Atlas Shrugged

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On The Set Of Atlas Shrugged Part 2

The Atlas Shrugged movie

On the Set of Atlas Shrugged Part 2

By The Atlas Society

May 7, 2012 -- A light breeze blows, a few ducks glide on a pond, a small cabin is nestled in the trees. Dagny Taggart stands knee deep in flowers at the side of the weathered porch. Her blond ponytail bobs smartly as she examines a broken rail, a power drill heavy in one hand. From a short distance, Francisco D’Anconia watches her, preparing for their confrontation. The sun lights her face, shining through a giant white silk stretched across a black square frame. Three men hoist the sail onto two metal posts, adjust the angle, and trudge away.A large camera’s tripod is staked on the lawn, its lens trained on the scene, its thick black wires weaving the way back to a cart overflowing with electrical equipment. From behind the cabin, the director yells “Action!”
 

The Atlas Shrugged Part 2 movie, Either-Or, was green-lighted on February 2 and is now into its 6th week of filming, pushed forward by Cybex CEO John Aglialoro. The second installation of Ayn Rand’s story features valiant entrepreneurs Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden struggling against the collapsing American economy, its devastation accelerated by government regulation as well as the unexplained disappearances of the nation’s top businesspeople.

“Either-Or” refers to the opposing modes at play in Part 2: individual freedom vs. government abuse, creativity vs. coercion, and trade vs. force.”
Meanwhile, legendary industrialist Francisco D’Anconia endangers his own prolific copper mines and, for reasons they can’t discern, encourages Hank and Dagny to similarly abandon their own enterprises. In a last hope to both save her business and revive the economy, Dagny seeks to rebuild a mysterious motor, which she believes will deliver a powerful and innovative new form of energy. “Either-Or” refers to the opposing modes at play in Part 2: individual freedom vs. government abuse, creativity vs. coercion, and trade vs. force. As TAS Executive Director David Kelley writes in his overview, “Part 2 is the darkest movement in the Atlas concerto. The economy is a kind of advanced version of our own. In this respect, [it] offers the most relevant—and most foreboding—parallels to our own world.” 
 
The movie comes on the heels of Part 1, the making of which itself was a dramaProducer Jeff Freilich, David Kelley, and Laurie Rice —executive producer John Aglialoro began principal photography on June 13, 2010, securing his rights to film Atlas Shrugged just days before they expired. Now, the making of Part 2 faces a different kind of deadline. Aglialoro, along with fellow investors in the movie, aims for a release date of October 2012 in hopes that the movie will inform conversations about the presidential election. For instance, Atlas’s dystopia, set in the near future, shows every major industry in gridlock with government regulations. Crony capitalists vie for handouts in the name of public interest. Unemployment is at 24% and gas costs $42 per gallon. However, people seeking to portray “Either-Or” as analogous to “Left or Right” will find the movie does not break down so simply: “This is a movie for people on both the left and the right, democrats and republicans and everyone,” Aglialoro says. “It’s about freedom—the freedom of individuals, the freedom of expression, the freedom to create, the freedom to pursue your ambitions in life.” Equally applicable to Part 1 is the encouragement in Michael Shermer’s Huffington Post commentary on Part 1: “Liberals, conservatives, progressives, libertarians, Tea Partiers, and politicos of all stripes [should] go see Atlas Shrugged.”
 
Key players in the project include director John Putsch and producer Jeff Freilich. And, although a controversial decision to audiences who enjoyed the talent in Part 1, the second movie will feature a new cast. Leads include Samantha Mathis (Broken Arrow, The American President) as heroine Dagny Taggart, Jason Beghe (G.I. Jane, Californication) as Hank Rearden, and Esai Morales (La Bamba, Gun Hill Road) as Francisco D’Anconia. (See full cast list on IMDB.)

“To adapt Francisco’s ‘money speech’ for film, you have to extract the essence: that money is earned by production and that it is the medium (and symbol) of voluntary trade.”
–David Kelley
To clarify the message of the Atlas Shrugged movies, the production team acquired a staff member rarely found in Hollywood: a philosophical consultant. David Kelley visited the offices of Either-Or Productions on March 14-16 along with TAS Research Assistant Laurie Rice. At the request of the producers, Laurie Rice wrote detailed, scene-by-scene notes on character motivations for the actors. David Kelley and Atlas producer Jeff Freilich made edits throughout the script and discussed the implications of various scenes and dialogue. The challenges in adapting key points from Atlas Shrugged, such as Francisco D’Anconia’s “money speech,” were numerous. “You obviously can’t include the whole speech,” Kelley noted. “In the novel it’s about 2,500 words—at least 20 minutes of screen time. And what would everyone else at the Taggart wedding party be doing? So you have to extract the essence: that money is earned by production and that it is the medium (and symbol) of voluntary trade. And you have to put those ideas in concise dialogue that flows naturally. In the final script, the speech is 360 words, including interjections from the other guests.”
 
Duncan Scott, David Kelley, and producers Bernie Laramie and John AglialoroThe Either-Or offices are a fascinating glimpse of the struts behind the world of Atlas Shrugged Part 2: thousands of intricate details that have, until now, existed only in the imaginations of Ayn Rand and her readers. Against one wall lean a number of poster boards, labeled “Hank Rearden,” “Cherryl Brooks,” “Hugh Akston,” etc., with clippings from fashion magazines—these are the creative inspirations for Atlas costume designer Bonnie Stauch. The “Dagny Taggart” board has pictures of a designer watch, a tailored business suit, and a runway model in an architectural dress with dramatic, severe angles—a woman become skyscraper. Roland Rosenkranz, production designer, brainstorms in the hallway with other members of the crew to come up with a design for a government seal to appear in scenes announcing Directive 10-289, the regulatory tipping point in the economic collapse (and the tipping point for Dagny, who quits in protest and goes to her cabin). Rosenkranz cycles through Orwellian buzzwords—“peace,” “sacrifice,” “unity”—and does Web searches for propaganda posters. Dwarfed by her computer screen, Caroline Quinn, set designer, uses a CADD program to figure out the interior dimensions of what will be The Comet—Taggart Transcontinental’s prize train which reaches a tragic end in Part 2. Scenes in The Comet are scheduled for the first week of filming, so the raw footage can be quickly handed off to the capable people in visual effects to create the train’s catastrophic crash. Part 2 special effects have promising beginnings—film tech writer Jay Ankenev said Part 1 “contains some of the most fascinating use of the editing art of any film I saw [in 2011].”

The people involved with the Atlas Shrugged movie seek to create a knowledge base surrounding the project.

For the second week of filming, from April 9—13, Kelley and Rice made a second trip to Los Angeles to visit the set and observe the filming of key scenes. Besides the idyllic setting of Dagny’s cabin, scenes in week two included Hank and Dagny walking along the John Galt Line—a short section of it created in full with a bed of stones, concrete blocks, and green-blue metal rails, the rest of it left to green screen technology (John Aglialoro, entrepreneurial at all times, watches the scene and considers selling pieces of the rail as John Galt Line Paperweights when filming is finished); footage from a California airstrip will be used for the plane chase between Dagny Taggart and her valued engineer, Quentin Daniels; and Hank Rearden continues in both personal and romantic development in a scene where he presents Dagny Taggart with a ruby necklace—another iconic scene in Atlas Shrugged, with dialogue demonstrating how ethical egoism applies in a love relationship.
 Laurie Rice, David Kelley, and Esai Morales

Between scenes, Kelley discussed the script with Freilich, and with screenwriters Duncan Scott and Duke Sandefur, as they watched the words come alive in take after take. In addition to the performers, the entire cast and crew are encouraged to learn the story and its ideas. While TAS was on set, movie intern and Objectivist Justin Lesniewski worked to develop an online store where crew members could earn “points” toward purchasing gear by completing tasks such as reading The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. Lesniewski also published an essay by David Kelley in the movie’s cast and crew newsletter. In these ways, the people involved with the Atlas movie seek to create a knowledge base surrounding the project.
 
Moving forward, the Atlas Society’s involvement in Atlas Shrugged Part 2 will go even further than our involvement with Jeff Freilich and David Kelley working on scriptPart 1. In addition to Kelley’s work on the script, TAS will feature an inside look at the movie on Saturday, June 30, at The Atlas Summit in Washington, D.C. The panel will feature movie producers John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow showing key scenes from the movie and speaking about their approach in creating Part 2. Duncan Scott will show behind-the scenes footage of the project. The Atlas Society has also launched The Atlas Campaign, a fundraising effort seeking to raise $1 million to promote the movie trilogy and its philosophy of Objectivism. The money from the Atlas Campaign will go toward hosting movie premieres, student outreach programs, developing content, and enhancing The Atlas Society’s events. As the Atlas Shrugged movies garner public attention, The Atlas Society will provide the philosophical context for Rand’s amazing story.

 

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