February 15, 2019
How ‘Isn’t It Romantic?’ Made Director Todd Strauss-Schulson’s Childhood Dream a Cinematic Reality
Like many romantic comedies, Isn’t It Romantic? makes New York City a big part of the story. In fact, there are two versions of The Big Apple in the movie. First, there’s the grungy, dingy real New York City that we all know and love. Then there’s the colorful, vibrant and picturesque version of New York City that exists in the romcom dream world that Rebel Wilson finds herself stuck in. It’s in this world that director Todd Strauss-Schulson was able to create a scene that he’s been dreaming of since he was 10 years old. And to see it go from his mind to the big screen is pretty incredible.
In Isn’t It Romantic?, the charming but goofy Blake (Liam Hemsworth) takes Natalie (Rebel Wilson) out on a date. A private dinner on a yacht turns into an ice cream shop break-in for a charming, truly romantic scene between the two characters. It’s this scene that has been percolating in the mind of Strauss-Schulson since he was a kid. We’ll let him explain how the scene came to be:
“When we were location scouting, it literally felt like taking a road trip through my childhood. I tried to put a ton of locations that were meaningful to me in the movie. I fought for that scene. I fought for that location. It’s a place called Eddie’s Sweet Shop. It’s in Forest Hills, where I’m from. I would eat there all the time as a kid. It’s still there, it’s still delicious. I remember being 10 years old and being like ‘One day, I’m gonna shoot a movie in here.’ I put that scene in the script. I put that ice cream idea in there. And on the last night we did it.”
First, Strauss-Schulson created this crudely drawn storyboard to get the visual idea down on the page:
As you can see, it has our two characters sitting on the bar of this ice cream shop. It even goes as far to describe the different points of lighting that give it that dreamy quality. There’s moonlight shining through the window, headlights dancing on the wall from the cars outside, and even the fridge in the background is giving off a green glow.
Following this basic visual reference, concept artist Carl Sprague created a piece of work that could be a painting in a museum. Sprague also did concept art for La La Land and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and you can feel a similar style here.
The lighting references have been brought to life in this illustration. The beams of moonlight shine through the window. The fridge is open, bringing a glow behind them. The color helps bring the image to life even more. But the trick is recreating this look in front of the camera. But damn it if they didn’t do a perfect job. Here’s the final shot from the movie:
Even though Liam Hemsworth and Rebel Wilson have switched spots from the concept art, the scene has been brought to life just as Todd Strauss-Schulson imagined it. Cinematographer Simon Duggan (The Great Gatsby) makes this dream of a shot come to life spectacularly. And the director couldn’t have been happier with the result:
“I love the way it looks. I had a very clear idea of how that would be lit with the moonlight blue and the green coming out of the freezer. The dome of whipped cream, and them sitting on the counters, and that beautiful dress. It was very much a thing that was in my head for years and years, and to be able to do it and put it against that Annie Lennox song, I’m very proud of that moment. That was very much a childhood dream come true. It was the last night of the shoot, so everyone from my childhood came to visit set and threw a block party on the street. It was just special.”
Isn’t It Romantic? is in theaters everywhere now. Read our full interview with Todd Strauss-Schulson over here.
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