At first glance, the film Game Night, directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, doesn't seem like your typical action-comedy that audiences would be used to. However, Game Night is able to combine some of the best motifs and references from all of Cinema and create one of the best Dark Comedy Films of the past 10 years.
The Production Design is masterful and each space and location feel as though they were selected with care and attention. The film also features an incredible "one-take" sequence through a mansion that encapsulates everything we love about the film.
In an exclusive interview with Interiors, we spoke with Michael Corenblith, who is the Production Designer for Game Night.
INT: First off, we were curious how the opportunity to do the film, Game Night, came about? What was it about it that made you want to work on it?
As with most projects, what drew me to Game Night was the uniqueness of the screenplay. It is unusual for a script to keep me on-edge and guessing till the last scene. The tone was really unique, in that the story and essential misdirection allowed the visuals to follow the forms of an “action-thriller,” and be thought of only in those terms. The screenplay offered a lot of these set-pieces, including a fight scene in a stylish contemporary house, a rescue from a dive-bar, the crashing of a Gulfstream G-4, and the Faberge Egg sequence in the Anderton Mansion.
What really cemented my desire to work on the film was meeting with the directors, Jonathan Goldstein, and John Francis Daley. When, in our initial conversation, I proposed that were the audience to see this film with the sound turned off, they wouldn’t be able to identify it as a comedy, the directors found this to be an articulation of what they were hoping to achieve, and our collaboration took wings in that first meeting.
INT: There is a sequence in the film where the group is trying to escape Donald Anderton’s house with the egg. The scene masterfully goes through multiple rooms and spaces in a single, continuous shot. How did you approach this scene initially?
What Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley had scripted for what became known as the “egg-toss” sequence, was conceptually fully developed when I read it for the first time. In keeping with the “action-thriller” sensibility, in my discussions with the directors, the intention was to not only give the illusion of the sequence being one, continuous shot, but also involving each of our Principal Actors, with a “real” as opposed to “digital” Faberge Egg, and exciting, dynamic and cinematic camera work, as we follow the action. And while some “digital trickery” was inevitable, the intention was to make the sequence as “real” and “practical” as possible.
This informed the types of locations I was seeking, to accommodate these very specific requirements. A newly built mansion in the suburbs north of Atlanta provided every capability and opportunity we could imagine. The house was centered around a three story tall atrium, that had multiple stairways and balconies with generous apertures and sight-lines between the spaces around the atrium. The directors could see the potential that the location afforded them, but the actual nuts-and-bolts of figuring this out could now include the Cinematographer, Barry Peterson, and the Stunt Coordinator, Steven Ritzi.
Art Director, Danny Brown, was able to take the architect’s plans for the house, and use them to create low-definition SketchUp models, that were used by the Directors, Cinematographer, and Stunts in laying out the basics of the choreography and camera movements.
INT: From a Production Design standpoint, can you explain some of the challenges that came with this scene for you and your team? Were there obstacles in terms of the space and camera movements?
As the sequence developed and the “transit” of the egg throughout the location became finalized, the Art and Construction Departments began implementing the changes to the location required by the physical needs of the Camera and Stunts. This entailed the disguising of “stunt-fall” pads and hiding some of the rigging for cables that held the camera as it flew across the atrium as it followed the Faberge Egg. The most complex of these physical scenery effects involved replicating a section of the existing balcony railing, creating hidden hinges that allowed it to swing away to make space for the camera to dive over the railing as it followed the egg.
This sequence begins with the discovery of the egg in a wall-safe during the “fight-club” scene. The creation of a plausible hidden safe was another chance to reinforce the “action-thriller” aesthetic over the comedic.
INT: Many have said that this scene is reminiscent of one from the film, Panic Room, in which the camera is traveling through a house during a particular sequence. Was this an inspiration in any way? Were there other films that were looked at?
As I was reading the screenplay for the first time, there came a moment when I recognized some of the affinities with David Fincher’s 1997 film, The Game, so it’s interesting that you would mention Panic Room, though this was never mentioned or referenced. In my first meeting with Jonathan and John, I spoke of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours as an example of a story falling forward in a single night, and of course Scorsese’s bravura tracking shot from Goodfellas. But in general, I try and avoid re-watching any of these particular films, and instead try and employ the common vocabulary they’ve epitomized, and create something new and unique for this film with this team.
Michael Corenblith is a Production Designer and has worked on various Films and Television Series. You can visit his Website to see more of his work.