From facing hurricanes to coordinating motorcycle chases, the production of THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES was quite an adventure. Writer/Director Derek Cianfrance explains.

Q: You spent over a decade trying to make Blue Valentine, but it must have been easier getting the financing for this film.

Derek Cianfrance:

During the 12 years on the bench waiting to make


, I prepared for other projects or opportunities. Because


had some level of success, I was able to put


The crew over at Sidney Kimmel Entertainment responded to the script. From my first meeting with them, it was clear that they were passionate about seeing the best version of the film. I am thankful to them because they gave me a lot of trust, space and time to make the film the way I wanted. They also pushed me to go further where and when I needed to while establishing the right boundaries, which I feel are important for a filmmaker like me. Those let me know where the edge is, so I can play close to the edge and not fall off. Without that, I might go on forever and get lost. My producers - Jamie Patricof, Lynette Howell, and Alex Orlovsky - are exactly what I want out of producers. We did Blue together, and I hope to make every movie with them. They were the first people to read the Pines script besides Ryan. They challenge me. They aren't pushovers. When they have to, they defend me. They make the crazy dreams in my head come true.

Q: So the production went smoothly?


With one huge exception: Hurricane Irene struck and Schenectady had its biggest floods in 500 years. The night before she hit, I moved my family out of the house where we were staying. The next morning the house was under 15 feet of water. We had to cancel production because our equipment trucks were submerged. When I found out that we had two days' worth of filmed footage on one of the trucks, I was beside myself - I've had film negative lost before. The camera department, led by first AC Ludovic Littee, took a canoe out to the truck and rescued our footage. We were back filming the next day.

Q: Who else was on your crew, and what did they bring to the project creatively?


Our production designer Inbal Weinberg and her team made every room of every house fully functional, even if we weren't going to be shooting in those rooms. Since we were shooting in so many live locations, I needed the actors to continue living in the real world. Inbal did


with me, and I love working with her because she never hesitates to disagree with me and fight for her ideas. I love her spirit and her taste. She has a way of going into places and making them iconic without being quirky. The costumer was Erin Benach, also from


, who creates such iconic clothes for people to wear in-character. Even more importantly, she collaborates with the actors to find the clothes that will help them to discover their characters. I completely trust her.


You hadn't worked with this cinematographer before. What made you pick him?


I had already met with a number of DPs, and then Sean Bobbitt told me a lot about his process and how he prefers using handheld cameras and natural lighting, and his theories on camera movement. To me, he has such a strong sense of composition and I wanted


to be like flipping through the pages of a storybook. I found out Sean had been a war photographer, so I sensed he would help us all be fearless and he did.

Q: When on the shoot was that a factor? DC: We knew the first scene of this film should be an epic shot, taking us, like a dream, from the space of Luke's trailer through a working fairground and into a circus tent where he and other riders would begin riding a motorcycle in a steel-cage "globe of death" - upside down. Sean wanted to go inside of that globe. So he suited up protectively and we started shooting, did the whole 5-minutes-long tracking shot and then he went in the center of the globe. I'm watching the monitor, it's beautiful, but then I hear a crash and the monitor goes fuzzy.

I look over at the globe and I see Sean on the bottom of a pile of three motorcycles. The paramedics run in and everyone's asking if he's OK. Sean was - angry he didn't get the shot! He gets up and says, "Let's do it again!" I say, "Sean, don't do it again." He says, "I'm doing it again. We must get this shot and go to the center of it." So we went back to the start point, filmed from the trailer all the way into the center of the globe of death, and again at the same exact moment the monitor goes static. I look up to again find Sean under motorcycles. This time he was even more shaken up and even angrier at himself for not getting the shot. We cancelled the shoot for that night. Around 3:00 AM, Sean woke up in his hotel room and didn't know what country he was in. We took him to the emergency room and it turns out he had a concussion. But the next night we did it all again, and I prevailed upon him not go inside, which wasn't easy. That night we got the shot you see in the film.

Q: Can you talk about the action scenes, and how everyone approached those? DC: One thing Blue was noted for was its frank sexuality. On PINES, I wanted to approach the action scenes in the same way. They had to feel like they were happening in the real world, like the rest of the movie. This meant that Ryan Gosling had to learn how to ride a motorcycle. The most complicated scene was where Luke goes into a bank, robs it, leaves the bank, escapes on his motorcycle, and drives at tremendously fast speeds through a busy intersection amidst lots of other cars while being pursued by a cop. All of this happens in a single take, no place to do a "Texas switch." So Ryan had to become very proficient on the bike. He trained with Rick Miller, one of the great Hollywood stunt men, six hours a day for two months. His prowess took our breath away. In order to get that scene completed, Ryan did 22 takes. Every time, he almost got hit. For other scenes, it had to be stunt men. I was blessed with a great team of stunt drivers led by Brian Smyj. I felt they were excited to be a part of PINES because normally they would risk their lives doing a stunt for a massive movie and then see their death-defying feat reduced to 14 frames in the final product. I didn't want to cut within the action scenes. My points of reference were Cops and World's Wildest Police Videos. The stunt team was up for all that, but I will never forget the feeling in my stomach watching Rick Miller lay down his bike at 65 miles per hour for a shot. Those stunt guys and gals are true warriors.

Q: What were the challenges in post-production? DC: I hate editing, and editing this movie was a beast. There was a lot of story to get through, characters to explore. The only thing that made it bearable is the fact that two of my closest friends edited PINES; I've been working with Jim Helton for about 20 years and Ron Patane for about 10. They've edited as a team several times before. Our first rough cut, after six months, ran three-and-one-half hours. Overall it took us nine months to fully edit the film - seven days a week and sixteen hours a day.

Q: Was there discussion of intercutting the three sections, cross-cutting among them? DC: No. That had come up early on, at the script stage. Other people would then bring it up again when I was looking for financing. But I never considered it. This is a story about lineage, so it needed to be linear. I always wanted an audience to experience the movie that way. There's not the security of a flashback or a shift to lessen the impact when things happen to the characters.

Q: Was the score an easier part of the post-production process?


Yes. The single greatest concert I ever went to was Mr. Bungle in Denver in 1991. I remember [the band's member and founder] Mike Patton, wearing a bondage mask and horse blinders, licking the head of a bald bouncer. I always felt his music was so cinematic, and for films I made in high school, I'd always put his music on.

Mike read the PINES script. His brother is a police officer so it was like fate...and, a dream come true for me to get to work with him. He understood the haunted qualities of the story.

Q: Are those qualities what you hope an audience takes away from the film, or, something else?


One response that meant a lot to me came from a well-respected and powerful man who shall remain nameless. After seeing


, he cancelled his business dinner scheduled for that night. Then he called his ex-wife and asked her, "I know it's your night tonight, but could I come pick him up?" He drove across town, picked up his teenage son, brought his boy home, and they spent time together.

I'm not a message filmmaker. I want people to be entertained, to be absorbed by the story, and to take what they will into their own lives.