well organized individual, who articulates direction, scheduling and the logistical shuffling in a way that very few people can do. It’s a very refined art to basically juggle a thousand different things and yet not drop anything. He’s able to bring together a lot of people and make them fight the same fight with the same passion and camaraderie to keep positive momentum.”

When the production moved to Canada, a large percentage of rank and file crewmembers from The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse returned to finish the saga. “It felt like it was a family reunion, that we’d gone on recess for about two weeks and we’re all coming together after a vacation,” laughs Bannerman. “There is a trust level there too, and that’s really cool and very unlike any other project I’ve been involved with. We all protect each other, because it’s a long investment that we’ve put into these films. When you’re away from your families for long extended period of time, everybody wants to feel like they’re home, and we’ve created a great home.”

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