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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

celeb news of the week: Steven Soderbergh does some second-unit shooting on ‘The Hunger Games’ (but he hopes you won’t notice it)

The Hunger Games

Since when do big-name celebrity hotshots take on a job that is usually thankless and typically invisible? When they’re nice guys helping out a pal. Soderbergh explains to Moviefone why he showed up on the set of The Hunger Games recently:

Back in April, [director] Gary [Ross] — who is a close friend of mine I’ve exchanged creative favors with non-stop over the last 15 years — when he got the boards for the shoot in April called me and said, “Hey, first week of August, I got these two days of second unit. Is there any way you can come down and help me out? Because I’d rather have you do it than hire somebody who I don’t know.” I said, “Actually, that works out.” We’ll just be finishing ‘Contagion’ and prepping ‘Magic Mike’ and, yeah, it could be fun.

Cut to two months later, and I show up to do this thing. Of course the whole design of it and what’s fun about it, for me, is my job is to come in and duplicate exactly what Gary and Tom Stern, the [cinematographer], are doing. To mimic as closely as I can to their aesthetic. And that’s what I attempted to do. But if I’ve done my job properly, I hope I did, by design, you won’t be able to tell what I did. Because it’s supposed to cut seamlessly into what they’re doing. That’s the whole point. That’s why he asked me to come down, because he knew that I would be rigorous about matching what they were doing.

To those not in the know about production lingo, “second unit” is footage that is necessary for a film but that doesn’t require any of the main cast. This could be imagery that sets a scene, for example: “Here we are in these beautiful mountains” would be second-unit; “Here are our protagonists building a camp in a clearing in those mountains” would be first-unit.

To be even fairer to Soderbergh, he probably wouldn’t have said anything at all except that, as Moviefone notes, a crew member tweeted about Soderbergh’s appearance on the set, which set off all sorts of unfounded speculation that I won’t repeat here. (Click over to Moviefone to get an idea of the rumors. They’re pretty standard stuff and not really very exciting.) Unless that speculation later turns out to be true. Then we’ll have some fun with it.

For now, though: Aww. What a good friend Soderbergh is.

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