Production Information p. 3
Sax explains: “At the beginning of the film, Jonathan and Anna’s house is very warm pastel colorsthey’re also wearing the same colors and everything glows, because they’re the ideal golden couple with everything going for them...beautiful home, beautiful everything. But what we did was suck all of the color out of the film as we went along so that, as the color drains from Jonathan’s life, the color drains from the movie. By the time he’s moved into a new apartment and is in the midst of his EVP obsession, it’s all very geometric and angular, very cold. As his obsession grows and the place becomes more untidy, he starts to become more unkempt. And we manipulated the pictures a great deal after we shot to make the colors go from nice and bright and sunny to much colder grays.”
A good deal of the movie takes place within the confines of Jonathan Rivers’ increasingly private internal struggle with a paranormal universe personified by the “EVP room” he has equipped with TV monitors, state-of-the art speakers and recording devices.
The actual room was built on a special soundstage so that the movie’s tech crew could wire it with the electronic impulses, audio and visual, that Rivers studies in his struggle to improve the fleeting contact he experiences with his deceased wife.
“There’s an awful lot of the movie that takes place in this particular EVP room,” says Sax, “where he’s amongst his machines as his obsession is growing and growing. My feeling was to try and treat each scene differently to reflect his continuing isolation from his family and friends, so the room gets gradually darker. During daylight, for instance, he’ll pull the curtains so that it’s darker and gloomier in there. Sometimes we just see the light from the monitors, so that the room has a blue feeling about it, and the camera work gets more edgy as Jonathan’s psyche becomes more fragmented.”
The filming of the room reflects the protagonist’s inner turmoil.
“We go to handheld cameras for certain scenes, and just to keep it visually interesting, we use a crane in the set and break it up with different angles.”
Visually reflecting the main character’s gradual disintegration and his interaction with spiritual “ghosts” and unreal beings required a special dimension from Michael Keaton as an actor, says Sax. The director explains, “Michael has such a terrific range. A lot of his work in this film is done sitting in a room, just looking at monitors. His eyes and his face are so alivehe’s able to tell a story with just looks and we see his pain. It’s quite wonderful really and it helped me considerably in the shooting. He also very accomplished at working with green screen and filming with things that aren’t really there during shooting.”
The demands of filming included significant green screen work for Keaton and some of his fellow actors. The electronic shadows of past lives do begin to take on corporeal attributes as they move about in sound and visual fury, appearing momentarily on a screen that the audiencebut not Riverssees.
With the appearance of the graytoned images of these diaphanous beings, “you know something’s going to go awfully wrong,” says Sax. “And then he begins to get these warnings and he still doesn’t heed them, wrapped up as he is in the struggle. It’s like ‘Beware the Ides of March,’ and he still doesn’t heed them. And that is what sends him on his path to ultimate destruction.”
The beings (who are meant to be the spirits of the dead) are manipulated via special effects, added in post-production, as are all the images that are seen on the many screens in the film along with the “white noise,” the static electric images that come to grip Jonathan Rivers.
Per cinematographer Seager: “We shot using green on the screens and generated the ‘white noise’ afterwards. And then we manipulated that digitally so we end up with dozens of images of people with their faces in various expressions, which were layered and manipulated, giving them an otherworldly, surreal appearance as they fade on and off the screens. We then feed those images back into the TV screens.
“In order to bring the realism back into it, we also shot reflections that would appear in the glass of the television,” he adds. “We layer that back on top and we get a look of what is going on around Jonathan in real time.”
By building the EVP room set on a soundstage which could be controlled by the production crew, the filmmakers were able to accomplish a production design that fully reflects the inner turmoil of Jonathan Rivers.
Sax continues: “The only really truly internal space for Rivers is his own EVP room, which is within his apartment. By building the set, we can accommodate all of the differing camera anglesalso, all of that computer equipment is driven by a huge set-up, which had to work within the space as well.” While acknowledging the compelling inner journey taken by the film’s main character, the director and his team were cautious in their choice of shots.
Sax quips, “I thought that if we weren’t careful, we were going to be buried inside four walls for a good part of the film. So I always tried to find locations with windows to give the story some expanse and the viewers some place to look out.
“For example, Jonathan’s apartment has massive plate glass windows. My idea was that I always wanted to see life outside. While he’s going on with his madness, outside ordinary life’s going on. You can see people in the background watching their TVs, that sort of thing.”
The director sums it up with the observation that, although the lives of the characters in White Noise are constantly impacted by the souls of the dead, “It’s kind of a motif of the film that there’s always life going on.”
And for producer Brooks, the growing interest in EVP is likely to raise questions about just how we perceive that life experience: “It’s very tough to be dismissive of something that a lot of people are experiencing on a very personal basis. And once more and more instances are recorded, then it’s literally, ‘Well hang on a second, this is actually becoming a reality.’ I don’t want to sound sort of ridiculous about this, but I’m just trying to entertain the possibility that we may be on the verge of something culturally extraordinary.”
Universal Pictures and Gold Circle Films Present A White Noise (UK) and Brightlight Pictures Production In Association with Endgame Entertainment: Michael Keaton in White Noise, starring Deborah Kara Unger, Chandra West and Ian McNeice.
The casting is by Maureen Webb.
The music is composed by Claude Foisy.
The costume designer is Karen Matthews; the production designer is Michael S. Bolton. It is edited by Nick Arthurs.
The director of photography is Chris Seager, B.S.C. The executive producers are Scott Niemeyer, Norm Waitt, Simon Brooks and Stephen Hegyes. White Noise is produced by Paul Brooks and Shawn Williamson; it is written by Niall Johnson and directed by Geoffrey Sax.
©2004 Universal Studios www.whitenoisemovie.com