Spring 2017

Doug Liman

A delayed start, and severe weather, work in The Wall's favor


(Photo: David James/Amazon Studios & Roadside Attractions)

Doug Liman, of Swingers and Bourne Identity fame, is used to shooting in actual locations. But on the upcoming war thriller The Wall, in which an Iraqi sniper is pitted against two U.S. Army soldiers (one wounded) pinned in the desert, he was working with a miniscule budget and a 14-day shooting schedule.

So the desert just east of Palmdale, Calif., doubled for the Middle East.

With the start date pushed back three weeks, the weather pattern changed, with howling, 50 mph winds, not to mention blistering 120-degree heat. So the script was rewritten to reflect these severe conditions.

"That's the kind of surprise Mother Nature can give you that no amount of money can really replicate," says Liman. "Not only are they common in the Iraqi desert, but given that the film is a cat-and-mouse between two snipers, a dust storm is one of the only defenses you have against a sniper, so I was able to weave it into the plot in really interesting and exciting ways."

The sandstorm would hit every afternoon without fail for the entire shoot, making the tight schedule work to the L.A. crew's advantage.

The Wall was shot on film using an Arriflex Super 16 with anamorphic lenses, which turned out to be a fortuitous choice, since on the first day of shooting, the EPK crew was using a digital camera that broke halfway through the day. "Digital cameras are not as durable as film cameras," says Liman. "Arriflex literally never let me down. I've now taken it to the hottest and coldest places that exist on Earth.

"There's a thing that happens when the conditions get really rough," adds Liman. "It brings the crew together. It becomes a badge of honor to survive this."

Problem Solving

Directors discuss overcoming challenges and, in effect, making lemons into lemonade when circumstances are less than ideal.

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