The Post Apocalyptic Landscape: Location and Production Design(The Road)

When  watching films and TV programmes I am always trying to guess which locations are real and which are built sets or have been altered with CGI.

Being fascinated with derelict buildings and looking at the photographs that I have recently documented I am turning my attentions to actual locations that have been used, albeit slightly altered to suit filming. From a production design point of view, it’s interesting to see how and what informs the decision-making for the Production Designer/Director and whether it is story or budget or both that influence these.

 

Here are a few actual locations used for post apocalyptic films/TV so far:-

The Road

Much of the filming was done in Pittsburgh and not in the studio as the budget was small and the story  called for multiple locations. Chris Kennedy talks about his location experiences to Rochelle Siemienowicz.

“AFI: And was it always going to be a location-based shoot? Was there ever any talk about doing it in a studio?

CK: Basically it was an independent film and always had a very small budget, so there wasn’t really the money to do it in a studio. Also it’s a journey story and needed a lot of different locations. So straight away that meant asking the question what kind of landscapes can we use? Straight off the bat, what country can we go to? Russia would be good – Chernobyl! Those kind of landscapes. Iceland was one idea. Even thought about Australia. But what about the gum trees? And blue sky? A lot of people just think, ‘oh post-apocalyptic, oh go to the desert.’ But of course the  book isn’t set in the desert. It’s set in North America. So I spent a fair bit of time online looking at places in America and found all kinds of places. Eight miles of abandoned freeway in Pennsylvania, a beach in Oregon, an abandoned amusement park. Started putting together a list of locations, the ideal plan. We had to do a certain amount of it in Pennsylvania due to tax incentives. So a lot of it in Pittsburgh rather than where we wanted to. We found pretty much what we needed. Abandoned coal piles. And Pittsburgh itself is pretty much an abandoned city. Back in the early 20th century  basically half the population left…so that all came together pretty well.”

http://www.afi.org.au/AM/ContentManagerNet/HTMLDisplay.aspx?ContentID=9954&Section=Turning_words_into_pictures_An_interview_with_production_designer_Chris_Kennedy [sourced 30/12/2013]

The following images are taken from the film and are courtesy of Dimension Films. They are of locations in post Katrina New Orleans, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

road_beach_1200-660x277

An Oregon beach location.

The Road excerpt:
They stood on the rock jetty and looked out to the south. A gray salt spittle lagging and curling in the rock pool. Long curve of beach beyond. Gray as lava sand.road_bridge_1200

Abandoned freeway in Pennsylvania.

road_suburbs_12001

Post-Katrina New Orleans.

road_industrial_1200

“One of the more compelling aspects of John Hillcoat’s 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road is the fact that the film’s post-apocalyptic landscapes are not computer generated but largely shot on real locations in the United States.”( Cited Chiarella 2009: 91).

The below statement is taken from the blog post  It’s All out There:-

“Production designer Chris Kennedy scouted a number of locations in post-Katrina New Orleans, including the devastated neighborhood pictured above. He also found Pennsylvania to be a treasure trove of desolate settings. “The state has depressed socioeconomic situations in suburbs like Braddock and Keysport and devastated mining areas with coal piles and fly-ash piles that looked like a blackened landscape,” Kennedy said in a statement.” (Landskiper.BlogSpot.co.uk, 2011)

 

For the most part The Road was all about location and America provided many opportunities for filming. Some CGI was used in the bleaching out of colour particularly when dealing with sunnier places such as New Orleans to create the desired effect. America and other large countries will provide many locations similar and it would be interesting to see if the same can be said for the smaller more heritage influenced UK.

road_lede

Director Hillcoat discusses the film’s use of CGI when dealing with the New Orleans location above. Image courtesy of Dimension Films. Sourced from http://landskipper.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/its-all-out-there.html

“This maritime wreckage was filmed in Louisiana by an Imax documentary crew two days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the surrounding area. “Cormac’s material felt so familiar, like we’ve already seen it,” Hillcoat said. “That’s why we went to the leftovers of Katrina. Then we used CGI to take out the bright blue sky and green grass.”

References:-

SIEMIENOWICZ, R., 2010. Turning words into pictures:An interview with production designer Chris Kennedy [online]. The Australian Film Institute. Available at: www.afi.org.au/AM/ContentManagerNet/HTMLDisplay.aspx?ContentID=9954

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/11/the-road-page-to-screen/3/[sourced 30/12/2013]

2011. It’s All Out There. Available at http://landskipper.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/its-all-out-there.html [sourced 30/12/2013]

Cited sources from Chiarella, Tom (2009) ‘The Most Important Movie of the Year’ Esquire June: 87-91.[sourced on 30/12/2013]

Categories: post-apocalyptic film and design | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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