Before filming The Hunger Games, director Gary Ross had a very clear plan of what he wanted the film to be. And he found the location North Carolina to perfectly fit those needs, so much so he plans to go back for Catching Fire.
Q. When you say you wanted to be clear about what kind of movie you were going to make, what do you mean?
To make it very subjective. To be in Katniss’s point of view. I spent a lot of time wondering what it means to be in a character’s point of view: How do I get in her head? … (I knew) the filmmaking was going to be a little more raw, a little more vérité, a little more urgent than a lot of these other franchises, because I needed to put you in her shoes.
Q. What does that mean, to be “in a character’s point of view”?
Restricting the audience’s information to what the character knows, when they know it, when they find it out. It isn’t literally being in a point-of-view shot. There were a lot of things where what I was going to do would put you in Katniss’s point of view, and also make the thing completely real, all the time. This couldn’t feel like some glossy, overly produced thing. Because the minute we start trying to goose that, we end up … exploiting the spectacle instead of glimpsing it.
Q. Why did you decide to shoot in North Carolina?
It wasn’t just the rebate, although that certainly helps. (North Carolina gave “The Hunger Games” a 25 percent rebate on salaries for resident cast and crew and what the film spent on taxable items in the state.) The old Phillip Morris plant (in Concord) was really a terrific thing – it provided instant sound stages for us, and a lot of them. And the plant was self-contained, kind of like a studio. That was really terrific.
Also, more specifically, the woods around Asheville … what we created was fantastic. We were able to have the full run of all that natural splendor – Coleman Boundary, the North Fork Watershed, DuPont State Forest and the Triple Falls area … we gained full access to all those woods. They couldn’t have provided us with more.
Q. What were some of the unforeseen challenges that you ran into while filming?
It rains a lot in the summertime around there, so we lost a lot of time to that. It was hot (during the Reaping scenes that were shot in Shelby). And the physical challenge of filming in the woods – I wouldn’t say it was unforeseen, but after six or eight weeks in the woods every day, sitting on tree stumps and hiking up and down mountains, you get in shape … but there’s a physical demand in all that.
Q. Is there anything that surprised you in a good way?
How much I loved the state. I’m not just saying this because I’m talking to you. Asheville’s really where we were based, and they were incredibly welcoming. It’s a magical little community … this little jewel of a city off in the mountains. … We became locals at a number of restaurants. We got very known. There’s this great place called the Book Exchange in that became kind of a haunt. We spent lots of time at this place called Bywater, which is a little local bar set on the banks of the (French Broad) river.… I had never been to Asheville before, not before we scouted, but I’m dying to go back.
Q. Maybe you’ll be back there to shoot “Catching Fire” (the sequel to “The Hunger Games”)? Although, of course, a lot of that book takes place in a tropical setting.
Well, it’s still set in District 12 (Katniss’ home, recreated near Asheville and in Hildebran and Shelby). There’s a lot of District 12. I certainly hope we come back. And I had a fantastic time in Charlotte, I loved living there.
You can read the entire interview at the Charlotte Observer.