Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2011 - 16:45:13
| Bottle Shock - Production Notes
By Bottle Shock
Sep 8, 2008, 20:20 PST
CASTING BOTTLE SHOCK:
Through their previous productions, Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm
School and the upcoming Nobel Son, Miller and Savin knew well that the key to getting
an independent film off the ground was to start with a good cast. The filmmakers had
worked with Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman on Nobel Son, and were very excited to
have another opportunity to cast the two veteran actors again in Bottle Shock. “Like any
team sport, there is a shorthand that comes into play when you have had some practice
together,” says Miller.
“We designed these roles for Alan and Bill,” says Savin. “We could hear their voices
saying the lines as we wrote. We knew how well they would be able to compliment each
other because in addition to being so talented, they too had history together.”
The filmmakers didn’t even have a ready script when they first approached Rickman, so
they quickly wrote 20 pages over a few days to help convince him of the project’s merit.
“Rickman came on board because of his creative relationship with Jody and Randy,”
producer Harris says. “The same was true of Bill Pullman and Eliza Dushku who had also
just worked with them on Nobel Son. After securing that creative core, the rest of the
casting came together pretty quickly.”
In searching for an actor to play Bo Barrett, the handsome, slacker son of winery owner
Jim Barrett, casting director Rick Pagano suggested Chris Pine. He sent Miller and Savin
to see the young actor in Neil LaBute’s play “Fat Pig” at the Geffen Playhouse in Los
Angeles, and the filmmakers were blown away by his talent. “He is a very intense and
soulful actor,” says Miller. “And he is very grounded and committed.” Miller and Savin
were convinced that Pine, who stars in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie as the next
Captain James T. Kirk, could capture the character of Bo Barrett perfectly and would hit
it off with his real-life counterpart.
Bo had actually just graduated from high school when Jim Barrett brought him to the
Chateau Montelena in the early 1970s. “We took a little license and made him slightly
older,” Savin says.
Although it required a major scheduling dance to accommodate Freddy Rodriguez’s
“Ugly Betty” shooting commitments, the filmmakers knew that Rodriguez was the
perfect actor to play Gustavo Brambila. “We love his work,” says Miller, who saw the
actor in “Six Feet Under” and Bobby. “Once he committed, we made his character even
richer. He’s such a fine actor.”
When Rachael Taylor signed on to play Sam, hot off the blockbuster opening of
Transformers, the filmmaking team was thrilled. “She’s from Tasmania and luminously
gorgeous, but there’s also something very real and accessible about her,” Miller says.
“You had to believe she was hippy-ish and earthy and agricultural. We knew people who had worked on Transformers and they all said she was a great member of the team and
that always matters to us.”
The character of Spurrier’s American friend and advisor Maurice, played by Dennis
Farina, was wholly invented by Savin and Miller. “He was great fun to write but a huge
challenge to cast,” says Savin. “Sometimes when you fall in love with a character on the
page, that character becomes the hardest to cast. Thank goodness for Dennis, who took
that character and ran with him in ways far better than we could have imagined. His
scenes with Alan, and their chemistry—both positive and negative—are stunning.”
The filmmaking team had also worked with Eliza Dushku in Nobel Son, and cast her in
the role of Joe, the fictional proprietress of a local bar, whose part is integral to the
turnaround of the plot. “Eliza had told me that she wanted to play an unflappable woman
with power and strength and attitude and self-possession,” says Savin. “We had had
many talks about the dearth of these kinds of roles for women when we were filming
Nobel so Randy and I were pretty excited that we could write something like that for her
this time around.”
Veteran character actor Miguel Sandoval, who starred in Miller and Savin’s Marilyn
Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School, was busy shooting the TV series
“Medium” when the pair made Nobel Son. But luckily for the filmmakers he was
available this time around, so the pair designed the role of Mr. Garcia for him.
Bradley Whitford plays Professor Saunders, the man who provides the pivotal
explanation as to why the Barretts’ wine has turned brown. “Jody and I were convinced
that Bradley was the only actor for this role. Jody would not let him say no,” says Miller.
Pine and Taylor were tremendously excited to work with Whitford, whose talent they so
admired. “He had so much fun with the character,” says Miller, “He had the whole crew
cracking up. He is just as funny between takes as he is on camera.”
PRODUCING BOTTLE SHOCK
In June of 2007, with the production financing still only partially in place, Miller and
Savin moved with their two young children and the family dog from Pasadena to
Northern California to shoot the movie during the kids’ summer vacation. They started
shooting August 1 and finished in mid-September.
Although the production went smoothly, says Miller, it was not without its challenges.
Shooting in Northern California is not only expensive, but the region is a major travel
destination and late summer is its prime season. “It was literally tough to find housing for
the cast and crew,” Miller recalls. “You want to shoot when the grapes are ripe on the
vine, but that’s the biggest tourist time also.”
Replicating the 1976 time period on an independent budget also was challenging,
particularly finding the right period clothes and cars on location. Transportation
coordinator Gino Hart and his team scoured the area until they found the kind of vehicles that Miller had in mind—and some of the trucks brought smiles and memories to the
Barretts when they saw them.
The clothing fell to Jillian Kreiner, a Louisiana-based costume designer who specializes
in the ’70s and has a warehouse of clothes from the period. “Jillian knows ’70s wardrobe
cold,” says Miller. “And she had a lot of great ideas for the dichotomization of the
wardrobe of Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman, which added a whole other level to their
The filmmakers had to shoot around features of the landscape that have changed since
1976 and were not in keeping with the period. At the same time, says Miller, “we didn’t
want it to feel like a back lot movie set,” Miller says. “The landscape is wide and
expansive and it was important to show that.”
But perhaps the greatest challenge was getting a cut of the movie completed in time for
consideration in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Having started shooting after the
submission deadline, the filmmakers asked for—and got—a special dispensation from
festival director Geoffrey Gilmore. They submitted a cut around November 1, and were
still editing around Thanksgiving when Miller got the call that Bottle Shock had been
But there was still much to do. The sound had to be built and mixed from the ground up.
The Digital Intermediate had not even been started, so Alan Tudzin of Fotokem, himself
a wine aficionado, stepped up to offer the lab’s DI services. Meanwhile, composer Mark
Adler went into overdrive to write and arrange the score.
Music licenses also had to be nailed down. Brad Rosenberger of Warner Chappell saw
the movie and stepped in to help. Miller and fellow editor Dan O’Brien had cut certain
critical scenes to Doobie Brothers songs. Rosenberger arranged for Miller to meet Bruce
Cohn, longtime manager of the Doobie Brothers, himself a vintner.
“We went up there with the movie on a laptop and Bruce was very supportive,” Miller
recalls. “There are four Doobie songs in the movie that bring you right back to the ‘70s.”
Rosenberger was then able to bring other Warner Chappell acts to the picture—namely
America, Bad Company, Foghat and Nilsson.
“Brad Rosenberger and his colleague, Pat Woods, really made it happen for us,” says
Savin. “These seminal songs from the ‘70s add such a huge dimension to the picture.” In
the end, the filmmakers got the movie done a few days before Sundance. “It was a mad
dash,” says Miller.
The Bottle Shock production based itself in Sonoma, where they worked to navigate the
sometimes Byzantine politics of a small town. “Normally when you want to shoot in
town, you apply for a permit and pay a fee,” says Miller.
“But in Sonoma, you have to
petition the town counsel and appear before their panel. Everyone in town can come to
the petition meeting and have their say. Then the panel decides. Had the panel voted against us, we would have been sunk.” The panel voted a unanimous yes, and production
designer Craig Stearns and his team of local designers, carpenters, painters and
decorators set about transforming Napa Street into Calistoga circa-1976.
Bottle Shock was shot in the Northern California locations of Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga
and Carneros, including several days of filming at Chateau Montelena, Buena Vista
Winery and Kunde—three stunning properties. “The land is a powerful character in this
movie,” says Miller. “I knew I needed to shoot from a helicopter to capture the breadth
and scope of its awesome glory.” The Bottle Shock executive producers agreed and Miller
was given the extra money to shoot from the air.
With director of photography Mike Ozier, Miller wanted to create an expansive, wideframe
look to the film, à la John Ford’s Giant. “I always try to make things look as
beautiful as possible, going for this warm, sun-baked look,” Miller says. “The whole
movie has sort of a golden hue to it. It looks that way quite a bit in Northern California
during the harvest time.” That golden look was most evident during the “magic hour,”
just before sunset. “We tried to schedule to maximize the magic hour,” Miller says. “That
time of day the whole crew would go into shooting overdrive.”
One memorable sunset scene was when Sam and Gustavo come together in Sam’s little
house on the hill. The crew actually built the shack with a window facing just the right
direction to capture the just the right light at just the right time of day. Production
designer Craig Stearns and Miller came across the spot during a location scout at Buena
Vista Winery. It was a crest of the rolling vineyards that was vine-less, covered in golden
straw grasses with breathtaking 360 degree views. They both knew immediately that this
was the location. But Stearns had to design and build the shack. The result is one of the
most visually stunning scenes in the movie. “I have never met another production
designer who can build such extraordinary sets on a budget,” says Savin.
Another notable location in the film was the venue for the grand wine tasting event itself.
In real life, the event took place in a generic, nondescript conference room at the Hotel
Intercontinental in Paris. The filmmakers did not have the budget to shoot in France, so
they looked at ballrooms in nearby Oakland. “They were fine, but we thought it would be
pretty anticlimactic after being in all these beautiful places to end up in such a sterile
environment,” Miller says.
While at the Kunde winery, he saw a picture of the first winery in Napa and knew right
away that this would be a much more fitting location for the final event of the film. “They
drove me way back into the heart this winery,” Miller recalls. “Past vines and lakes and
pastures of cows and prize winning bulls. And then there it is… This amazing ruin with
grass and trees growing out of the ancient walls. The front door of the ruin is in the shape
of a wine decanter. I knew I had to shoot there!”
Initially, Miller was told it would be impossible to use the location, but the general
manager—who makes a guest appearance in the film as a judge in the tasting scene—
eventually allowed it. “The spirit of that place spoke exquisitely to the spirit of the event
itself,” says Miller.
© Copyright 2008 by Classbrain.com
Top of Page