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January 2018

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Page 15 of 43 14 POST JANUARY 2018 FILMMAKING hree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, written and directed by Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), is a dark comedic drama from Fox Searchlight Pictures that takes place in the small town of Ebbing, Missouri, just months after the murder of Mildred Hayes' (Frances McDormand) teenage daughter. In response to what she feels has been a less-than-enthusiastic effort from police to catch the killer, Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the town's revered chief of police. When his second-in-command officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an imma- ture mother's boy with a penchant for vio- lence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law enforcement is only exacerbated. The film, which was shot on-location in North Carolina on Arri Alexa cameras, is dependent on an outstanding screenplay and strong performances. In fact, just pri- or to press time, McDonagh won a Golden Globe award for Best Screenplay — Motion Picture, while McDormand for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama, Rockwell for Best Performance By an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture and the film itself for Best Picture — Drama. To bring his story to screen, McDonagh relied on a talented team that included DP Ben Davis and editor Jon Gregory, both of whom he has worked with previously on earlier projects. "Ben has a beautiful visual style and he knows how, when and why to move the camera," says McDonagh. "He worked on the last one with me and we had a great time. He's also a very supportive DP. Even though I'm coming up with visual ideas, I always need to fall back on him or ask him how to achieve those things. He's a great collaborator and a great friend — he's always there as a right hand man. Jon Gregory, we have a great shorthand. And we like the same old movies. When we make references to movies, nothing is after 1980. We're kind of classical in that sense. He's great at grounding the story in terms of old cinema. He's not one to try and please the studios or the modern audience. He's looking, as I am, 20 years down the line for something a little bit more classic." As a big fan of American movies from the 1970s, McDonagh says he set out to make a film that was "a little downbeat but with great acting and something memorable cinematically, too, with images you remember." He references Badlands and Taxi Driver as some personal favorites. As the film's screenwriter, too, he says he's been looking to create a "very strong female lead for a film for a while." With a background as a playwright, McDonagh admits that he's created such characters in his plays, but perhaps not so much for the screen. "I wanted to re- address that a little bit," he adds. He also points to a trip he took about 17 years ago, in one of the U.S. southern states, where he saw a similar billboard to the ones in his film. "Something equally as painful," he puts it. "It was accusing the police of not doing their jobs properly. So, I sort of put those two ideas togeth- er and decided that the person who put that up was a mother, in my head. It stuck in my mind for a long time. I never put pen to paper, but I thought about it for about 10 years or so. Once I decided that the person who put up the bill- boards might be a mother, Mildred's part just sort of popped out." According to McDonagh, one of the biggest challenges for him during produc- tion were, "the two set pieces involving fire — the police station and the billboards burning — they were the trickiest and took the most preparation. Also, there was the one-shot take we did when Sam goes into FILMMAKING: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI T DIRECTOR MARTIN MCDONAGH & EDITOR JON GREGORY ON THE INTENSE DRAMA BY LINDA ROMANELLO Director Martin McDonagh on-set with Woody Harrelson. The film was cut on an Avid.

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