We’ve had several great pieces of Hunger Games movie news lately, so here’s a full post with a little something for everyone who is intrigued about the filming of Suzanne Collins’s remarkable story. Join me after the jump for thoughts on the fabulously fiery poster, the study guide from Scholastic, and a very detailed report from Jay, friend of this blog, and recent survivor of the District 12 Reaping (Way to go, Jay! Just one more year, and you’re home free, since I don’t think your mom let you take out tesserae). He tells us all about how being an extra for the film was a whole lot like actually being a Tribute.
A couple of weeks ago, when I first saw the announcement that there was a teaser poster, I was not impressed until I actually saw it “do its thing.” As you can see here, the poster actually “burns” to reveal the iconic Mockingjay pin and the motto “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Even in its static form, as it will be in the countless print version now in Cineplexes or in the hands of lucky Comic-Con attendees, the poster is brilliant, but the addition of the flames is fantastic, evoking both the “girl on fire ” motif and the alchemical structure of the trilogy. Anyone who has read all three books, though, will doubtless shudder at the brutal, and perfect, irony.
For those who are reading (and teaching) the novel in the classroom this fall, Scholastic has just released its official teaching resources page, which includes useful goodies like discussion points and videos along with material that had previously been at Scholastic, just harder to find, like that wonderful video of Collins reading from the first novel. Since this will be my second year of teaching the novel to my college students, it will be easier to find things, and, of course, I have my own materials I’ve developed, though it’s always good to have more. Still no sign of an official map (unless I missed it) which I would really love to have.
One student in my area has a very interesting summer story (actually, it was in late May). Jay, who is a friend of this blog and of this professor, was an extra, and he kindly agreed to share with us his experiences of working on the film. Due to legal restrictions, he could not take or share pictures, but here are some official pictures from Entertainment Weekly to tide us over until we see Jay and his colleagues in the Reaping on the big screen next year. I’m intrigued by how Jay describes an experience much like that Katniss undergoes. He told me his “prep team” consisted pretty much of Flavius and Octavia types, rather than any steady Cinna sorts. The ironies laden through this filming process continue to prove thought-provoking. Thanks so much, Jay! And h/t to James for other links!
Jay’s Experiences on the Hunger Games set
The working title of the film was Artemis. We arrived at a thrift store parking lot at 5:30am and rode a shuttle bus to the film site. There, we sat in a tent, eating the breakfast provided and changing into our costumes (separately, of course). Then, as needed, we were walked to “Second Holding,” a large building in the lumber-yard filming area whose facade was visible to the camera, but whose inside was completely isolated.
1. The set was WONDERFUL. We were shooting in Shelby, NC, in an abandoned lumber shipping area, and the old brick buildings were perfect for the setting. The Justice Building looked like a sci-fi meeting hall, and was complete with the inscription, “HALL OF JUSTICE,” above the massive doors. Juxtaposed with the worn-out brick buildings used to display everything else, the Justice Building created a perfect contrast, showing the lavish lifestyle and architecture of the Capital stacked right on top of the oppressed and poor District citizens.
2. The leading cast was pretty good (in my opinion). Jennifer Lawrence had lost weight for the role and her dyed-brown hair looked natural. Also, as I was in the Reaping, I noticed her blue dress, which I also found accurate and spot on. I did not see Josh Hutcherson. I found Liam Hemsworth to be completely incorrect. He was not lanky like Gale, and he was taller and stronger than everyone in the Reaping. He looks like someone from Districts 1 or 2. Prim’s actress, Willow Shields, looked and acted perfectly in the role, though she stumbled with her lines a little. She is making her debut in the film, though, so she will likely make strides as a technical actress. The only other celebrity cast member I saw was Elisabeth Banks, playing Effie Trinket, who said “good morning” to me personally, making my day. She had a great wig, complete with a large, floppy flower, and very “Capital-y” clothing and speech. She acted very well as Effie, too, being perfectly peppy but keeping disdain in her voice.
3. Our costumes were pulled from the 1930s (The Great Depression). While I understood this as a move to relate to people’s mental image of “poor and oppressed,” I found it a little lacking in creativity and not well-founded. The costumes were also incredibly hot and motion-inhibiting, making them VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. Also, the costume staff buzzed around like wasps between takes, essentially picking on anyone who they felt needed to be “edited.” Our costumes had been fitted in the weeks prior, and if necessary, our hair was cut (they deemed it necessary for me). I was given a haircut common among factory workers of the 30s and 40s.
4. The cast of extras was odd. As a whole, we were generally small-framed and brown-haired. However, there were people of different races and skin/hair-tones, too. Some of the extras were very attractive, while others could only be classified as “cave-dwellers.” Many of the young children also seemed too young; 12 (the Games minimum) is of course, a very young age, but I saw people who looked no more than 6 in the Reaping scene. The only thing that almost every extra had in common was a desire to be seen. There was a good deal of pushing and speed-walking to certain positions of camera-view, because everyone wanted their shot at the glorious “15 seconds.”
5. It was HOT. It never fell below 75 degrees during filming.
6. Pay was minimum wage.
7. It felt like the film staff was Capital and we (the cast) were the Districts, in that they knew everything that was happening and kept it all completely organized, but we didn’t know it and therefore felt out of sorts, in a lot of cases.
8. Filming took place during the weeks prior to and following Labor Day. I was in attendance for 3 days. Some of the children were there for 4, but most were there for 2 and then asked not to return because the director wished to maintain consistency. The Hob workers (who all looked spot-on) were used for about 7 days, I think.
Filming continues this month with Capitol folks, according to the extra-casting company’s facebook page, and apparently, they are having trouble with folks cancelling out on them (if they are only getting minumum wage, that isn’t surprising.)