Into The Wild Making-Of or How Excellence Helped Beating the Odds
Into The Wild, a film directed by Sean Penn, who also wrote the script based on Jon Krakauer’s book, is one of those films that stays a long time with you. Visually stunning, it tells the internal and external journey of Christopher McCandless who went on leaving behind everything he owned and everyone he knew to cross American and go to Alaska.
Set in the 90s, the powerful true story had many complicated aspects to it: it goes across America in 30 different cities over the course of 4 seasons and most of it is in the wilderness and involves water or snow. Many films have failed with less obstacles. Add to that Penn’s decision to shoot in chronological order and on site and you quickly realize that the only way for Into The Wild to become what it is was for excellency to be a non-negotiable factor.
As you will see in the well made and informative making-of below, each head of departments was carefully chosen and had to found out how to make small miracles out of constrains:
- Penn wrote a 165 pages long script, with a lot of very specific information as to how he wanted to shoot outdoors scenes (i.e. 80% of the script, if not more). To help him out, he needed a cinematographer that would be quick on his feet all the while being able to capture the Nature with all the beauty and dangers it contains. He set out to work with Eric Gautier, who had done a visually stunning work for The Motorcycle Diaries, a film with similar challenges.
- Penn also had Edward Tise as Production Sound Mixer, who managed to get almost every sounds that you can hear watching the film, while shooting outdoors. Tise goes on explaining how he did this and why it was important for the film’s atmosphere and believability that he could do so. Sound is always an underestimated topic when it comes to filmmaking, and few people realize that the majority of today’s movies contain a large chunk of ADR and Foley, created in post-production (and tanking many indie budget).
- As you can see from the script note above, Penn was also planning to break narrative continuity in post. With a lot of footage on his hand after 8 months of filming, editor Jay Cassidy was key in helping Penn narrow down the movie to 2h28 minutes.
- Just like Christian Bale for The Machinist, actor Emile Hirsch had to go through a radical diet, a powerful (and potentially dangerous) commitment for an actor. Hirsch went on losing 41 pounds (19 kg) in 8 months. Costume Designer Mary Claire Hannan explains in the video how Hirsch’s physical change impacted the way her department handled Hirsch’s outfits, and Hirsch talks about the biggest challenges during his diet.
In 17 minutes, Into The Wild’s making-of manages to show a lot of what went into making the film possible. A nice reminder of how great stories can only come to life when everybody is fully dedicated to make it work.
And for the French speakers (yes, we exist!), here is a 30 minute interview of cinematographer Eric Gautier who talks about his career, his influences and how he went on growing up from a modest french household where culture didn’t really have a place, to becoming a director of photography.
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