Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

More on the Zodiac

The San Francisco Chronicle ran another story on that movie about the Zodiac Killer today, motivated no doubt by self-interest, since its offices are central to the plot. The piece is worthwhile, not only for those already intrigued by the case, but for anyone interested in what it's like to make a film today, particularly on location. Consider this description of the drive for historical accuracy:
"Zodiac" is an $80 million movie about the series of killings that has never been solved. To re-create that time, Fincher, the director of the highly stylized "Se7en," Fight Club" and "Panic Room," is taking a more realistic approach -- filming as much as possible in the actual locations where the events took place.

That meant filming outside The Chronicle, where Paul Avery (Downey) first received letters from the killer in the late 1960s, and Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal) was a staff member who became obsessed with the case. The film's screenplay is written by James Vanderbilt from Graysmith's 1976 book.

Included in those scenes were a vintage 1960s U.S. mail truck ("Always use Zip Code!" the cartoon figure reminds us) delivering letters to The Chronicle mailroom and a street scene in which Mission between Fifth and Sixth streets was transformed into a street once again filled with those old, rounded, gas-guzzling Muni buses, Yellow Cabs and Plymouth Valiants, et al.

For the mail scenes, the film's property master, Hope Parrish, manufactured 2,500 pieces of 1970s mail (among Parrish's other tasks: replicating the former Chronicle reporters' pens, rings, watches, glue pots, business cards, typewriters and 6-cent Dwight Eisenhower stamps).
I'm always fascinated by the decisions made about what is and isn't necessary for cinematic time-traveling. Sometimes filmmakers go to extravagant lengths to achieve a versimilitude that very few members of the picture's audience will be able to recognize. But since I'm married to someone who falls into that select category where this particular film is concerned, it pleases me that so much money was spent on historical recreation:
Fischer, Fincher and screenwriter Vanderbilt were adamant that as much of the filming as possible not only take place in the Bay Area, but in the exact locations where the Zodiac events took place.

For example, the crew shot at Lake Berryessa, but since the Zodiac killer's attack there, almost all the site's trees have died. Production designer Don Burt planted 24 new ones, flying the pin-oak trees in by helicopter, watching them dangle 200 feet below, some of them 45 feet tall and weighing 13,000 pounds.

Burt even used gravel and piping to syphon water from the lake to nourish the trees' roots from an underground irrigation system he built. He also replanted 1,600 clumps of grass to match the original scenery.
I wonder whether that bosque is near any of the spots Kim took me. Remind me to tell you the story about the couple who went swimming with their pet duck sometime. It makes a nice counterpoint to all the death and dismemberment.

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