"Zero Dark Thirty is almost three hours horrifically detailing the torture and murder of brown people and the immaculate glorification of the white people that inflict it." Thank you, Captain Obvious! I'm Brown but the film didn't bother me. Browns committed the crimes and Whites gave them an eye for an eye to a much greater extent. I'm sure if it was China, Peru or South Africa in America's place, they also would get immaculate glorification.
“Browns committed the crimes and Whites gave them an eye for an eye”
If you are in any way attempting to justify the unnecessarily heinous torture displayed in this movie-
if you are in any way attempting to justify and condone the use of extreme sexual, physical, mental, and emotional torture on human beings as a vital step in retrieving information in order to inflict the same torture on MORE human beings-
If you are in any way suggesting that these methods of torture are even reliable as a means of obtaining information-
If you are in any means implying that the actual detainees, as members of a fractional segment of the population which has been dismissed by much of the Muslim world as not actually representing Islam’s values, hold the same values as all brown people (even other PoC) around the world)-
And if you somehow believe that this film was not offensive (not to mention startlingly inaccurate)-
you need to get your head out of your ass.
CineCoup Exclusive: Art Direction on Zero Dark Thirty: From the Ground Up
We were very fortunate to have Art Director Ben Collins send us a recap of the sizeable challenges faced during his work on Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. He also generously offers CineCoup teams some of his thoughts about the role of the Art Director and working with limitations.
From the CineCoup Mission Logs file
Production Diary of Ben Collins
Art Director ZD30
We landed in Amman Jordan on January 4, 2012. From the outset, the most pressing challenge from an Art Department’s perspective was re-creating Osama Bin Laden’s (OBL) Abbottabad compound. How and where would it be constructed? Could it be turned around in 12 weeks?
We knew we would have to fly real Blackhawk helicopters over the structure during filming so we quickly decided to fabricate using block work and concrete.
We tapped open source materials to produce architectural and structural drawings for the main safehouse, guesthouse, prayer room, perimeter walls and adjacent land. Within a couple of weeks we were excavating the chosen site in The Jordan Valley. The perimeter wall varied between 10 and 18 feet in height requiring foundations as deep as 9 feet.
The huge advantage of building in this way (as opposed to a traditional film set) was that its authenticity was without question; a 360-degree composite structure allowing contiguous interior, exterior shooting.
With the Abbottabad compound up and running and the unit heading to Chandigarh, India to start shooting the US Embassy and Pakistani Street scenes, we set to work on requirements for military bases and black sites such as the CIA Detention Center at Bagram and the Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan.
A fantastic military training facility in the North of Jordan lent itself to a huge portion of these. A vast complex surrounded by desert, the facility allowed us to adapt, construct and dress a wide spectrum of sets over a three-week period. These real elements provided a great amount of coverage over a two-week shooting period and were extended very successfully in the digital world.
With the unit now embedded at the military training facility, the Art Department was able to fully focus on a final two-week push at the compound, maximizing the amount of detail ahead of the intense four-week shoot period. Two UK painters, assisted by talented local crew, were in the final stages of chalking and ageing the exterior. Trees and plants were bedded in the arid surroundings to create the lush Pakistani countryside. An amazing dressing team added a final layer of visual detail that brought the set to life. SFX prepped metal gates for the SEAL team to blow during the assault whilst a separate UK team put final touches to the crane rig required for the Stealth Hawk action overhead. Fortunately, this all took place during the day unlike the majority of the pending shoot.
The final leg of principal photography would take us to London. With filming underway in the Jordan Valley, we turned our attention to finding an appropriate location for the CIA Headquarters in Langley and a set build for the main control room Predator Bay. Although the set build at Shepperton Studios was fairly simplistic, finding a suitable empty office building surrounded by woodland to sell Langley proved tougher. In the end, the location department did a great job and the interior spaces were turned around with crisp mahogany and oak paneling, and additional interior and exterior painted flats which were seamlessly complimented by the dressing department.
Given the timeframe and the logistical constraints of working primarily in a country with a very small film infrastructure, this project was an immense challenge for all concerned. Ultimately its ambition, while tough on a personal level, was thoroughly rewarding.
The role of the Art Director and thoughts for Art Direction on CineCoup projects
CC: How does an Art Director translate a director’s vision?
BC: An Art Director’s job is to translate the Production Designer and Director’s vision, (and on larger projects the Producer and studio’s too). They are all involved in the design process to some degree. That vision might be translated through many types of reference photos, location photos, storyboards, concepts, card models, computer models and animations. Ultimately, they can each tell the story equally and help sell it to those up the chain. Often, initial concepts/drawings will lead to 3D and card models as they are the best way for everyone to understand a three-dimensional space.
CC: At what stage does an Art Director get involved in a film?
BC: The amount of shoot weeks scheduled will normally dictate the amount of prep time given. The Art Director will be involved pretty early on after the Production Designer is on board (once scripts and budgets are ok’d). In the early stages the Art Department really drives the film on and starts to think about all of the elements, aesthetic and logistics that nobody really wants to engage in.
CC: When budgets/resources are really limited – any tips/tricks for indie Art Directors?
BC: Find some great locations and keep it simple. No need to design for design’s sake as so many locations look great as they are.
CC: When not working in your own back yard – any tips/tricks?
BC: Get local talent on board and build a relationship. They know how it works on their turf. Trust them (in most cases) to make local deals and they will hopefully stop you getting taken to the cleaners. Depending on the available budget, a local production services company can be money well spent.
Do you have a question for Ben about Art Direction on Zero Dark Thirty or even Art Direction in your film? Write your questions below or tweet us @CineCoup and we will get Ben’s perspective.