Production Notes – Every Thing Will Be Fine

Mongrel Media
Published: September 2015

SYNOPSIS
A winter evening. A car on a country road. It’s snowing, visibility is poor. Out of nowhere, a sled comes sliding down a hill. The car comes to a grinding halt. Silence.

The driver is Tomas, a writer. He cannot be blamed for the tragic accident. It’s also not young Christopher’s fault, who should have taken better care of his brother, nor their mother’s, Kate, who could have called the children home earlier.

Tomas falls into a depression. The relationship with his girlfriend Sara breaks under the pressure. All Tomas can do is continue writing. But does he have the right to base his work on experiences that include the grief of others? The film follows Tomas and his efforts to give meaning to his life again, as he establishes a family of his own with Ann and her daughter Mina. It also follows Kate and Christopher until, at the age of seventeen, the young man decides to confront the stranger he only met once, on that fateful evening.

In a careful and precise way “Every Thing Will Be Fine” talks about guilt and the search for forgiveness. It shows that it is not time alone that heals wounds but the courage to face up to things and to forgive. Especially oneself.

From an original script by Norwegian author Bjørn Olaf Johannessen, Wim Wenders shoots again in 3D, and explores, after the success of his dance film PINA, the potential of three-dimensional expression in an intimate family drama.

PRODUCTION NOTES

SCRIPT “It wasn’t me who chose the story, it chose me“, says Wim Wenders: ‘Every Thing Will Be Fine’ came to me in an unexpected way, in the form of a screenplay in the mail, sent to me by Bjørn Olaf Johannessen.“ The German director had met the young Norwegian screenwriter during the Sundance Script Lab where Johannessen’s screenplay “Nowhere Man“ had received the top prize from the jury chaired by Wenders. Impressed by the originality of his idea, the clarity of its structure, the quality of the dialogues and the natural simplicity, he encouraged the young author to send him his next screenplay. In fact, Johannessen did this three years later, and Wenders liked this first draft of “Every Thing Will Be Fine“ so much that together with his producer Gian-Piero Ringel they decided to option the script and to start its development already during the postproduction on “Pina“.

DECISION FOR 3D The experiences Wim Wenders had made with the 3D technology during the shooting of “Pina“ played an important role in this decision: “The greatest 3D surprise during this ‘Pina’ apprenticeship wasn’t our extremely lavish crane shoots or the often very exciting outside shots. The most simple shots we did at the very end of the shooting were the real revelation: we filmed portraits of each member of the ensemble for a few minutes, just a person sitting in front of the camera, with a dark wall behind. What I saw there exceeded all my previous understanding of 3D. There was everything I had experienced already, ‘space’ and a certain ‘depth’, but also something quite new that I had never seen before: the sheer ‘presence’ and the simple and natural existence of a person in front of a camera surpassed everything I had ever seen, both in the old cinema as well as in the new three-dimensional one. A story that one could tell with this kind of enhanced presence would literally get ‘under your skin’. ‘Every Thing Will Be Fine’ was precisely the right story for trying this new intimate storytelling in 3D because so much of it happens within the characters.”

MONTRÉAL AND SURROUNDINGS When it became clear that Wim Wenders wanted to direct the film himself, work started to further develop the screenplay which, at this point, essentially consisted of a very interesting basic structure of around 12 short chapters breaking down into small periods of time over the course of about 12 years. But above all, the film didn’t have a location yet: “I need a sense of place for my work“, Wenders says: “It is only when there’s a close connection between a place and a story that I can really understand it and know how to film it…” Interest soon centered on Canada after Germany, the base of Wim Wenders’ and Gian-Piero Ringel’s production company Neue Road Movies was ruled out. A location with safe snow conditions in the winter was needed. The author’s Norwegian home was discounted, as it needed to be plausible that people were speaking English: “When Bjørn Olaf wrote the story, it was initially set nowhere,” Wim Wenders recalls. “When I realised that I needed a hilly landscape with lots of snow as well as a large city in the vicinity so that one could plausibly move back and forth without having to take a train or plane, I immediately knew the right place, and that was Montréal and Quebec.”

“I looked for the right location over the course of two years until I came across the little town Oka. You have a wonderful view there of the Hudson River which actually turns into a lake there. In the summertime, it’s a peaceful scene full of sailing boats. But in the winter, it’s completely transformed: the water becomes an ice bridge, and you can drive over it to the other side. You have people staying in these little huts on the frozen lake and fishing. I liked this idea of a place that is completely transformed and whose character is quite different in the winter from the summer. I first came to Montréal in the 70’s and then became a regular visitor of the ‘Festival du Jeune Cinéma’. I’ve always liked the town and had the feeling that I wanted to explore it further at some point. I waited, so to speak, for 30 years so that I could shoot here.” When the locations were decided, director, author and producer stayed in Montréal for a while to further adjust the story to its new home.

KATE’S HOUSE A central location for the film, in fact “a kind of anchorage for the story” and where the accident actually happens, was Kate’s secluded house. Wim Wenders looked throughout all of of Quebec for it, in the Laurentides to the south-west of Quebec as well as in the Eastern Cantons, until he finally found what he was looking for near Montréal: “I found the house with a kind of seventh sense. You couldn’t see it at all from the main road. I only saw this little country road which branched off, with a little forest concealing what lay behind. I needed half an hour to trudge through the deep snow which went up to my knees, and then this little red house appeared in front of me. Its access roads hadn’t been cleared because nobody was living there in the winter. It was love at first sight. I knew straightaway, that’s it!”

THE SEASONS With the risk of telling a story over a period of 12 years and several seasons, “Every Thing Will Be Fine” is the biggest production to date – both financially and logistically – for “Neue Road Movies Filmproduktion”: “Of course, there was the obvious question of whether we couldn’t depict two, or better even three, seasons in one,” says producer Gian-Piero Ringel, who was nominated together with Wim Wenders in 2012 for the Oscar (“Pina”), when recalling the initial considerations about reducing the costs: “Shooting large parts of the interiors in Germany would have simplified matters greatly. But we then came to the conclusion that this accident can only happen in winter and that the period of almost 12 years had to be properly represented. The seasons are therefore an essential component of the film and convey the passing of time. So it was clear that we would be shooting at original locations rather than in a studio, and that we would need at least two shooting blocks. The whole crew would have to go to Canada twice, and both times do the preparations and the shoot, as if it were two films. In the finished film, you can sense that we were serious about the place as well as the time frame of our story.”

THE CO-PRODUCERS Since the whole film was supposed to be shot in Canada, producer Gian- Piero Ringel initially looked for a Canadian co-production partner: “After having developed the story over several years, it was a big step to give up total control of the project. We needed a partner whom we could fully trust so that they would realise this production in our name and in accordance with our intentions. I always try to find a strong partner in each country, someone I can rely upon if I have a project in this territory. We met with several local producers, had lengthy discussions with them and finally decided on Ronald Gilbert who then worked very reliably at our side.” On the European side, Bjørn Olaf Johannessen established the connection to Maria Ekerhovd in Norway with whom Ringel is now also pursuing other joint projects. Oskar Söderlund, a producer and successful screenwriter from Gothenburg, completed the Scandinavian part of the production. And finally, the Paris-based production company Bac Films came on board.

ARCTIC TEMPERATURES A particular challenge was filming in the winter, with outside temperatures of under minus 20 degrees during the day and as low as minus 30 degrees in the evenings or during the night: “We tried to be very well prepared,” says producer Gian-Piero Ringel: “We did a cold test with the 3D cameras and the mirror rigs in a cold chamber in Munich where we could bring the temperatures down to minus 30 degrees. In the summer, our camera crew ran tests to see how the batteries and equipment reacted to the wind and cold. The whole opening sequence on the frozen Hudson River was shot in Arctic conditions, unprotected and right on the ice, which was a great strain for many of the crew members. They were having to spend not just two, but often up to 12 hours outside. There were infrared tents, and we tried to change the crew members whenever possible, but, of course, you can’t switch the core crew of the director, the director of photography, the gaffer and many others. We mastered this very well thanks to the experienced Canadian crew who were better acquainted with these weather conditions.” However, there were the occasional technical problems. A large part of the camera equipment was frozen solid once when no one had noticed that the heating for the camera truck had broken down overnight. And to keep continuity in the snow levels was also a great challenge.

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY BENOÎT DEBIE According to Gian-Piero Ringel, a secret of Wim Wenders’ lasting success is the fact that he manages to stay true to himself and, at the same time, is constantly inventing himself anew. What’s more, he is always working with new people: apart from the Norwegian author and the French composer Alexandre Desplat, this was particularly the case here with the the director of photography Benoît Debie: “Wim and I, together with our colleague Erwin M. Schmidt, we considered the possible aesthetics of the film and asked ourselves: who could help us to establish this? We discussed and researched various cinematographers and screened their work. We just tried to find out in quite an unbiased way who was out there in the first place. For Benoît Debie, ‘Every Thing Will Be Fine’ was his debut with the 3D camera, which didn’t pose a problem as we had a stereographer on board in Joséphine Derobe who had worked with her father Alain Derobe (who passed away in 2012) for many years and already collaborated with him on ‘Pina’: “As an experienced stereographer, she could iron out any problems with the 3D technology, so we were not forced to look for a director of photography with experience in 3D. What’s more, we had just had a good experience with a one-week workshop for the five cinematographers on ‘Cathedrals of Culture’, none of whom had ever filmed in 3D previously. So, we were confident that the special 3D features could be easily communicated.”

COMPOSER ALEXANDRE DESPLAT The producer and director followed a similar procedure for their choice of composer as they had when deciding on the cinematographer: “From the outset, Wim had the feeling that the film needed a symphonic score,” Ringel notes. “I believe that we shouldn’t patronise our audience, but give them enough space; consequently, I am always worried about scores that might have a manipulative effect. But a screenplay working with many ellipses can also handle a score that transports the hero’s inner states of mind. Alexander Desplat is certainly one of the greatest film composers worldwide. He has an enormous range between major American productions and very individual European projects. In my opinion, his scores have texture and soul and support our particular approach to modern narration.“

EDIT AND COMPLETION As with “Pina“, Gian-Piero Ringel again advocated an unhurried editing process: “I don’t think highly of the regular editing times. In my opinion, it is important to leave the material for a while and then to see it with fresh eyes after a few weeks. This meant that the film could be constantly changed and refined right up to the end.” As was the case on “Pina”, the editing was again in the hands of Toni Froschhammer, with a setup that was easy on the eyes with the editing done both in 2D and 3D, with the constant possibility of watching scenes simultaneously in a large 3D projection: “That’s extremely important because a lot of things have a quite different effect in 3D,” Ringel explains. “Many cuts don’t function in 3D, because you have a really different perception of time and the shots can last longer. It’s an enormous advantage having a small, custom-built 3D setup in the editing suite where a screening can be arranged on short notice.”

The beginning of February saw Alexandre Desplat personally conducting the recording of his composition with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. A few days later, “Every Thing Will Be Fine” will have its world premiere at the Berlinale.

INTERVIEW WITH WIM WENDERS

The actors have an enormous presence through 3D: to what extent did this affect the casting and the work with the actors?
3D is a big challenge for actors because these cameras see and notice simply everything. Nothing escapes these eagle eyes. There are two of them and their attention is raised, as it were, to the power of two. Their sense of truth is acute! They notice everything you are “producing” in front of them. The 3D camera forces the actor to be and not to play because it will mercilessly expose the slightest exaggeration. It was for this reason that I paid particular attention to the actors having a strong and natural presence on their own. James Franco is an extreme minimalist. Sometimes, it just needed a small hint from me for him to rein back his performance. Charlotte Gainsbourg just has the uncanny ability to turn into the part, and at the same time really be herself, with everything that she is, with her whole soul. And precisely for this reason she is Kate. And I cast Rachel McAdams because of that incredibly positive energy that she exudes in every role. During the shoot, I then encouraged them all not to show anything to the camera, but just to be. Every now and then, we repeated a scene to make the characters yet more authentic and “naked”.

Can you speak about the three women’s roles?
There are really four. In the story’s chronological order, we first meet Sara (Rachel McAdams) with whom Tomas is living when he goes through the traumatic experience at the beginning of the story. She is the one who probably suffers the most from the events, because she has to bear the consequences. He breaks up with her twice. Then there is the mother of the little boy, Kate (Charlotte Gainsbourg). As they only meet a couple of times during the entire story, one can’t really speak of them having a relationship. Nevertheless, their fates are closely intertwined with one another and a special closeness develops between them, a strong connection, mainly because Tomas’s life is so closely connected with that of her second son, Christopher, who survived the accident, grows up with this trauma and becomes a young man in the course of the film. And then we have Ann (Marie-Joseé Croze), the new woman in Tomas’s life. He wants to start a family and be happy with her and her daughter Mina. But for a long time, he tries to block his past from this relationship, so it is based on a lie. Little Mina also has a powerful presence in the story. She is about seven or eight when Tomas and Ann move in together, and she is fifteen or sixteen at the end. All four women are definitely more candid about dealing with conflicts than Tomas is and consequently force him to come out of his shell. Women are always much more direct about addressing things than us men.

How did Rachel McAdams come to the film?
I knew that she would be the right one for the role, and that was based on two films, Terrence Malick’s “To The Wonder” and a science-fiction film that hardly anyone knows here, “The Time-Traveller’s Wife“. In both films, Rachel radiates an enormously positive energy which is also a wonderful quality for the role of Sara. Such characters are so rare in cinema! With them you get the feeling that everything they do is destined for good. They have this natural self-confidence and simply “a good heart”. Sara is such an optimistic person and, actually, it’s a disgrace when Tomas leaves her and probably he also realises this himself when he unexpectedly meets her again some years later. But the events almost force him to break with this part of his life. You sometimes ask yourself why you gave up the best thing that ever happened to you, but you nevertheless had to see it through at that point in your life. And it’s only because he gives up Sara that Tomas then has the chance for a relationship with Ann and Mina.

What does Rachel McAdams mean when she says that the scenes were so well prepared, that she didn’t have to worry at all about where she is standing, walking or sitting? Isn’t it a paradox that she regards the restrictions of the bulky 3D camera as being liberating?
Yes and no. 3D requires that you as a director know your locations even better. Just like the actors, places have an increased presence and poignancy. You must be extremely precise in knowing where everything is positioned and how the camera is reacting to the location, how you can capture its unique character and space. It has something to do with the way the 3D camera engages itself with that space, and that’s something I have spent a long time preparing, first alone, then with my storyboard artist and the production designer and finally with the director of photography. I have never spent so much time at any film’s locations as I did on this film. I spent practically two years in this landscape everywhere where we filmed, in winter, autumn, spring and summer, until I had internalised the places to the point where I knew almost automatically where exactly the camera would stand for every shot. And then it tends to happen all by itself what the actors then do and, above all, how they move. And when this is evident for the director and the director of photography, it actually provides the actors with a great freedom.

INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL MCADAMS
What prompted you to accept the part of Sara?
I love Wim and I love his films and his sensibility. I think he makes art for art’s sake and that’s very hard to find sometimes. I was just really thrilled that he offered me the part and I thought it was a really interesting film.

How would you describe the character of Sara?
Sara is complicated and going through all kinds of stuff in her life, so there was lots to explore. We get to watch her develop over 12 years as a young woman struggling with this young man and trying to make this fairly tumultuous relationship work. How does she relate to him? How does she carry that relationship over the next 12 years? She has a great deal of love for Tomas and tries to keep him inspired as an artist, but also grounded as a lover and a partner.

She is quite hurt and feels a little bit left behind by him, and that hurt is still – much to her surprise – just as strong when they meet each other randomly way down the road. They are a bit like moths to a flame and, no matter how much time passes, it doesn’t go away if you have that kind of connection. It’s sort of life long – it doesn’t mean you have to be with that person – but it’s always there.

Did you prepare yourself for this part in any special way?
Wim was very open to do a slight French Canadian accent which was great because it can inform the character so much. There’s a certain sensibility that comes with that. Without making any gross generalizations, what I love about French Canadians is that they are so open and that their hearts are really on their sleeves. It was a case of finding this balance with Sara being tender and treating Tomas gingerly because he is going through a lot, but also being honest and finding her own truth.

What was it like working with James Franco?
It was short, but sweet. I think that he’s such an immense talent and he is so soulful, he can do so much with so little, and he can say so much with his eyes and his being. I think Tomas is that way too, but, unlike Tomas, I think James has a real lightness. He is a lot of fun to work with because he takes everything in stride; he is very malleable, flexible and very generous. It was funny to see him inhabit this tortured person because he is so not that way, and it was great to watch him flipping in and out of character so easily. I wanted to work with him for a long time, so this was lovely.

What was special about working with Wim Wenders?
It was a real privilege, he was just a delightful person to be around and he gives actors a great deal of space and room. He is also such a visionary, he really has something in mind, and so you can lean on that. You can feel quite free to explore and know that he is guiding you all the way, but with a very gentle touch. Wim has such a unique voice in the film world, he is always very brave trying out new things like the new approach to 3D technology. I’m a big fan of his and that was just reinforced by getting to work with him.

Has it been different acting in front of a 3D camera?

It wasn’t unlike regular filming. The cameras were a little bit different and you can’t do a lot of movement, but this film doesn’t lend itself to that anyway. I appreciated that in a way because you came to the set and Wim would have done the choreography. I found that quite liberating because you could focus on the intense emotions that you are trying to go for. I have to admit I’ve never been a fan of 3D because I always found it takes me out of the film. But then I saw “Pina“, which changed my whole theory that you should only see dance live and never on a flat screen. The film showed that 3D can be quite magical, that it can really suck you in and just enhance everything. I am very curious to see the scenes that are described as having this heightened reality through 3D. I just loved those scenes when I read them; I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but it seemed really magical, mythical and very emotional.

IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA

Rachel McAdams’ transformative performances have established her as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after and respected actors.

McAdams has quite a busy summer ahead of her. First up, she will star in Cameron Crowe’s untitled film opposite Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone. The romantic comedy centers on a defense contractor who falls for an Air Force pilot after he is assigned to oversee the launch of a weapons satellite from Hawaii. The film is slated to be released by Sony Pictures on May 29, 2015.

Following that, she will be seen starring alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker in the Kurt Sutter-written drama Southpaw. The story centers around a fighter (Gyllenhaal) trying to recapture his glory and reconnect with a love he lost (McAdams). The Weinstein Company is set for release on July 31, 2015.

This summer will also mark the premiere of the second season of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective. McAdams will play “Sheriff Ani Bezzirades”, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective whose uncompromising ethics put her at odds with others and the system she serves. She will star alongside Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn.

McAdams wrapped production on three other projects. Most recent being Thomas McCarthy’s Spotlight, starring alongside Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo. The film tells the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. Prior to that, she shot Wim Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine starring opposite James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Robert Naylor. Finally, McAdams lent her voice as a character in Mark Osborne’s The Little Prince alongside James Franco and Jeff Bridges. McAdams was last seen in Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright and Willem Dafoe. The spy thriller, based on the popular John le Carré novel, is set in present-day Hamburg, Germany, where a mysterious half-Chechen, half-Russian man, brutally scarred from torture, surfaces in the city’s Islamic community, on the run and desperate for help. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and Roadside was released July 2014.

McAdams starred in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris which earned McAdams a SAG nomination for “Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture” alongside cast mates Owen Wilson, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, Carla Bruni, and Michael Sheen. The film also earned Golden Globe nominations for “Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy,” “Best Director,” “Best Actor,” and “Best Screenplay” and is Woody Allen’s highest grossing film to date. That same year, she reprised her role as Irene Adler in Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows opposite Robert Downey Jr.

Previous film credits include Michael Sucsy’sThe Vow, opposite Channing Tatum, Richard Curtis’ About Time opposite Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy, Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder opposite Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Brian De Palma’s Passion opposite Noomi Rapace, Roger Michell’s Morning Glory opposite Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, Robert Schwentke’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, Neil Burger’s The Lucky Ones, Married Life (Toronto Film Festival 2007 Premiere), The Family Stone opposite Diane Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker, Wes Craven’s Red Eye opposite Cillian Murphy, David Dobkin’s Wedding Crashers opposite Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Christopher Walken, Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook opposite Ryan Gosling and Mean Girls. In 2005, McAdams received ShoWest’s Supporting Actress of the Year Award as well as the Breakthrough Actress of the Year at the Hollywood Film Awards. In 2009, she was awarded with ShoWest’s Female Star of the Year.

McAdams was born and raised in a small town outside of London, Ontario. Involved with theater growing up, she went on to graduate with honors with a BFA degree in Theater from York University.