Like Crazy: Visually Beautiful Set Designs
The intimacy of Like Crazy seems to remove a layer from between the camera lens and the audience, something that Drake Doremus says was the cornerstone of the film’s visual design, from the photography to the sets to the music.
“I had a wonderful crew who never tried to be flashy but who were able give every scene exactly what it needed, no more, no less,” he explains. “If their work seems at times to be almost invisible, it’s because it so seamless, so real that it never stands out or becomes distracting. I was lucky to work with such truly modest, creative and talented people.”
That crew includes cinematographer John Guleserian, who worked on Doremus’ first film Spooner. Guleserian, tasked with shooting inward more than outward, shot the entire film hand-held, doing the camerawork himself, with a modified Canon 7D Digital DSLR camera. The camera’s small size and extreme versatility allowed Guleserian to establish a physical closeness with the actors that helps to expose every shaded emotion they go through in the course of the film – as well as to bring a jazzy sense of visual unpredictability.
“A lot of credit should go to John for shooting something so visually beautiful and also so intimate, yet with real style and feel,” says Jonathan Schwartz.
“I loved working with John,” continues Doremus. “He understands everything I want and he is able to shoot in such a way that the actors nearly forget the camera is there and can completely focus on their characters.”
“It’s almost like John is able to get inside Drake’s head and see the story he wants to tell,” observes Andrea Sperling. “I think the camerawork on this film is so fascinating because the audience really feels like a voyeur, with the camera always peeking from behind objects or static like a fly on the wall. It adds to that raw, exposed feeling.”
Also key to the film’s look was production designer Katie Byron, who crafted Jacob and Anna’s changing digs – from their initial dorm-room encounters to their first adult apartments in different parts of the world – with subtle, naturalistic details that enrich the performances. “Katie and her team, including Rachael Ferrara and Alexi Gomez, worked tirelessly to make the film look so authentic,” notes Schwartz. Adds Sperling: “Katie had so many great ideas and all of them came from a very real place. She combined those ideas with an ability to bring them to life without a lot of resources. Her team worked so hard, 24 hours a day.”
Throughout the fast-paced shoot, Doremus worked in his trademark riffing manner, shooting lots of different variations on takes and winding up with a vast amount of footage. – which then had to pared down and constructed into the final narrative in the editing room.
At Schwartz’ suggestion, Doremus collaborated for the first time with editor Jonathan Alberts (Wristcutters: A Love Story) over an intensive, two-month period. “I figured out that I use only about 1.5% of all the footage that I shoot,” muses Doremus, “so that’s a pretty daunting prospect when you get to the editing room. But it’s also really exciting to go in and try to find the most interesting moments. Jonathan really helped me to pare it down and essentially write the final draft of the movie. It was a great feeling – it was almost like we were stealing the very best moments that happened on set and figuring out how to fit them all together.”
Adds Schwartz: “Jonathan really elevates everything he does. He is the kind of editor who challenges you, who asks questions, and because of that, he worked really well with Drake.”
“I think Jonathan brings a distinctive aesthetic to the editing,” continues Sperling. “He brought things out of the footage that we didn’t even realize were there. The mix of his ideas with Drake’s ideas really brought the film to a new level in the editing room.”
For the cast, the film’s final shape was a big unknown until the editing process was complete. “Seeing the final edit was quite surprising,” remarks Felicity Jones. “Drake shoots so many takes that I had a million different possible versions of the film in my head. So, when I saw the film for the first time, it was hard to get used to just one version, but it was also very rewarding. There’s so much truthfulness to it.” Truthfulness also imbues the final element woven into the film: Dustin O’Halloran’s spare but evocative, piano-based score. Doremus had heard some of O’Halloran’s richly textured and emotional music and told Schwartz, “We have to go out and find him.” It turned out that O’Halloran had previously worked with Sofia Coppola, creating original compositions for her film Marie Antoinette.
“Dustin was an absolute miracle,” comments Schwartz. “His music really pulls out all the feeling in the movie.”
With the finishing touches on the film completed, Like Crazy found itself playing to a packed house at the Sundance Film Festival, before going on to win the Grand Jury Prize and Special Jury Award for Felicity Jones. After such a close-knit creation, with the small cast and crew holed up in bedrooms and kitchens, no one knew what to expect from the story’s first foray into the wider world.
“It was such an inspiring moment,” remembers Doremus. “The audiences at Sundance really root for good work, so it’s always exciting to be in that atmosphere. But that day, it was the first time we had screened the film for such a large audience. I remember seeing people react and laugh and realizing that there was a connection. For me, it suddenly felt like I was watching the film for the very first time and then the movie ended and it became one of the greatest, but craziest, moments of my life.”
He concludes: “When we were shooting it was heartbreaking every single day for me to watch these two people going through all these emotions, but I knew we were getting something very real and special. You always hope that other people will have that feeling, too.”
Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for Like Crazy