DEEP BACKGROUND ON TRAINING DAY
an exclusive report by graphic designer Snow Dowd
My partner Robert and I had worked with producer JeffreySilver, while we were living in Toronto – creating artwork and graphics and video screens that were used on the set for a small WB movie called Gossip. (If you have seen the movie, Robert created most of the stuff that was made by the “multimedia artist” character named Travis.) We were also contracted to create an “underground” web site for the film that included a lot of video and audio collages…because it was “unofficial” but endorsed by the producer and WB Online we were able to use nearly any material in any way that we wanted on the site.
Jeff contacted us early in the production stages of Training Day to start brainstorming on the look and feel for the web site. We did a lot of visual research on grafitti art, tattoos, custom guns and low-rider cars. We were especially interested in those cultural artifacts that might be consistent or overlapping in both cop and gangster culture. We interviewed “Bone” Sloan who worked on the film as the gang consultant (he has been in gangs for most of his life and recently completed a documentary about the history of gang culture in Los Angeles) – we found that the tough inner-city cops often had unofficial logos much like gang signs and that both cops and gang members were motivated by fierce (if misguided) notions of loyalty, dedication to a cause and a desire to prove themselves worthy by any means necessary.
We created a series of concept boards – collages that included key visuals that represented the research we had done and that gave an impressionof the colors and images that would be supportive of the film’s theme and location…in addition to the elements already mentioned, these included sun and moon time-lapse images, layered maps of Los Angeles streets and photos of the Monte Carlo that was going to be used in the film as Alonzo’s “G-Ride.”
These concept boards were discussed with the director (Antoine Fuqua) and the production designer (Naomi Shohan) and we then put together a “look book” of images and ideas that were distributed to some of the musicians who were contributing to the soundtrack as a way for them to get into the mood and themes of the film.
We then began work on the designs and content for the web site…this was an intense process overseen by Don Buckley of Warner Bros. Online. We designedand built the site in Flash so that it could include dynamic audio and animation elements that would help to convey a feeling of the unique urban and cultural landscape of Los Angeles.
Overall the experience was eye-opening for us, at the beginning we werehesitant about even working on a project that seemed to have a strong focus on gangs…but as we learned more about the long history and the complex culture of cops and gangs in Los Angeles, we began to see overarching themes of loyalty, justice, and strength that were tied directly to the more general human struggle with morality.
As new residents of Los Angeles, it was also a wonderful opportunity to gain an appreciation for the rich visual landscape that reflects LA’s multicultural and often chaotic core. Visiting some of the inner-city locations and seeing the beautiful photographs taken by Robert Zuckerman* of people who lived in those areas (many of whom worked on the film, either as extras or as security people), gave us a new perspective on parts of the city that we might not have explored otherwise.
by Snow Dowd
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