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December 2015

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 17 POST DECEMBER 2015 the mix and score and the rest on the lot at Sony." The film was edited by William Goldenberg, who cut another whistle- blowing expose, The Insider. How did that relationship work? "He worked for three weeks on Parkland, and I knew him before that, and he really understood my sensibility and the story I wanted to tell. We shot in Pittsburgh, and he was there cutting while I was shoot- ing, and I'd go in and look at what he'd cut each night after we wrapped. And there are a couple of scenes that I almost didn't touch at all, from the first time he put them together. He's so fast that my director's cut was done in just six weeks instead of the usual 10. And it wasn't over-confidence — he just grasped ex- actly what was needed right away." The scenes juxtaposing pumped-up TV announcers with young kids going head-to-head are very effective. Were they always in the script or did they happen in the edit? "No, that whole jacked-up sequence was one of the central inspiring discoveries in the writing process for me. In some ways, I actually built the entire script around that concept, as in those images you get a number of things; you have football at its best, football at its most violent, and then you also have the added complicity of the audience and the TV entertain- ment aspect of it all, which glorifies the violence. And that, in a nutshell, is what the film's all about." Were there many surprises during post? "There were a few. There were various storylines that we left out in the end, so we could allow the rest of the movie to breathe. I think that's very typical. And there were takes I loved and entire scenes that once I lifted out of the movie, also helped the movie breathe more. You mourn the things you lose like that, but ultimately it's a relief. For me, it's like chisel- ing a figure out of a block of marble. You're freeing that figure and cutting out all the extraneous elements you don't need." There are some obvious visual effects shots, such as the brain sequence. Talk about how you used visual effects shots in the film. How many are there? "There are a lot more than you might think. Of course the big one was the interior brain shot — and what exactly is happening inside it when it's hit hard by another helmet in a game. That sequence was a very difficult process to do. It's something I imagined, but when you write it, it's quite easy to write something down and not worry about how you'll actually create it. It's a whole other thing dealing with the VFX involved to make it work, and we actually ended up going through three different houses before we found one that could pull it off — Sony Imageworks, who were fantastic. They really understood what I wanted to get and created a sequence that was so in- tense that I actually had to pull it back a little, as it was nauseating. And there was another big VFX sequence at the end of the film, where two players get in a head-to-head collision, and obviously I'm not going to ask two players to actually smash into each other like that for the shot. So I misaligned them so that when they dive they actually miss each other by inches, and we used Hammerhead VFX to push and pull them onto the same plane. And there were a lot of oth- er smaller things we did." Can you talk about the importance of music and sound to you as a filmmaker? "For me, the music in some ways adds a subliminal proxy for the soul and emotions, and you don't want to indicate what an audience should feel by them- selves, but it really can help so much in creating this emotional background that's humming at all times. And James Newton Howard wrote a very powerful score that's not at all heavy-handed. And then the sound design and mix, by Mike Minkler, who won Oscars for Chicago, Dreamgirls and Black Hawk Down, was crucial too, as there's a lot of football in it, and we didn't want to over-cook and over-play the sound of helmets smashing into each other. But at the same time, we wanted to approximate what it actually feels and sounds like to be in the field, and Mike has a great ear for balancing all the competing elements. All told, we spent about three months on the sound." The DI must have been vital. How did that process help? "We did that at Sony too, with colorist Doug Delaney, who's so good — like a painter. I really like the DI. It's more fluid than editing, as you literally have every- thing at your disposal. I wanted a mus- cular, almost '70s feature look that was slightly desaturated, and Ridley was so helpful about the look and DI. He has so much experience and a great eye for the power of desaturation. He really encour- aged me to take it too far, and then pull it back, which is what we did, and the final look was exactly what I wanted." Did the film turn out the way you hoped it would? "I have to say that — almost frame by frame — it turned out exactly as I'd hoped while I was writing it. It's the movie I imagined, and that's rare I think. When I wrote Kill the Messenger, I had this picture of it in my mind, but it turned out vastly different. And for writers, that's probably the norm." What's next? Do you want to direct again? "Absolutely, and I'm already in prep and casting for my next film, Felt, a domestic spy thriller about Mark Felt, the Deep Throat source of Watergate. It's a very powerful, emotional story, and we'll start shooting in March." Concussion was shot over 56 days. Image- works and Hammerhead provided VFX services. Sound and color also play huge roles in the storytelling process.

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