The Big Empty - Subliminally Speaking

Last Update: 13 November 2003
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Throughout the film, Steve Anderson, production designer Aaron Osborne
and director of photography Chris Manley worked on laying down some
real clues to not only underline the film's noir quality, but also
provide fun for the second viewing.
 
"We really played on the emptiness aspect of the movie," says the
director. "With the Mojave as our set, we were pretty much living and
shooting in the middle of the biggest emptiness you could imagine. The
Mojave is filled with rocks and dust in all directions, and it really
provided the best existential set for this kind of story."
 
"The Big Empty also plays into my reflection of the characters' states
of mind," he adds. "Their lives are empty. People are disappearing and
it means nothing. It helps underline the noirness of it all. We also
designed the movie with lots of empty scenes, empty gas stations, empty
glasses and empty suitcases. There was a lot of emptiness in there. The
characters also say the word 'nothing' a lot in the script. Nothing
really matters."
 
The biggest subliminal design came with the use (or absence) of the
color blue. "I knew we were going to have a very short time to shoot
this movie and that we had great actors," says Anderson, "so my
temptation as a cameraman was to do all this fancy stuff and quick
editing swirling the cameras. But then I realized that we'd get the
best movie if we put the camera on the actors and let them do their
thing. Our thing should be to design the movie as best we could so
everything that ends up on screen, the set, costumes and makeup all
mean something.
 
"We decided to drop subtleties along the way to hint at the
supernatural," he continues. "We almost did it for a second viewing as
opposed to someone recognizing it when they see it for the first time.
The first part of the movie is noir-like, very dark and gray. There is
nothing blue in the movie at all until Neely comes in with the blue
suitcase, wearing a blue jumpsuit. We wanted anything that had to do
with the 'other world' to be blue. We added blue throughout the rest of
the movie anywhere we could. Anything that is blue has some
significance. Bud Cort was given contacts so Neely had very blue eyes
in the beginning. All compromised people would have blue eyes, wear
blue, be in a blue room, carry a blue suitcase, talk on a blue phone,
etc. Kelsey Grammer wore brown contacts because his eyes are naturally
blue. And we kept his eyes brown until the very end.
 
"Grace's eyes suggest that she becomes compromised half way through the
movie. At the beginning Joey Lauren has very brown eyes but at the end
at the bowling alley she wears blue contacts. We designed all this in.
We did not have blue cars or blue signs or anything blue unless it
meant something. It's very subtle. And if you notice, in the very last
scene of the movie John's eyes turn from brown to blue."
 
Twenty-seven days later, The Big Empty was in the can, along with
writer/director Steven Anderson's dream. "I'd like to think, as a
first-time director, I did a pretty good job," he says. "I've spent so
many years waiting for this to happen, and to this date I still have
not popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate because I feel like
there's still so much to do."
 
Sean Bean compliments the director best by saying that he "had no idea
this was Steve's first film" until three days into the shoot when
someone mentioned it on the set. "We should be seeing a lot more of
Steve Anderson," he says. "I certainly hope we do!"
 

Press Notes Main Page
Soundtrack Info 
About the Production
Locking in the Actors
Let's Put Baker on the Map!
Subliminally Speaking
 
About the Cast
- Jon Favreau
- Rachael Leigh Cook
- Kelsey Grammer
- Sean Bean
- Daryl Hannah
- Adam Beach
- Joey Lauren Adams
- Melora Walters
- Jon Gries
- Bud Cort
- Gary Farmer
- Brent Briscoe
 About the Filmmakers
- Steve Anderson (Director)
- Doug Mankoff (Producer)
- Gregg L. Daniel (Producer)
- Andrew Spaulding (Producer)
- Keith Resnick (Producer)
- Steve Bickel (Executive Producer)
- Jeffrey Kramer (Executive Producer)
- Steven G. Kaplan (Executive Producer)
- Peter Wetherell (Executive Producer)
- Jory Weitz (Casting Director)
- Scott Scalise (Film Editor)
- Aaron Osborne (Production Designer)
- Chris Manley (Director of Photography)
- Brian Tyler (Music Composer)
- Dondi Bastone (Music Supervisor)
- Kristin M. Burke (Costume Designer)

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