If there is one particular area of pre-production that, in the telling, will reveal the true nature of how low-budget this production was - it'll be the production design. Originally I had invited a fantastic art director to come aboard the project to put the set together for me, but she got booked on several other jobs and was unable to participate. Being so close to the actual shoot date by the time I received this news, I didn't go seeking a new designer, but instead turned to my better half, Jennine, for help and took most of the design on myself. One convenient aspect was that I had convinced Jennine to endure my shooting in the guest bedroom of our apartment. This meant that I incurred no locations fees or had to worry about what time I could get in to the location to work - it was available to me 24 hours a day (being my home and all…). So I could literally roll out of bed in the morning, walk down the hall and get to work.

The first step in treating the bedroom was to eliminate the white walls. White walls are hell on a cinematographer. They foreshorten depth and make good lighting look mediocre. It is difficult to control lighting ratios in a white-walled environment because the light is bouncing all over the place - so deepening the color of the walls was a must. Because this was our home - and after the chaos of production, we would continue to live here - Jennine was not comfortable with the idea of painting the walls, so I had to come up with another solution. I decided to turn to wallpaper and devised a way to adhere the paper to the walls without damaging the existing paint - I striped the wall with 2" masking tape (which comes off paint clean without damaging surface) and then put an industrial double-sided tape on top of the masking tape and adhered the wallpaper to that. Choosing the color of the paper was much more of a task than it might seem. I needed something that would fall in with the color palette of the room - which meant that blues, greens and yellows were right out. I wasn't able to find a good deep brown paper - even after looking at more than a dozen locations around Los Angeles - so I settled on a deep maroon with a subtle texture to it. We then aged this paper with treatments of black and brown paint heavily watered down and sprayed on the individual lengths of wallpaper through a Hudson sprayer.

The newspaper clippings were an important part of the overall design. I wanted a visual sense of her obsession and the image of an entire wall covered in various clippings came to mind. Achieving this, like many other things, was much more complicated than it seems. All of the articles were real. They are all clipped from various tabloid newspapers - The National Enquirer, Star, Globe, etc. All of the clippings are bizarre in some way - some are about alien abduction, many are about people just plain being evil. Each clipping was sprayed with a heavily diluted instant tea solution and baked in an oven for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees. This gave them all a wonderful yellow, crunchy, aged look. They were then carefully taped to the wall.

Procuring the composition books was - falling in with tradition, now - not easy. I felt a bit like the character in King's poem, although I didn't have to hit 500 stores to collect the books, I did have to hit nearly a dozen and clean out their supply of books just to get enough to fill the bed and scatter around the room (we only had a bit more than 50 books, nowhere near the 500 that we were trying to represent). We also had two bookshelves filled with the books (all faked - pieces of cardboard with black gaff tape emulating the spines of the composition books - many thanks to Camie Crawford for tediously building these) - but they are never seen onscreen in the final cut. Also not seen is the window above the dresser, which was covered in aluminum foil and the smashed TV set atop the dresser.

The bathroom was a lot more fun. The filth and muck was created through liberal use of Hershey's chocolate syrup. It coats the floor, toilet, mirror, sink and practically every flat surface in the bathroom. The smell was quite something. In the beginning it was really kind of nice - hey! Chocolate! Yummie! But after a while that sickeningly sweet odor became a bit ugly on the senses. Most of that torture I ended up enduring alone (shooting the toilet, Dung Beetle, and sink inserts), and I was quite happy when it was all cleaned up.

It is an odd dichotomy that the production design was, at the same time, the low-budgetest element and the most costly (with notebooks, newspapers, wallpaper, and various dressings encompassing nearly 50% of the overall production budget) - but in the end, the design was a considerable portion of the overall character of the film.


© 2000 Adakin Productions
Paranoid: A Chant © Stephen King. Used by permission.
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Last Update 17 Apr 2001
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