American Cinematographer - December 2014 - 56

◗

Backstage Drama

Right: Riggan
struggles to rein in
his co-star Mike
(Edward Norton).
Below: Riggan's
producer, Jake
(Zach Galifianakis),
tries to buoy
spirits around the
theater. The film's
backstage area
was built as a twoand-a-half-story
set at Kaufman
Astoria Studios in
New York.

film was one long, unbroken shot,
Iñárritu always knew that some transitions would be necessary to get the
actors from the set, built at Kaufman
Astoria Studios in Queens, to the stage
at New York's St. James Theatre; to
indicate the passage of time between
night and day; and for other, strictly
technical reasons. As to the actual
56

December 2014

number of transitions in the movie -
and where they occur - the director
demurs: "I would prefer to keep the
rabbit in the hat."
According to Lubezki, the most
complex task was figuring out how to
block scenes in a way that both
supported the concept of a single,
continuous take and reflected Riggan's
American Cinematographer

gradual emotional disintegration.
Preproduction began in Los Angeles,
where Lubezki, Iñárritu and production
designer Kevin Thompson crafted a
floor plan out of chalk, tape, C-stands
and canvas on a studio soundstage. As
they blocked the movie, they were
continually redrawing the lines on the
floor and rewriting the script, with each
activity informing the other. Once the
production secured the use of
Broadway's historic St. James Theatre,
its measurements were added to the
diagram.
Rehearsals eventually moved to
New York, where the blocking was
further refined as furniture, props, lights
and finally actors were added (replacing
stand-ins who had learned and recited
the dialogue during earlier rehearsals).
Thompson designed a set at Kaufman
Astoria Studios that served as the
theater's backstage area, which included
dressing rooms, a maze of corridors,
multiple staircases and a wardrobe room
in the basement. The two-and-a-halfstory set extended to, but did not
include, the wings of the theater's stage,
as everything on the stage and in the



American Cinematographer - December 2014

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