A brilliant sun glared off the white snow as we pulled into the film camp of the movie, The Giver. Production trailers, catering trucks and equipment crammed the lot. Clark and I unloaded the stunt props he’d built and a man radioed up the ski slope to let the stunt coordinator know we’d arrived. We waited in the freezing cold our breath making little clouds until the snowmobile picked us up and carried us up the mountain.
Clark and Frank discussed modifications to the stunt sled while I mingled with the crew. I assisted Clark as he worked and then eventually hid in a heated tent. This California girl has never quite adjusted to the Utah winters.
I read Lois Lowry’s book, The Giver, back in the late 1990s and it sort of blew my young mind. This was before YA dystopian became the genre du jour. I had never read anything quite like it. Lowry’s book has a Bradbury feel but is written for kids. It rose in popularity and educators snapped it up for use in the classroom believing that children and teens “need a contemporary voice to speak directly to the adolescent experience.” The book made waves and won awards including the Newbury Medal.
The themes in the book really spoke to me. Exchanging freedom for peace, the power of knowledge, and how “Sameness” to erase strife results in a literal lack of color and emotional depth. Like most good stories it made me think, sounding a warning while also entertaining me. Encouraging my awareness and provoking questions. At what cost do we stay in a well-padded comfort zone? What could happen if everything was “equally” given to us by an all knowing paternal government and if diversity of thought was forbidden to avoid all offense or conflict? Are peace and happiness the same thing? Does our definition of equality lead to oppression? Pertinent questions. Perhaps the long wait for this particular story to be a movie has been well timed.
Much of the movie was shot on location in South Africa but when it came to needing the snowy scenes, production moved to the beautiful ski resorts of Utah. We trudged further up the mountain to where the cameras were. I love the energy on movie locations. Dozens of crew members clustered and bustled as Phillip Noice called out directions in is baritone Aussie voice. I really don’t think it ever gets old to hear “Action!” or “Cut.”Australian director, Phillip Noice known for movies like Salt, The Bone Collector, Clear and Present Danger, The Saint and one of my favorites, Rabbit Proof Fence, has pulled together a high profile cast including Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Brenton Thwaites and Taylor Swift. It was exciting to watch him work.
I’m always struck by the huge amount of collaborative work it takes to make a movie. The stunt double repeatedly hurtled down the snowy hill, with a fake baby Clark made, strapped to his chest. There were people to man the cameras, sweep away tracks in the snow, to move trees, serve up craft service and to scurry about doing all kinds of small things that keep the process running smoothly. All these people spending hours of time for what would result in mere seconds in the finished film.
A bit ironic that this complex creative process could never even take place if our society settled into the “Sameness” described in the book, The Giver. All creativity, innovation and synergy would die. Ambition, color, art, emotions, and diversity have no place in a world that isn’t free. I’ll keep that in mind while I watch the The Giver on the big screen this August and the next time I disagree with someone, feel misunderstood, or feel like life isn’t fair. Could be worse. We could all be the same.