In October I was given the opportunity to visit the movie set of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones in Toronto, Canada along with a group of other bloggers, websites and competition winners from Europe.
Walking into the production offices for City of Bones, the first thing you see is the concept artwork for the movie. What struck me immediately was how everything written by Cassandra Clare for me to imagine was right there in those pictures. It was definitely a WOW! moment with me saying oh my, someone has been in my brain!
After studying the concept artwork for a while, we were taken along to look at the wardrobe department.
Costume designer Gersha Phillips was on hand to show us her mood boards and describe how she went through the creative processes needed to get to a final article and how she takes influences from magazines, pop stars like Lady Gaga and David Bowie, the cat walk and even other movies like Blade and The Matrix (basically imagine every movie where there’s a guy wearing a long leather coat!) She showed us three costumes worn in the movie by Lily Collins (Clary), Jamie Campbell Bower (Jace) and Jemima West (Isabelle). Jamie and Jemima’s costume can be seen in the teaser trailer. Gersha explained how the thigh high boots for Lily were actually hybrids, 2 pairs slashed together and Jemima’s were from the Material Girl range by Madonna. Jamie’s leather hooded waistcoat is long line, something that wasn’t originally planned but it looked good so they stayed with it. Along with the costumes were pendants for each character with a rune attached. Isabelle’s necklace of course contained the ruby which flashes when demons are near.
Gersha then walked us around the department showing us costumes that were worn from scenes like Pandemonium and Magnus’s party, to those worn by the vampires and the robes belonging to the Silent Brothers. These robes were coloured so they would ‘disappear’ into the surrounding stonework of the buildings. The edges were coloured with the designer’s version of ‘blood’ which she said look awesome on film. She also showed us one rail containing a number of the same jacket worn by Clary, which you can see in the trailer, in various states of wear and tear.
We moved from the wardrobe department on to the art department. We were introduced to many people involved in the design of the sets including the graphics for things like the shop fronts in New York. Here we were met with the art director (Anthony)Tony Lanni who took us down onto the main sound stage where we were walked through various sets like, Jocelyn’s apartment which included Clary’s bedroom with all her artwork on its walls, the kitchen and Jocelyn’s bedroom. We were taken into Madame Dorothea’s house which was perfect right down to the beaded curtains, threadbare rugs and general clutter that adorned every surface even right down to the dust! There was even the faint odour of incense and one could quite easily imagine sitting down for a tarot reading.
The main set consisted of a canopied garden room at the top of the Institute and the Institute library. At the time we visited, Jamie (Jace) was filming some fight scenes with Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Valentine) stunt double (Jonathan was doing some weapons training at the time) and let me tell you, they were really going at it, complete with sword noises and grunts…and sweat both real and sprayed on. Sadly, we didn’t get the opportunity to speak with Jamie but we all said good job after being allowed to stay on set while they filmed the scene. Tony showed us various aspects of the library set and explained how the portal was made using a fabric that is used in greenhouses to reflect light and thus giving a shimmering appearance to it. From the runes on the floor and in the moldings above the doors, every part of the library scene was spot on. Tony also showed us some of the replica stonework used for the exterior of The Institute which was based on ‘Casa Loma’ in Toronto, a location that was actually used in making the movie.
From here we were taken to a set of director’s chairs where we surprised to find the backs with ‘The Mortal Instruments’ and our names on, a special gift to us from the production company. After this we were lead outside to one of the trucks which contained all the small props which help make a scene come together where we met Adam the prop builder. He showed us things like Isabelle’s snake whip which if you recall is gold but in this case they decided to go with silver as it fitted better with her costumes. He also explained how they tried various different materials to get the movement of the whip right but eventually settled with kangaroo. Unfortunately, the silver paint they used didn’t stick too well but since a lot of the time on film Isabelle is seen using the whip will be CGI, they overcame the problem. We were also shown the witch lights which while being used by the cast in a scene were attached to a rather cumbersome battery pack which they didn’t like. For a scene where the witch light needed to be passed between characters, they used a small LED light which he explained, didn’t give off enough light on film but that would be enhanced with CGI in post-production. The last thing he showed us was the swords/daggers. When describing how they were made he told us that initially they tried using a type of crystal but they were too heavy and had a stress point below the hilt which caused them to break. Eventually, they settled on using a polymer resin which when poured they had to be careful that all air bubbles were removed. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always successful and he explained how some poor soul had the painstaking task of drilling into all the bubbles and injecting more resin into the spaces.
From here we were lead back to our directors’ chairs where we watched a scene with Clary, Jocelyn and Luke being filmed. There were many retakes not least because of a malfunction with the door as Clary left the apartment. This was the cause of many giggles from all on set and we hope to see this on the outtakes when the movie goes to DVD. The scene we saw was actually from the beginning of the movie. As is the norm when filming, scenes are often done in reverse order and as Lily explained to us, Clary had been through so much, from becoming a warrior and all of a sudden she had to revert back to being this young innocent teenager again. An interesting fact was that until the day before, Lily and Lena (Jocelyn) had never actually met on set!
In between takes of this scene, we were introduced the producer Robert Kulzer, and Jeff the infamous sideburns guy and also Robert Sheehan (Simon) who explained he was on set to do some CGI work. My co visitors were very happy to see that Robert was actually shirtless. And of course we were happy to get to talk to director Harald Zwart and have a group photograph taken with him as a reminder of the day.
Come lunch time, we were able to join the cast and crew in the canteen although the girls among us were far too excited to eat anything!
To round off the day, we were taken back to the main offices where we were presented with personalized copies of the ‘City of Bones’ book signed by members of the cast and also Cassandra Clare, as well the backs of our directors chairs and other little mementoes of the day! We all expected after this to be taken straight back to our hotel so imagine our surprise when Cassandra Clare walked in. We were lucky enough to spend 20 minutes talking to her about the movie, her other books and taking pictures.
All in all, being given the opportunity to visit a film set was a truly wonderful experience but to be on the set of a book that I love and seeing the dedication of the cast and crew and how much detail they put into creating something they hope will satisfy the most discerning of fans was mind blowing. Roll on August 23rd!