ADG Perspective

July-August 2021

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widened sections would prove beneficial during the three weeks of location filming, requiring less time for street closures. The southwest corner had an existing bodega, though way too small. To expand the bodega's visual presence, an adjacent nail salon frontage would be covered by the constructed bodega fa ade. Many location improvements were made to accommodate production—most of which, such as new windows and front doors, were allowed to remain after filming. The neighborhood had six salons or barbershops, though none where the hero salon needed to be. Visual connection among the scripted environments was extremely important. During scouting I noticed some Heights storefronts added to fronts of apartment blocks, so I pitched constructing the salon on the southeast corner, covering an uninhabited garden apartment. That visually weaker side of the block had a row of townhouses...very unusual in the Heights. Building the salon there would give the corner a stronger presence. Ironically, the northeast corner of the intersection already had a car service. Ultimately, that business space was redesigned inside and out to become Rosarios…with prefabbed set pieces created to minimize displacement of the existing company. The movie is framed as a story told to kids on a Dominican beach, one of whom is revealed to be Usnavi's daughter. With that as a device, the block needed to visually transform back a few years before her birth so it would make sense plot-wise. This device also allowed for a heightened sense of realism as the neighborhood is seen through the children's eyes. As with much of northern Manhattan, gentrification had already encroached on the area—lots of LED rope lighting, vinyl awnings, glass-walled storefronts, Chase Banks, computer stores. Built facades, signage, murals and dressing were designed for four city blocks on both sides of the street to create the two eras of the intersection. Some musicals have a style imposed on them where production numbers are essentially a variation on a theme. Jon wanted each number to have a unique concept and feel, so the lyrics and story would be enhanced by the style. Each song needed to feel original and evocative. During the January scout, Jon shared conceptual beat sheets for each musical number as an outline for the style and mood of what he wanted to convey. Those beat sheets became the launch pad for the design, choreography and shooting style. Once on the ground to start official preproduction, I spent two days doing research in Room 100 of the New York Public Library's main branch, combing through boxes of relevant photo files. I walked every street of Washington Heights, Inwood, and more than half of the Bronx and Harlem, exploring salons, bodegas, shops, and studying architecture to discover similarities and differences...what made Washington Heights unique...taking copious photographs and notes of products, architectural details, colors, flavors and immersing myself in D. ART DEPARTMENT OFFICE -SECTION OF RESEARCH WALL. E. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BEACH CABANA. SET PHOTO. D E

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