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HomeAwardsWar Horse Screening and Q&A Features Spielberg's Close Collaborators

War Horse Screening and Q&A Features Spielberg’s Close Collaborators


The British cavalry charges toward a German encampment in this scene from DreamWorks Pictures' War Horse. (Photo by David Appleby. ©DreamWorks II Distribution).
BTL Screening members were recently invited to an extra screening opportunity of Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse at the Directors Guild of America followed by a Q&A session with four of Spielberg’s inner circle who served as integral creators on the film.

The panelists shared their insights, personal feelings and memories of shooting, starting with their response to the power of a film of this nature.

Makeup designer Lois Burwell said that, before being asked to do the film, she had read the book and seen the stage play.

“You can’t help but feel the power,” Burwell said. “There is an emotion and a beauty there.”

Director of photography Janusz Kaminski mentioned that there were natural advantages to filming in Dartmoor, an area in Devon, England.

“The weather changed so frequently during the day,” Kaminski said. “One moment there would be puffy white clouds, the next it would be clear skies, which was actually helpful.”

The weather in Dartmoor aided the crew’s brisk pace during the 60 days it took to shoot the film.

“When it rained, we did the rainy sequences, and when the sun was out, we did the sunny sequences,” Kaminski said. “I don’t remember anyone ever saying, ‘Oh it’s raining, we have to stop shooting.’”

Production designer Rick Carter pointed out how the development of technology for warfare further distinguished the progression of time throughout the film. He also noted the evolution of the landscape, starting at the serene and secure farm, later giving way to the perilous No Man’s Land.

“At the beginning you have this bucolic land and then you see it destroyed,” Carter said.

The panel also featured editor Michael Kahn, a close collaborator of Spielberg’s, who was asked how he approaches a new project.

“I get excited with what I do,” Kahn said. “I try not to bring anything with me from the last project. That’s key.”

Carter said that Spielberg works at a pace that is commensurate with how he would like to see a movie, and instinctively works at that pace, the metabolism of which is how it’s meant to be. Kahn added that Spielberg appreciates the security in that pace of work.

Kahn took several questions on the subject of editing, including his feelings regarding non-linear editing. He indicated he finds to be useful, but he encountered the unexpected complication of moving too quickly. It increased his production, granting him many more cuts than he usually uses, but this detracted from his focus.

“The problem I ran into is that I had no time to think,” said Kahn. “I was just throwing it out there.”

“You’re tempted to go fast,” Kahn said “And fast is not the answer in film editing.”

Kahn made it clear that his creative process only moves in one direction: forward.

“I don’t like to look back, that’s baggage,” Kahn said. “In fact, once I’m done with a movie, I don’t like to look at it again.”

“We’re all a part of Steven’s vision. We all have different roles,” Carter said. “I sometimes go into Lois’ space to sense what we need and Janusz helps steer me so I know I’m on track.”

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