THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WES ANDERSON by Sophie Kirk
Eric Chase Anderson
Wes Part 2
Wes Part 3
Stop Motion/Digital Edits
Wes Part 4
Wes Part 1
Wesley Wales Anderson was born on May 1, 1969, in Houston, Texas. During childhood, Anderson also began writing plays and making super-8 movies. His parents divorced when he was a young child; an event that greatly affected his own and his brothers’ time growing up. Anderson attended the University of Texas in Austin, where he majored in philosophy. It was there that he met Owen Wilson. They became friends and began making short films, one of which was Bottle Rocket (1994), which starred Owen and his brother Luke. The short was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was successfully received. They were given funding to make a feature-length version in 1996 that was not a commercial hit, but it gained a cult audience and high-profile fans, which included Martin Scorsese. Anderson’s first films, like Scorsese’s, introduced cinema to a new tone, an original genre. His films are renowned for their distinctive visual and narrative style, and a combination of stylistic approaches and influences contribute to his overall film aesthetic. This book is dedicted to the designers and creators that have helped Wes Anderson’s films become the timeless pieces of cinematography that they are.
EVERY DETAIL IN A WES ANDERSON PICTURE IS PART OF THE GRAND DESIGN - Matt Zoller Seitz, 2013
From scenery to props, costume to camera angle, each Wes Anderson film relies on a meticulous amount of design detail to provide the finished, signature, “Anderson” style. Wes uses a combination of typography and still-shots, along with other quirky aspects such as stop-motion and script, to provide his viewers with a clear representation of his ideas and the alternative realities that he creates. He has devised a style that is extremely prominent and well-considered, giving each of his films their own personality that reflects aspects of his own. Film-making (like many other creative industries) is subjective, and so the ability to create films that not only entertain an audience in a physical and emotional way, but also supply an aesthetic ambience, is a talent that Anderson maintains throughout his work and deserves to be acclaimed.
Scenery from Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
This section of the book will analyse Wes Anderson’s diligent use of design through typography, props, scenery, colour palettes and camera use.
TYPOGRAPHY The title sequence has always been an important part of cinematography. The purpose is to captivate the audience, giving them a taste of what they are about to see. They are used to introduce characters, cast, crew, and set the scene. Throughout Wesâ€™ films, these are not the only times in which he uses typography to display particular information. The use of particular typefaces such as the Archer and Futura font families have developed into distinctive Wes Anderson features.
CREDITS /TITLES Anderson began heavily annotating his scenes in Rushmore (1998). For Wes, a simple, condensed way of providing the audience with information on setting or character was to use typography on screen. These scenes are inspired by directors such as Stanley Kubrick who use bold typography in their title sequences, as well as French films that involve subtitles. Wes has also comissioned independent graphic designers such as Jessica Hische and Annie Atkins to work on the film posters and branding.
Top to bottom: Jason Schwartzman as Monsieur Jean in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013), Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2006).
It’s only for this one scene, and I think it was just that I had many different versions of how this information about him was going to come across. As we were working on the script, I had these different ideas for how I was going to tell that, and then I had this music, and at a certain point, I needed to get a lot of things across — an image of him doing the activity, and each one of those was going to be a kind of joke, so we needed that, and the name of his organisaton, and I wanted to get fifteen of those across in sixtytwo seconds or something. So that’s a lot of things, and how do you get all that information across? It must have been just in the process of that sort of thinking. You know: “I’ll just write it up there.” The guy I always thought of as the one who puts the words on the screen is Godard —those movies are just filled with words. It’s a Saul Bass-style way of treating the text. And I guess I’ve been influenced by those Eames films. There’s probably something else, there’s probably some key film that I can’t remember, and when you bring it up, I’d say, “Yes, I stole it from them.”
” — WES ANDERSON
FUTURA BOLD Futura is a geometric sans-serif typeface designed by Paul Renner. It is based on geometric shapes that reflected visual aspects of the Bauhaus design style of 1919â€“33. Futura is used by Wes Anderson throughout many of his films, starting as early as Bottle Rocket. Anderson uses Futura to pay homage to cinema influences such as Stanley Kubrick.
ABCDEFGHIJKLMN OPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmn opqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 18
Top to bottom: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2006), Touchstone credits, Opening credits for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
ARCHER BOLD Archer is a slab serif style digital typeface designed in 2001 by Hoefler & Frere-Jones for use in Martha Stewart Living magazine. It combines antique and geometric typographic styles, suggesting historical influences such as typewriters. It is only evident in Andersonâ€™s most recent film, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013).
A B C D E FG H I J K LM N O P Q R ST UV WXY Z abcdefghijklmn opqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)
I’M GONNA GO PRAY AT ANOTHER THING
- Peter Whitman, The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
A discussion with letterer, illustrator, and Moonrise Kingdom title designer.
How did you get involved with this project? I was contacted by Molly Cooper, one of the co-producers on the film and someone who has worked with Wes on a few of his titles. The initial conversation was super casual. The tone of the email was kind of like, “Hey, Jessica. Not sure if you know us, but…” It was amazing that they reached out in this very nonchalant way. They said they were working on the titles for Wes’s upcoming film and they wanted to see if I was interested in doing some tests for it. I was elated and happy to do it. They paid a tiny sum to get me to do some tests to see if I could get on the same page as them and we could work together. After a few rounds, it seemed like it was going to work out, so they hired me officially. Were you a fan of Wes Anderson’s films before you worked on this project? Oh yeah, of course. I think it’s impossible to be a creative person and not be at least inspired by the art direction and set design of his films. He’s definitely one of my favorite directors. It was one of those projects that seemed like it was too good to be true. So, pretty much up until the Apple trailer launched I didn’t really believe that my work was going to be used! You know, that’s how things sometimes go. I have so much respect for Wes and his work. I’ve heard that he has a hand in absolutely every part of his films. For me, this was not an issue whatsoever and I was happy that we could work together, that I could be the one to help him visualize what he had in his head for these titles. 24
INTERVIEW Is the lettering based on Edwardian Script? The very first sketch that we did was based on Edwardian. At first, Molly was my communicator with Wes since he was busy with post-production. She would contact me and say, “Wes really likes [Edwardian], but he thinks it’s too formal and that it’s not going to work well on smaller screens. What could you do with this as a starting point?” Of course, it had to be closely related to the film — which I hadn’t seen! I hadn’t seen any previews or read the script. I only knew what was available to the public. That ended up being very good, because it made me trust the direction that was coming at me more. I didn’t have my own basis to jump from. So, we started from Edwardian, but after a few tries with it — doing a less formal version, a thick or thin, a mono-weight — it was still too formal, there was something missing. Then, after a week or something, Wes came back with the titles from a Claude Chabrol film.
TYPOGRAPHY He had seen those and said, “This is more along the lines of what we want. What if we did these in your style, made it feel more ’60s American rather than ’40s French?” To me, that was really fun because if you think about New England in the ’60s… it’s not like most places would be staying on top of the most current trends in type, using typefaces that were released that very year. So, using something from the ’40s made sense to me. If you think about a small, conservative New England town, lord knows all the printers and designers in town are probably still using type from years ago. I think when people think about historical type references, they often don’t think about that. You should be reaching from that time period to 15 — 20 years earlier and then you’ll be getting stuff that’s quote-unquote “current.” At that point, type was so expensive. It’s not like now, when you pay $25 and you get a new typeface in an instant. You had to buy all the sets of everything. How many different iterations did you go through? Oh, I don’t even know — hundreds! Haha. It was less iterations on the style as a whole and more like, microchanges. Certain letters got a lot more love than others. Wes’s favorite letter to criticize was the capital F and maybe, I think, the lowercase ‘r’ went through a lot of rounds. I really like how the caps turned out. I feel like it has a really good personality to it and not too much swashiness. It feels really classic and also down to earth, somehow. How was the color yellow chosen? The color was totally up to them. I had no idea that they were going to use these awesome, crazy, pastel colors. If you look at the end credits on the film, it’s so colorful with all kinds of motion, with things flying out of the screen. I had no idea it would look like that until I saw it on the big screen myself! So I pretty much just set the front credits so I could make sure that everything was set well and handed over the typefaces for the end credits and for promotional stuff. 27
INTERVIEW But ultimately, your type work determined the branding of the film, right? Definitely. They originally planned to find a typeface that worked well with what I’d created, for the promo stuff. The display version wasn’t part of the contract. So I said, let me take an extra couple of weeks to put that together. We have so much of the alphabet already, we might as well fill it on out! And is that typeface something that we’ll see released commercially at some point? I’m technically allowed to now, but making a typeface for a small group of creatives working on films is different than making a typeface that you can release commercially — I can’t tell all humans that buy my typeface, “Oh, hold on, you don’t have Opentype features enabled!” Was this your first title sequence? Do you think you’d like to do more? Yes! My first. I would love to, but I think it would be hard to find a process as lovely as this one was. I think it would feel way more like a “client job,” haha, versus this one, which felt more like a labour of love. And I’m sure you know — anybody that’s a designer knows — generally when you’re doing work for “cool” industries, you’re not exactly raking in the dough. It would be harder to take on a lower budget project when you don’t feel as connected to its content. What are some of your favorite titles? I think every designer likes the Catch Me If You Can sequence — all the fun references in there. I really liked all the calligraphy in the recent Sherlock Holmes films. I just love when people use calligraphy, because I’m not a calligrapher myself and I admire it so much. I really like it when they get their time in the sun.
TYPOGRAPHY Are there any other directors you would like to work with? I got to work recently with Christopher Guest on his new HBO series Family Tree, which was really fun. I got to go down there and meet with them, read the scripts for the show, with Christopher Guest randomly popping in. I did the logotype for them and then did some advising for typefaces they could purchase to set all the titles. The deadline was really tight â€” a much smaller project than Moonrise Kingdom. So, that was great, and that was another thing that was completely unexpected. I love Christopher Guest, so it was really fun. Any sort of situation like that, I would welcome. I think Quentin Tarantino would be up there on my wouldlike-to-work-with list. Though I donâ€™t know if he would do anything in my realm of art anytime soon, haha.
This interview was conducted by Lola Landokic on 17th September, 2013 for Art Of the Title.
PROPS From the painstaking process of stop motion and creating model scenery, to the precise placement of background props, Andersonâ€™s films are commemorated for the meticulous attention to detail.
HANDMADE /NOTICED A theatrical property is an object used on stage or on screen by actors during a performance or screen production. In practical terms, a prop is considered to be anything movable or portable on a stage or a set apart from the actors or scenery. They determine an enormous amount of the film’s aesthetics and help to define a setting or era. Every prop and item in each scene, in each film, is decided, hand crafted, and placed in the correct position. Distinct examples of this careful process are Fantastic Mr Fox (2009), and Wes’ newest film The Grand Budapest Hotel, which both have very different distinguished styles.
Top to bottom: Jack Whitman’s suitcase and Francis Whitman’s medicine bottles from The Darjeeling Limited (2001), Monsieur Gustave’s collection of perfume in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013).
Anderson wanted the figurines to have “a believable sort of finish, a lifelike quality,” according to Andy Gent, the puppet master. Although the largest of the figurines were only about eighteen inches tall, their fur was, indeed, fur (which, Gent said, came from “safe sources,” such as “food production”). They had been crafted for maximum pliability of expression: Mr. Fox’s eyes were poseable, and his foamlatex face had a jointed framework that could register the slightest sneer or snarl or raised eyebrow. Moreover, the figurines had tailored clothing, made with fabric. (Anderson designed the clothes himself, having his own tailor send fabric samples. He has a suit made from the same corduroy as Mr. Fox’s.) In closeup, not only are the buttons on Mr. Fox’s white shirt visible; so is the stitching at the edge of the collar. Wes wants the references to be from the real world. A desk actually has a coffee stain, piles of papers, things you’d have in a real-world setting. Another set featured a miniature piano, whose keys could be depressed individually, so that, when a figurine played, the motions matched those of the real performance being heard on the soundtrack. The walls of one character’s office were lined with tiny cards that Anderson had based on the scheduling board in the film’s production office. On his computer, he’d shown me a still frame of that set and said, gleefully, “Those pushpins, you wouldn’t believe how small they are.”
— RICHARD BRODY Journalist
KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY LOBBY BOY
- M. Gustave, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013) 34
ANNIE ATKINS An interview with the Lead Graphic Designer for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes uses graphics as a storytelling device so there were literally hundreds of pieces to be made for the film. I think my script breakdown was over 20 pages long. We made bloodied ripped up telegrams, pastry boxes, books of poetry, maps, character passports, patterns for carpets, all the signage you see in the film, banknotes, flags, a police report with Jeff Goldblum’s fingerprints on it… so many different things, and from three different time periods, too. And, of course, the book that opens and closes the film itself, with a drawing of the hotel and the title on the front of it. That’s my favourite piece – it’s a simple illustration but I’m so proud to have drawn it for him. Was it a bit intimidating at first? I think after spending years working on pretty varied period shows I can adapt relatively quickly to different styles. But was it intimidating? Oh god, I was so nervous! It was only a week between getting that initial call and packing up and moving over to Germany. As soon as I got there, though, my M.O. was to keep my head down and work like a dog. I showed him the first drafts of some graphics within a few days of landing, and I remember his reaction being pretty good – then we started on the iterations. We made up to 30 different versions of some props! He and his crew are all so lovely, so it didn’t take long to settle in. 36
What was your favourite piece that you designed for the film? My absolute favourite piece is the book itself that opens the story. It’s a modern pink hardback with a drawing of the hotel on the front, and the name of the movie as the hotel sign. It’s a relatively simple piece, but it’s really special having a prop that you made with the movie’s name on it like that. I remember Wes had sent me a quick sketch showing his idea for the book, and I really loved being able to help make that work for him. I treasure that piece, actually - we made three for the shoot, in case one got dropped in the snow, and so I brought one home with me.
And the most challenging?
INTERVIEW Probably the hotel’s local newspaper, the Trans-Alpine Yodel, as there were so many issues with so many different stories, and each one had to be typeset with new articles and weather reports and dates. It was the first piece I worked on with Wes when I arrived in Germany, so this was the prop that I cut my teeth on. I really got a feeling for his fastidiousness on this one - we must have gone through almost 40 different page layouts until he was happy to shoot it! I also had to think about the aspect ratios he was shooting, too, as they were different for the different time periods in the movie, and he wanted the newspaper columns to fit nicely within the frame of each of them. Wes wrote all the newspaper articles himself - not just articles to accompany the main headlines, but the surrounding ones too. On screen, you only get a chance to read the headlines, of course, but the stories are so Wes and so funny. I think he had fun with this one.
The film poster’s are great! What went into the design process? Ahh, I love this poster! It was a real privilege to help Wes execute his idea for this. It’s pretty much how he described it in the first email he sent me about it: a photo of the miniature hotel model, superimposed over a scenic art piece from the set. I drew the lettering for the hotel sign by hand, based on a beautiful old Shepheard’s Hotel [a celebrated hotel in Cairo in the late 19th century] sign from the 1920s that he’d picked out. I like that the letter spacing is slightly off, just like in the reference. I really enjoy graphic design in the periods before graphic designers existed. The Victorian era is a real favourite of mine. I love that there was no corporate identity. In one institution you can see so many different styles: the blacksmith designed the lettering for the cast iron gates; the sign-painter determined the type style for the shopfront; the glazier shaped the letters for the stained glass; the printer chose the hot-metal font for the stationery. These days we have one font per building and the craftsmen are the manufacturers rather than the designers. 38
LET’S NOT MAKE THIS ANY MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT ALREADY IS
- Eli Cash, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) 40
PROPS So the poster was based on historical poster’s and Wes’ design? Most of my graphic prop and set work for film is based heavily on historical references, so poster design is a chance to do something more original and contemporary. I never look at the history of poster design, to be honest. I like to watch the film and then try to capture the mood by layering up texture. It doesn’t necessarily match the visual aesthetic of the film, rather the tone of the story. I don’t even use a grid for film poster design – it’s probably one of the more intuitive areas of my work. But most of my poster work is for small indie Irish filmmakers, so there’s more freedom in that, than if I were designing for a big distribution company.
Do you prefer to do digital or hand rendered work? A rule of thumb in graphic prop-making is: if it’s supposed to look like it was drawn by hand, then draw it by hand. You could waste a whole day trying to give things hand-drawn looks in Photoshop, I can’t stand seeing it in films. Especially “handwriting” made with script fonts – argh! Another bugbear is typewriter fonts used for real typewritten letters. Oh my god. Actually, this is one of the reasons I loved working with Wes and Adam so much – they really champion the use of authentic printing / writing / painting methods in film design. And our wonderful propmaster, Robin Miller, gave me an antique 1930s German typewriter to make all the police documents with. 41
INTERVIEW How many of your graphic props do you design, and how many do you source? Well, everything is made in-house, but some are direct copies of historical items and others are created from scratch. The tickets to board the Titanic, for example, are copies of the real things. Sometimes you get clearance for certain brand usage so it’s nice to use old advertising to help a film feel realistic – my favourite is an 1800s poster the size of a building that just says “Bovril Repels Influenza!” For Wes’ film, though, he and the production designer Adam Stockhausen were creating an entirely fictional country, the State of Zubrowka, so everything had to be invented from scratch – banknotes, flags, postage stamps, passports – even if it was just background material. We based everything on real references, though, mostly from ’20s and ’30s Eastern Europe.
PROPS Do you always try to stick to historical references or do you prefer using a bit of artistic license? I find the best way to approach period props is to start with a real historical reference and work from there. You have to remember it’s a story you’re creating, not a documentary, so yes, you’ll need to make it cinematic. The most common stretch of truth you see in film graphics is probably 19th century newspapers: large headlines didn’t exist on the covers in ye olden days, it was all small ads. But they’re a strong graphic story-telling device so, hey, we turn a blind eye. Was there a lot of pressure for you to create such a large amount of perfected pieces? My script breakdown was as long as my arm. We started in Berlin and then after a month the entire cast and crew moved to a little town on the Polish border called Gorlitz, where we all lived together and shot the movie. Adam had designed the hotel set to fit into the bones of a beautiful old Art Nouveau department store, with 6 floors and balconies, and we set up our offices on the top floor. We could look down over the balcony every day and watch the set come to life, which was pretty special. I spent my day having back and forths with Wes over details in graphics, talking their production through with the supporting graphic designer Liliana Lambriev, and then liaising with the designer, set decorator, propmaster, and art directors to make sure they had everything they needed from us. There’s probably more to graphics in film than is immediately apparent. If a character has a notice board in his office, for example, then you have to fill that board with relevant material, all in the right style for both the period and the director’s vision. You’re not always designing for the camera: much of this work will never be seen by a cinema audience, but still you have to create an atmosphere and a world for the actors to work their magic in. This interview has been sourced from first hand conversations, Creative Review and Totally Dublin’s March 2014 interviews.
YOU KNOW YOU REALLY ARE FANTASTIC
- Mrs Felicity Fox, Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) 47
COLOUR By breaking down the colour schemes used in several frames from Andersonâ€™s films, it easier to understand what he was trying to accomplish with his cinematography. This section will define scenes from each film into simple colour palettes, showing the effectiveness of maintaining neutral colour schemes throughout intricate motion pictures.
Kara Hayward as Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Bill Murray as Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic (2004)
The Great Entrance Hall in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)
Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Tony Revolori and Saiorse Ronan as Zero and Agatha in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)
Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman as Suzy and Sam in Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Meryl Streep and George Clooney as Mr and Mrs Fox in Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson as Peter, Jack and Francis Whitman in The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
I’M SORRY I NEVER ACKNOWLEDGED YOUR EXISTENCE ALL THOSE YEARS. IT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN - Bill Murray, 2013 64
Most professional critics seem uninterested in the film shot as a still. On the whole, they prefer to talk about plot and acting. Robert Yeoman has worked with Wes Anderson as cinematographer on every film since the feature length version of Bottle Rocket (1996). His job is to assist Wes in the precise placement of people and objects on screen. This extensive image consideration involves planning precise movements, shots, sounds and lighting for every frame that occurs in each film. It also requires planning and process, coordinating cast with speech ,timing with music and movement of cameras. A job not for the undetermined.
Night set from The Life Aquatic (2004)
This section of the book will analyse Wes Andersonâ€™s choice of cast, setting, music and shot, and how these factors affect the overall tone and atmosphere of the films.
SETTING In story-telling, the setting is the geographic location in which a story takes place, and helps initiate the main backdrop and mood. Anderson chose to shoot his movies in a variety of countries, towns and citys, some more fictional than others.
WHERE /WHY Film making is a long process, from initial ideas to visualising them on screen. Anderson varies between filming on location and studio filming, as the two completely differ when trying to create an atmosphere internal to the shot or scene. From Zubrowka to India, Dallas to a London studio, setting is hugely important. Surroundings can form the basis of a scene, affect the authenticity of a characterâ€™s speech or completely change the directorâ€™s ideas for a scene.
Top to bottom: Moonrise Kingdom scene and camera set up .
Well, this doesn’t really address then versus now, particularly, but I think there’s something about when you’re living in places where you don’t really speak the language and you don’t really understand the language. I’m not very good at learning languages. I’m very slow. My French is very bad, and I’ve spent a lot of time in France. That’s something that isolates you. You kind of wander through. You’re sort of an observer. You’re at a remove. But what I like is, if I walk down a street in Paris that I haven’t been on before, it’s an adventure. Every day that you’re abroad, you’re discovering something new. When that becomes your routine, it’s a strange and interesting way to live. There is something about language that gives the whole experience a peculiar feeling. I love making progress with a language, and making progress learning how things are done in a certain place, even if it’s only a little progress. I really enjoy going back to a place again and actually having some friends there now, and saying. “Should we go to that place where we went before?” That to me is sometimes more fun than the first visit to a place: getting to know a place and getting to be known in a place. It’s really quite nice to be known, to know people in a place, and to have certain restaurants where you go that are your restuarants, places where, even though you don’t really speak the same language as the people there, you still have your communication with them, and they know you’re this foreigner, so you’re different, yet you still have a place in their orbit.
— WES ANDERSON
Top to bottom: Hotel Chevalier (2007), Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola at the Taj Mahal during filming for The Darjeeling Limited (2007), the Scout hut before digital enhancement in Moonrise Kingdom (2012).
WES PART ONE A segment from an interview about The Darjeeling Limited. I’m sure you’re aware, there’s a perception of you as being somebody who goes into everything with a very detailed plan. And here, in an interview after interview petaining your films, you tell me that you really don’t have one. You have the script, but in everything else after that, there’s a degree of winging it. And I don’t mean that you don’t know what you’re doing at all, or that you deliberately try not to know what you’re trying to say. That’s certainly true. My habit is to get the script locked down—I don’t like to leave things open in the script. And usually we tend to do what’s in the script. By not leaving things open, you’re referring to the plot, the dialogue, things like that? Not the meanings? Not the meanings. I don’t do scenes where it says, “The taxi driver gives him directions.” I don’t put in, “He talks on the pay phone for a moment and then hangs up.” We put in all the words. And I plan the shots. Some of the shots I plan when we’re writing the script. And many things you figure out when you get the location. I usually have a vague but clear plan of how to make the movie, but the themes, the meanings? I don’t like to field the question at all, even to myself. And also, with The Darjeeling Limited, we definitely made it part of our system for producing the movie to accept whatever happened that did not follow our plan—to try not to fight it. 72
CINEMA Are there any examples where you had a very distinct idea of what you wanted to do, and then you got on the set and realised “Wow, I have to do something entirely different now”? Well, as significant part of the movie is in this little compartment. That we did control. It just moved, and we kind of figured out our system for shooting if the train stopped, or if we changed direction. We created a very versatile environment for working on this train. And we had the same compartment built into two diffeent cars— one on one side and one on the other so that we could keep going back and forth. And we could take these things apart completely, and very, very quickly. We just slid the wall out and folded the thing down. But when the train stopped and we were shooting outside the train, there was much less control—and there were interesting developments. For instance, we wanted to shoot on this sand dune, so we went to scout it. When we walked up this thing, we found it was very hard to climb, and our feet sank deep into the sand that when our legs came up, they were covered with these burs. It was kind of painful. It was a very good dune, but it was going to be very hard to get anything up there. There was no road up there. Everyone would have to walk. And how would we get the camera up there when we could barely get ourselves up? Then Jason and I started trudging down, and we looked up and saw that Roman had leaped off the side of the dune and was sort of flying down it like he was sinking or something. When we saw him, we said, “We’ve definitely got to shoot here. We definitely have to see them do that.” And I really like how the scene turned out—they’re running down this mountain in a kind of a great way. When it came time to do it, there were camels around, and the camels brought up the equipment, and the scene just sort of unfolded in front of us. That’s not quite the same sort of thing we were just talking about, but—the place, too, can just sort of show you what it wants the scene to be. 74
CINEMA [talking about Moonrise Kingdom]
Geographically you’re obliterating boundaries, because everything’s taking place in this kind of imaginative alternate universe. The New York in The Royal Tenenbaums is not New York, really, and in The Life Aquatic, you’ve got all these made up animals and place names. I don’t think you’ve made a movie that is set in “reality”, exactly. Right. I’ve more overtly gone into that as I’ve made more movies. In the first movies I made, we had an invented school, or a couple of invented schools. But we didn’t really identify a place. And even in The Royal Tenenbaums, we don’t identify the place, really. We identify the streets and the areas, but we didn’t call the place New York. We didn’t call it anything. The words New York City are never actually spoken, are they? We don’t say New York, but we don’t say something else, either. We covered up the Statue of Liberty and, you know, just went from there. But in The Life Aquatic, he’s on a place called Pescepada Island, which seems like Italy, I gues, and it’s more or less Italy. I don’t know! Does this just feel right? Trying to make a slight connection? I think so. For instance, in The Life Aquatic, I remember at one point Noah Baumbach and I were trying to figure out, “Where are we now? We seem to be in Southeast Asia somewhere— the South Pacific. The Ping Islands.” What are the Ping Islands? We never really quite required ourselves to clarify that.
Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
PREPARATION /PLANNING Preparation is key. As a creative producer, it is important to have diverse production skills and undoubtedly reasonable understanding of your field. Within filmmaking, the majority of the work comes with the set up for a particular shot or scene, the recording a mere afterthought once the process is complete. Storyboarding is an effective way of planning for motion production, because it allows the director to visualise the set up of each frame. It is through such rigorous and visualised planning that Wes Anderson is capapble of acheiving such meticulous detail and precision.
Wesâ€™ initial ideas for Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
There wasn’t a whole hell of a lot that we shot that was wrong, because I mean, if you read the script, it’s pretty spare, you know? It’s pretty clean. The storytelling—he spends a lot of time and he’s obviously very specific about how he wants things to look and sound. So there’s not a lot of overage. He’s got a lot of tricky camera moves, so you shoot a lot of goofy takes, where the camera isn’t absolutely perfect, so you do it again. So that’s the only time—that’s the overage. That’s the extra time, is he takes a lot of time to get it perfect.
— BILL MURRAY Actor
ERIC CHASE ANDERSON A discussion with the Illustrator and Writer, Wes’ younger brother, who helps with the visual aspects of his films. How did maps come to be such an important part of your work? My interest in maps came about by pure accident. One day (during my house-sitting phase) I walked past a flower shop, where, in the window, I came upon a singularly beautiful historical survey map. All the local streets and houses were meticulously drawn and labeled. It was a purely functional artifact, probably used by real estate folks and developers. It’s not an over-statement to say that I was mesmerized. maybe because this map perfectly illustrated that beautiful idea that ‘form should follow function’. There was literally no ‘personality’ detectable in it, and the lack of ego really captured my attention. Another aspect of the experience was that I happened to be standing within the boundaries of the map when I saw it. It was very ‘meta’. While staring at the map, I had a rush of memories of all the books I’d loved as a kid. So many of which had had maps at the start. Maps to prepare you for the adventure, to kick-start your imagination, to guide you on your way, to refer back to, and to give you a sense of what you might be in for. Sometimes even suggesting imaginary places which existed on the map but fell outside the plot. Places where the characters never ended up going. Those unexplored territories were tantalizing in their own way…
You often collaborate with your brother wes, how long have you been working together? Well, I started ‘working’ on my brother’s movies when I was probably nine years old! But it was only when I’d begun making maps that he started soliciting ideas and help from me as an illustrator. It’s been very helpful to him to have somebody he’s known for so long as one of the tools in making his movies. However, he’s so tuned in to his own vision, when you work on one of his movies you kind of naturally offer up your autonomous artistic spirit in the process. That can be liberating and gratifying in its own way, for sure, but following my own lights is probably what I’m built for and more suited to in the long run. How does working on a book compare to working on a movie? I’ve never worked on a feature movie that I wrote myself, so it’s not an easy comparison to make. With my books I’m the author and illustrator. so when it starts coming to life (IF it comes to life) a book feels like a kind of insanely precious, secret experiment is underway. When the thing comes to life: that is when the excitement gets serious. if you feel like you have several of these secret projects hidden somewhere inside you, it is very difficult to find happiness doing anything else. 81
What or who has had the biggest influence on your work? My family certainly was a big influence on me. my father was a geologist and draftsman for a texas oil company in the early 60s, and I got my love of tiny, neat writing and labeling things from him, as well as an affinity for maps. My mother was a painter whose oil portraits were all around me growing up. of course both of my older brothers influenced the stories and kinds of imaginary experiences I was exposed to and liked. But my biggest influence as an illustrator and storyteller is Walt Disney. He is if anything in my book, an underrated storyteller/artist. to me, he’s focused completely on impact. all he cares about is how is this going to work on the viewer? His philosophy and mission is to be the stand-in for the viewer before a thing is made. So he’s focused on clarity and emotion and speed and pleasure and the whole symphonic experience of the story. As opposed to, say, making a totally faithful adaptation of kipling. This is what a storyteller should be like, a kind of advance team for the viewer/reader. During the period in my early twenties when I was starting to do more writing (at the same time when I recaptured my love of maps in stories) I also started watching the movies I’d loved as a kid again. I’d sort of forgotten most of them. it was good timing, because I was finally out of the educational system, free from critique and judgment. I was just immersing myself in the works, free to embrace and love them on their own and to scrutinize what it was they were doing, how they were made, and why they worked. re-visiting the great works of your childhood is maybe a good thing for anyone to do who’s interested in stories and illustrating.
I THINK WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO BE SECRETLY IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER AND LEAVE IT AT THAT - Margot Tenenbaum, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
WES PART TWO A segment from an interview about Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr Fox. What, if anything, did you learn from directing an animated film immediately before directing Moonrise Kingdom? I ask that because it seemed like you were taking some specific visual chances here that I didnâ€™t see in other movies. Like the zoom shots that seemed to go on for miles. We animated storyboards for anything that had any action, or big sets, or even just long scenes, which I hadnâ€™t done before, except for Mr. Fox. I did my storyboards as I always do, but then we had them redone by proper storyboard artists like we did with Mr. Fox, and we animated them to a soundtrack of my just reading the script, but with the music, and figuring out the timing and all that stuff. So it was pre-visualised? Right. And I showed Edward some of the pieces. Edward wanted all of them. He took all of them. He says he used the pre-vis-type information n his performance. Somehow he felt it was helpful to him. But for me, it was very helpful. Not only did we do that, but for a number of scenes we went and shot them on film without the actual cast, in advance, so I could see what we needed to do. 84
CINEMA A lot of that does come out of Mr. Fox then? Some of it does. Some of it also comes out of doing the Life Aquatic. Part of it is, I didn’t want to go out with a great big group. I wanted to go out with a tiny group. But if you’re going to go out with a tiny group, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right people and the right equipment. Being prepared is key, because you can’t just say, “Let’s just pull the dolly off the truck”; if you come out in a motorboat, you know, there’s no truck. There’s a sense of geographic connectedness to the way this movie is directed that seems to proceed directly from Fantastic Mr. Fox, in the sense that there were times when I felt like I could take out a piece of paper and draw a map of this island. We put maps of the island in the movie to help you feel like you can find your way around. I showed Scott Rudin and early cut of the movie, and he said, “Are they supposed to be on a different island now? I didn’t get that.” So we made up maps so you know when we’ve gone to another island, and when we’ve travelled all the way across the place and so on. In fact, we stop-motion-animated little pins across the maps, which also come from Mr. Fox, I guess. They talk about directing, the actual making of the film, as being the least pleasant part. No, I like it. It can sometimes be gruelling or very stressful— when things aren’t going right, you get an ulcer. But it’s exciting. And I like working with a group. I like having a company of key people collaborating. And on a movie like Mr. Fox, part of that is there are specialise in filmmaking disciplines or techniques I’ve never worked with. And also people who are making miniature objects, miniature props, and fabricating puppets and all the physical things that are being built. Those are all the things that are right up my alley. So it’s a lot of fun for me to be working with people who do this kind of thing, and to get to know these people. 86
HE TAKES A LOT OF TIME TO GET IT PERFECT
- Bill Murray, 2013 88
CAMERA The camera operator is responsible for physically operating the camera and maintaining composition and camera angles throughout a given scene or shot. In narrative cinema, the camera operator will collaborate with the director, director of photography, actors and crew to make technical and creative decisions.
SHOTS /SCENES Renowned for his sweeping dolly shots and central focus, Wesâ€™ direction is always coordinated and accurate. He uses tracking to assist the fluidity of change between shots, a technique that has becomg characteristic of all of his films.
Top to bottom: The Ballroom in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Suzy and her brothersâ€™ in Moonrise Kingdom (2013), Dudley in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
Anderson’s personal approach to composition has implications in the editing room, too. Wes likes to center-frame the actors, and he often covers dialog scenes with swish-pans rather than cutting. There are also many long dolly shots. He designs the shots so that each part of the story is encapsulated in that one shot. When you shoot like that, there’s not really a place for a cut, though at times he can slip one in on the swish pan. As a result, he almost never cuts shots out of the movie. Everything is very carefully designed, so there really isn’t a tremendous amount of coverage. Pretty much everything that we shoot gets used.
— ROBERT YEOMAN Cinematographer
WES PART THREE A segment from an interview about The Royal Tenenbaums. Let’s talk about composition and and moving the camera. You do a lot of cutting in camera, do you do a lot of that? When we were doing Bottle Rocket, I was often told, “Don’t cut in the camera,” which meant that—I think there’s an old Hollywood way of cutting in the camera, which is where you shoot the close-up for just, say, two lines. A scene might be four pages long, but you shoot the close up for just those two lines, and you shoot a wide shot for the rest of the scene, so that you’re only getting those two shots for that scene. You’re going to use the wide shot, and you’re going to use the closeup for those two lines. So you’ve just got these two shots, but you haven’t got “coverage.” Are you able to see a whole movie in your head? How it ought to be? I usually have a pretty good idea. I can definitely think up a way that a particular scene can be shot and cut in advance. Doing Fantastic Mr. Fox was a situation where I could think it up and that’s what we did, but shooting live action, especially on location, can complicate those ideas.
CAST /CHARACTERS Anderson’s films feature many of the same actors, crew members, and other collaborators, including the Wilson brothers (Owen, Luke, and Andrew), Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Anjelica Huston, Jason Schwartzman, and Eric Chase Anderson (Anderson’s brother). Other frequent collaborators include writer Noah Baumbach (who co-wrote The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr. Fox, with Anderson coproducing his film The Squid and the Whale), Owen Wilson (who co-wrote three of Anderson’s feature films), cinematographer Robert Yeoman, music supervisor Randall Poster, and composers Mark Mothersbaugh and Alexandre Desplat.
Top to bottom: Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody in The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton in Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Luke and Owen Wilson in Bottlerocket (1996).
Gwyneth Paltrow is excellent as Margot, a role that seems to awaken something very deep in her. And it occured to me that you’ve got Paltrow, whose mother is Blythe Danner and whose father was the beloved television director Bruce Paltrow; you’ve got Anjelica Huston, descended from the Huston family; you’ve got Ben Stiller, son of the performers Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. And then you’ve got Luke and Owen Wilson, sons of Laura Wilson, a noteable American photographer. That’s a lot of anxiety of influence gathered in your main cast.
— MATT ZOLLER SEITZ TV Critic for New York Magazine
Clockwise from top left: Jared Gilman and Kaya Hayward as Sam and Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom (2012), The main cast of The Life Aquatic (2004), Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic (2004).
POST PRODUCTION Post-production is part of filmmaking, video production and photography process. It occurs in the making of motion pictures, television programs, radio programs, advertising, audio recordings, photography, and digital art.
STOP-MOTION /DIGITAL EDITS Digital editing is an effective way of creating scenes that canâ€™t be created manually. Anderson combines real time production with animation to encourage humour and lower the serious tones of his films.
Animated scenes from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).
How an editor handles temporary sound design and music in building the rough cut is an important ingredient of the film editing process. The Moonrise Kingdom team tackled this in a way different from other projects. On many films, the picture editor will drop in temporary sound effects that are close but not always the perfect sound. The director and others then hear the film over and over again as scenes are previewed and screened with these effects. It often feels ‘wrong’ when they finally hear the fleshed out effects in the mix placed by the sound editors. To prevent this type of ‘temp love,’ the supervising sound editor incorporated sound effects early and ambiances into those scenes. We could integrate these effects into the edit, which meant we were always using the best possible options.”
ANDREW WEISBLUM Editor for Moonrise Kingdom
WES PART FOUR A segment from an interview about The Life Aquatic. Why did you decide to go with stop motion? You chose an old fashioned, analogue method of creating creatures that don’t exist. With The Life Aquatic, it’s not like a movie where the point is to feel something like the wonder we would experience in real life if we were encountering real dinosaurs. The sea creatures are there for atmosphere, or as jokes: Some lizard is walking on Bill Murray’s hand, and he flicks it off. And in a way, the artificiality of it—which is sort of a by-product of everything else—is, well, I don’t want to say “part of the joke,” because it’s not a joke. It’s supposed to be entertaining. I’m probably not articulating it very well. The answer to “Why stop-motion?” is “Because I love stop-motion.” And it’s not like I love stop-motion because I think it’s this great way to make you think these things are really alive. It’s more that I think it’s such a magical way to make it seem as though these things are really alive. And you can see how the illusion is being created. You can see the fingerprints on the creations. Yes. Sometimes literally. You know, Henry said he believes the jaguar shark is the largest puppet that’s ever been constructed. It was about the size of this room.
The digital intermediate offered the usual opportunities to match shots that were filmed under different weather conditions, from bright sunlight to cloud cover, but Anderson used the color-correction tools to manipulate the image more than he has before. For the dramatic ending scene on the roof of the church, Wes decided to desaturate the color and give the scene a bluish feel. With the addition of some vignetting, it almost has an old-time, silent-film feel. I encouraged him to keep pushing it.
â€” ROBERT YEOMAN
Scenes from The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013) before and after digital editing