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Artisans Discuss the Epic Feat of ‘Greyhound’

Actor Tom Hanks is well-known for a number of roles that include his portrayal of an American army captain in Normandy in Saving Private Ryan. He has shown a clear interest in bringing World War II to the screen through his work as a producer of the miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific. For one of two big films released in 2020, Hanks returns to the tempestuous 1940s as star and screenwriter for Greyhound, the adaptation of C.S. Forester’s novel The Good Shepherd. The story of a Navy commander, Captain Krause (Hanks), trying to cross the Atlantic with a convoy of Allied ships is a tremendous technical achievement, one that was surely meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible, an experience that its audiences have been denied as a result of the pandemic.

Greyhound was actually one of the earlier films to pivot its release strategy. Slated for a June 12th, 2020 theatrical debut, the film dropped instead on Apple TV Plus on July 10th, a move that composer Blake Neely credits as keeping the film active and seemingly current for much longer thanks to its prominent showcase on Apple’s platforms. Awards Radar had the privilege to participate in a virtual conversation with a number of the artisans involved in this large-scale production, one that still packs quite a punch even on a smaller screen than intended. Read on for choice excerpts from the panel that highlight the formidable work done by this talented group.

Cinematographer Shelly Johnson impressed all in attendance with the superbly high quality of his small Zoom square, a clear tribute to his affinity for camerawork. The contradiction of the ship being very claustrophobic and the ocean being vast informed his perspective, with the goal being to put the audience right on deck next to the captain. The extremes interested him, and he tried to carry that through everything to capture how the voyage would truly feel.

Costume designer Julie Weiss gushed over the opportunity not only to create uniforms for the many members of the ship’s crew but also to stage a lavish and colorful Christmas flashback scene in a hotel that represents some of the only time in the film not spent at sea. She felt strongly that a military movie must never diminish the individual, an attitude shared by director Aaron Schneider.

Production designer David Crank spent a good deal of time learning about how ships travel and their physical setups, which wasn’t easy because few interior pictures exist since no military wants the public to know the design of their ships. Fortunately, they had a “living encyclopedia” with the USS KIDD, which provided a concept of how tight and packed the ship really was as they split time between shooting on a ship and on a set.

Composer Blake Neely cited his work on superhero TV shows like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow as an inspiration because he saw Captain Krause as a superhero. He learned how to keep the tension up with those series, and viewed the film as one battle after another with a short respite in between. He was also inspired by classical music and wanted to have the score mimic the way he felt when he listened to it.

Sound designer Michael Minkler shared his initial reaction to first seeing and hearing the film on TV. He praised the helpfulness of Apple engineers, who aided in putting together a special streaming version of the sound mix. He emphasized that, while the cut of the film is designed to play across multiple formats, it’s worth getting the best and latest equipment to enhance the viewing – and listening – experience.

For editors Sidney Wolinsky and Mark Czyzewski, a major goal was maintaining the pace and thrill for the audience, focused on telling the story from Captain Krause’s perspective, to honor the source material. They credited Schneider’s past work as a director of photography to a cohesive production experience.

Visual effects supervisors Nathan McGuinness and Pete Bebb had plenty to say about what may have been the most incredible accomplishment of all: filming this entire film without a drop of water. Anything that was outside the ship was created with CG. They discussed how they treated the ocean as another character, and always considered where they were nautically in every situation.  

Watch Greyhound now on Apple TV Plus.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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