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February 2014

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12 Post • February 2014 director's chair H OLLYWOOD — Peter Berg may have started out as an actor in such shows and films as 21 Jump Street and Race For Glory, but it's when he moved behind the camera that his career really took off, thanks to hits like Hancock, The Kingdom and Friday Night Lights, which he also turned into the award- winning TV series of the same name. Berg's latest film is Lone Survivor, an action- drama — starring Mark Wahlberg, Eric Bana, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster — that tells the true story of four Navy SEALs sent on a covert mission in 2005 to neutralize a high-level al-Qaeda operative. They wind up in an ambush in the mountains of Afghanistan. The small band is isolated from help and surrounded by a much larger force of Taliban fighters. As they confront unthink- able odds together, the four men find reserves of strength and resilience, and stay in the fight to the finish. Written and directed by Berg, and based on The New York Times' best-selling memoir by sole surviving SEAL, Marcus Luttrell (played by Wahlberg), the film examines themes of hero- ism, courage and survival. Here, in an exclusive interview, Berg discusses making the movie, the challenges involved, and his love of post. POST: What sort of film did you set out to make? PETER BERG: "I read the book and felt it was this great combination of action, along with some really strong plot twists, particu- larly the moment when the SEALs are com- promised and they have to debate the rules of engagement. It was just obvious to me that it'd make a really gripping film, and I wanted to make one that really takes the audience into this remote battlefield, where our soldiers are getting killed on a daily basis, and shows you what the reality of that war is like." POST: What was the visual approach with DP Tobias Schliessler, who shot Hancock, Friday Night Lights and Battleship for you? BERG: "I wanted it to feel as real as pos- sible and organic, and I wanted to try and put the audience in the middle of the experience. So we used a lot of hand-held, along with very natural compositions. We let things kind of fall into place and then we'd just try and capture what was happening organically rath- er than trying to put the actors and action into the lens. Instead, we went and chased the actors and action with our cameras. We decided to shoot with Red Epics, mainly because of the budget (a reported $50 mil- lion). They were cheaper than the Alexa. As for going digital as opposed to film, everything I've done recently is digital and I've been very happy with the look, especially after Company 3 has worked on the image." POST: What were the main technical chal- lenges of pulling all this together and how tough was the shoot? BERG: "We spent about three months on pre-production, and then had a very tight shoot of just 45 days. The big challenge was the mountain location and shooting all these scenes. For a start, we had to film so much of it at high altitude, and it was hard to get to the locations and the oxygen's really thin, so we knew we'd have crew members who'd have problems with that. And then we had bear problems and issues with Indians, as we were shooting near some Indian land and they didn't like that. We shot on location in New Mexico and at 1-25 Studios in Albuquerque. We used two mountain locations. One was a 9,000-foot peak near Santa Fe, and then we also shot at two mountains about an hour away from the studio. "I'd say 80 percent was shot outside and the rest was studio work. All the location stuff wasn't that bad, as we were really well- prepped for it and we also got very lucky with the weather. We came prepared for a lot of problems and we hired a very physically- strong crew, who were able to get us up and down the mountain. Even so, it was very chal- lenging. We had to take chair lifts to get up there and everyone — even the stars — had to carry gear with them. There wasn't much luxury up there, but in the end, we came in on-time and on-budget." POST: How early did you have to integrate post into the shoot to pull this off? BERG: "Pretty early. A really big sequence is the helicopter crash, and ILM did a big favor for us and took care of that whole thing for a price we could afford. They were phenomenal, as they took a rate cut to do it and were so help- ful coming in early so we could get it done." POST: Do you like the post process? BERG: "I love it all, and editing is probably my favorite part of post." POST: Where did you do the post? BERG: "We did it all at Lantana in Santa Monica, which is great, as you have most of it under one roof. Post [was] about seven months, and we edited there and did all the sound and mixing there at Todd-AO." POST: The film was edited by Colby Parker Jr. Tell us about that relationship and how it worked. Was he on set? BERG: "He came down for a day or two, but basically he was back in LA cutting while we were shooting. He's cut every film of mine, and like my DP, he's like a brother and a key part of my core team. What we can do in the edit room is for me the most creative part of making a film, along with the writing." POST: There's obviously a sizeable number of visual effects shots in the film. How many are there, and what was your approach to dealing with them? BERG: "We ended up with over 500 shots, and apart from ILM, we had Image Engine do Peter Berg — Lone Survivor Staying true to the story of four Navy SEALs. Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg on location. Production took place in New Mexico, thanks to strong tax incentives. By IaIn BlaIr

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