One should be warned, this is not a children’s movie, it’s a movie about a child, and is dealt with as such. Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild Things Are, is a spectacle to behold thanks to the many creative minds that came together to re-invent Maurice Sendak’s classic book.
The film evokes feelings from childhood that many of us try to hide or explain away. With deep brooding emotions and honest responses, this movie connects with it’s audience in a way we’re not used to seeing or rather feeling in a mainstream movie. It’s filled with childlike wonder, fear, and anger that reminds us of a time when we didn’t always “act like adults” but preferred to howl at the moon. Children’s emotions are not simple, nor are their imaginations, which is why the creative team behind the film had to tap into their unabashed creativity and inner child in order to fully capture the tone necessary for this film.
It is clear when watching the film, that Spike Jonze had a vision and hired a team that could follow it through full force. Director of Photography, Lance Accord (not featured above); Costume Designer, Casey Storm; Production Designer, K.K. Barrett; and Art Director, Sonny Gerasimowicz all worked together to create a world for the Wild Things to play.
From Sonny’s choice to build suits for people to walk around in, to Lance’s decision to shoot it like a wild life documentary, the film’s look mirrors the subject matter within. From the get go, we see DP Lance at work portraying a rather wild and possibly even dangerous side Max.
His first goal, let Max tell the story…
Lance: The film’s point of view of the world was Max’s point of view, so the film maintained a subjective view of the world… There’s a certain amount that you need to set place for basic story telling. Aside from the shots that would establish where you are, once you got to the scene of the dialogue between the creatures, or between Max with the people he relates to his world. In the beginning before he even gets to the Island, the camera would be with Max as much as possible.
The shots in the film are often just as wild as the character we’re watching. At times it felt like you really were running with the pack.
Lance: We tried to stay away from those big crane shots or really complicated steady cam shots or dolly moves. For the most part the storytelling and the basic photographic technique of the film is very, very simple. Our reference is there in terms of designing how we were going to shoot the film. Dolly shots versus locked off versus handheld — those were based on things like Wild Life documentaries. The camera work itself is really simple in the film…. That was something we really wanted to have in the movie because it relates to the book. That’s what the whole 23-pages of the book is. It’s a series of images that have become icons: the drawing style, the table-frame of it. We’re trying to have both of those things.
The lack of CG not only reinforces the real-ness of Max’s imagination and also allows the audience to use their imaginations themselves. More often than not, filmmakers seem to think that they have to do all the thinking for us, but not with Spike…
Lance: Even Max’s voyage in the boat, we were always very overly sensitive about allowing it to step into the world of wonder and awe. The line where he steps into the fantasy world from the real world hopefully is obscure as much as possible. It’s all grounded and based in reality. When he first sees the creatures, the photography is very much like a wild life documentary. You’re observing their habits, night time habits or something. We try to really shoot that like a documentary — pan zooms, seeing them through the trees. A lot of times too the camera work, when Max would be with them in dialogue scenes, purposely the camera would get jostled or moved by one of the creatures. The first thing Spike Jonze said to us is, “Were not making an effects movie even though there are a lot of effects in the film.” It predetermines the sensibility of how you’re going to shoot it.
To add to Lance’s talent, came Casey Storm, K.K. Barrett, and Sonny Gerasimowicz creativity. One of the images people are talking about the most are the “men in suits” being used as opposed to CGI. Once you see the film you couldn’t imagine it any other way because it yet again adds another layer of texture to the already beautifully painted palate and again allows you to view the creatures with your own imagination.
Check out what Casey (with the spoon), K.K. (with the knife), and Sonny (with the fork) had to say about creating Spike’s world below (note to self: Keep utensils away from interviewees)…
And as for that personal experience I was talking about before, this is a tricky film. Without giving anything away, it’s much deeper and possibly even darker than what some people are expecting, but that comes from the material and staying honest to the character. Here’s what out creative three-some had to say about the matter…
The film is exceptional, and the creative team behind it is what makes it so amazing. I will say, that I can’t help but notice how they all seem to be in their own world’s (some more than others) and giving them things to play with is not necessarily the best idea, but all of them seem dedicated to the project and for good reason.
Check out all of their work in action in Where the Wild Things Are in theaters October 16th!