Friday, August 4, 2000
Harry Potter and the Carlisle Connection
The fourth volume in the Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, has readers all abuzz. Some were standing in lines at their favorite bookstores late into the night of July 7, in hopes of being one of the first to discover the latest adventures of the young wizard. It went on sale at midnight, while Todd Arnow of East Street was in London checking out authentic locations for a Warner Brothers film that is to be made of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first book in the series. Arnow is the associate producer/production manager, and filming will begin on October 2. Most recently, Arnow was the production manager for one of this summer's blockbusters, The Perfect Storm.
When I spoke with Arnow two weeks ago in the comfortable kitchen of his home on East Street, he had just returned from London the night before, although you would have never guessed it from his alert and enthusiastic demeanor. Since April he has been working on preparations for the Harry Potter film which will have as director Chris Columbus, who was responsible for such films as Mrs. Doubtfire and Home Alone 2, and script-writer Steve Kloves.
This will be a big event movie...Part of the business is art, and part of the movie is product, packaged and sold."
"It is my job to evaluate, assess, and decide where and how, and how much money it will take, to make the script into a first-class, wide-release motion picture. This will be a big event movie," Arnow tells me. "Part of the business is art," he continues, "and part of the movie is product, packaged and sold." Arnow is a freelance producer who works film by film. His last three films, including The PerfectStorm, The Deep Blue Sea, and now the Harry Potter film have all been Warner Brothers productions. "I fell in with Warner Brothers. They approached me to make this film," Arnow is pleased to report.
Choosing a location
One of the biggest decisions to be made was where to shoot the film. The author J. K. Rowling, who is involved as a creative consultant, wanted it made in England, but other locations were considered, Canada, Scotland, California and Australia. "Ultimately we determined shooting in and around the U.K. was the most authentic and had the most practice allocations where we didn't have to build everything," says Arnow."And it made economic sense," he adds. The six months of preparation, he tells me, includes lots of research to make sure that there are locations that reflect the environment of the book, such as castles, a medieval look,cobblestone streets, as well as a movie studio. In this Harry Potter film, numerous locations must be portrayed, Privet Drive, the Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts school.
Arnow's overall duties, besides determining the filminglocations, include the day-to-day operations of making themovie, crew selection, shooting schedule, budget and setdesign. "I feel a professional and moral obligation to workwithin the confines of the budget. I take pride in that," heconfesses. "Both films that I have worked on, The PerfectStorm and The Deep Blue Sea, came in under budget. Thekey to what I do," he continues, "is argue with the studio orthe bank to get as much money as I can get to make the movie.Once we agree, after detailed analysis of what it will cost, Iwant to take as much of the money as I can and put it on thescreen, `production value,' for the good of the movie. Somemovies, many summer movies, are over-bloated and wasteful."
"Once you get a good script, you want to make thewritten word visual," stresses Arnow. "The more money youhave, the more you can do. If the people who are in chargeof the money manage the production carefully, they give thedirector the ability to have what he wants. I don't feelconfined by money," adds Arnow.
Filming will begin at the Leavesden Studio,40 miles north of London. It is the same studio where they filmedthe last Star Wars movie and Sleepy Hollow. Prior tobecoming a film studio, it was a landing field, a Rolls-Roycefactory, and testing grounds.
"My responsibilities endonce every scene has been filmed. The film is edited as weshoot. On completion of filming, the director has ten weeksto assemble his 'first cut,' which is his first version,without sound effects, and music. I'll stay around in casewe have to reshoot a scene," Arnow tells me.
Summing up the work he will have done on the film, Arnowsays some of it is creative and some mundane. "I do theorganizing, managing day to day operations of the film. I'mthe detail person who finds the right types of film andcameras to use, and finds specific locations."
Prior to his return to the States, the director hadbegun casting the movie. According to Arnow, most of theactors will be from the U.K. Some actors we'll know, but he'spretty sure the character of Harry Potter will be played by achild-actor whom we haven't seen before. "Last week we ranscreen tests. Kids were filmed and we watched them on a bigscreen," reports Arnow.
Getting into the film business
How did Arnow get into the film business? He grew up inShort Hills, New Jersey as a film buff, going to movies everySaturday. As a teenager, he would go into NewYork City to see some of the old Marx Brothers films. Aftergraduating from college in Colorado, Arnow moved to New YorkCity to become a production assistant "gofer." He worked onRaging Bull and was willingto travel and to work for very little money. "I'd work onanything to learn more about commercial film production," hesays.
Moving to Carlisle
Arnow, his wife Elizabeth, and their two daughters Emily,11, and Olivia, 9, moved to Carlisle four and a half yearsago. Elizabeth had grown up in Lincoln, and the familywanted to live in a small town in New England. "We love thephysical beauty of Carlisle, the solitude, the pace of lifeand being close to a metropolitan city," says Arnow. "I'velived lots of different places and I find it easier here. Ihave lots of long-distance travel but when I come home, it'sall worthwhile."
When work on the film ends in May, Todd Arnow will haveworked non-stop for 3 and 1/2 years. He wants to take nextsummer off, "unless someone is making a film in Carlisle," helaughs.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito