CLEAR BLUE TUESDAY was shot in just 19 days on location in New York City. Prior to production, the cast recorded a scratch-track of most of the film’s story-telling soundtrack, although two songs were recorded for the first time live on the set: Becca Ayers’ "Brand New Sky" and Jan O’Dell’s "The Day The Sky Fell." Says Elizabeth Lucas: "I wanted to access the intimacy and immediacy of both Becca’s and Jan’s songs. Becca is such a Broadway pro that consistent repetition was no problem for her, and with Jan, I wanted and loved the intimate, semi-spoken way she did it in the moment."
Right when I thought all of my feeling was gone,
On set, Lucas worked closely with her technical team to create a look that combines emotional realism with moments of high-flying surrealism – forging a believable world in which pop songs, dance numbers, ghosts and even flying saucers can emerge out of the fabric of any ordinary moment. Key to all of this was director of photography Raoul Germain, who shot at all times with two Panasonic AG-HPX500 HD camcorders, which gave Lucas the dynamism and mobility needed for the improvisational shoot. "We shot the dialogue scenes very naturalistically," notes Lucas, "but for the songs, the style became more and more playful. We followed every surrealist impulse that was supported by the story. Raoul was fantastic in all this. He is so technically skilled that everything he did visually accentuated the characters, music and story."
Right when I thought all inspiration was done,
Equally vital to the look of the film was the work of production designer Benedetta Brentan, who makes her feature film debut with CLEAR BLUE TUESDAY. Brentan faced the daunting task of carving out eleven starkly different physical realities that would reflect each of the characters’ internal worlds – while also working in with such bustling New York locations as the new 7 World Trade Center building, offices in Rockefeller Center, stores that were open for business during shooting, and an assortment of Manhattan apartments and condos generously volunteered by friends and family of the cast and crew – and in some cases, the cast itself.
Right when I thought everything right was wrong,
"Benedetta brought so much creative subtlety to the environments. She really got my style and was constantly inventive. All the little details she came up with were so helpful in making the characters seem fully alive," sums up Lucas.
Here I am.
Most importantly, the passionately imaginative atmosphere that Lucas, Germain and Brentan created every day on set only further fired up the chemistry between the cast, as they grew tighter and tighter, building up to the film’s moving climax – and only song featuring all eleven cast members – known as "The Ritual." In this song about collective resilience and transcendence – based in part of real-life 9/11 survivor and cast member Jan O’Dell’s personal ritual of healing – the cast joins together, despite being dispersed across the city’s breadth.
For Lucas, this moment in the film echoed what really happened between everyone who collaborated on CLEAR BLUE TUESDAY. "Each member of this cast came into the room with different strengths, but once on the set, it was extremely gratifying to see how much they raised each other up," comments Lucas. "Everyone had so much to offer each other that we all did work that was better than what we had been able to do before. It was a challenging, exhilarating experience."
When production came to a close after three whirlwind weeks, Lucas and editor Alexander Hammer faced a massive challenge: editing the footage into a crisply woven, if nonlinear and unconventional, narrative structure. Lucas was in a state of exhaustion since circumstances found her making three films nearly simultaneously. Just before she shot CLEAR BLUE TUESDAY, she shot the horror feature RED HOOK (seen on Showtime) and just after, she had an opportunity to shoot her ultra low-budget sci-fi love story FADE TO WHITE. But she was also exhilarated by the process.
She worked closely with Hammer. "The editing was also really about writing," notes Lucas, "since it was in the editing room that we had to figure out how to give the exact right amount of information about each character, how to balance the realism and surrealism, how to meld the music and drama, and how to let the story unfold in an authentic, entertaining and honest way. Alex was a tremendous collaborator and together we discovered a lot of new things about the characters as we worked."
You have helped me not only get through it,
but to find a better me because of it.
From the beginning Lucas wanted CLEAR BLUE TUESDAY to be an inclusive event reflecting a multitude of experiences. She explains: "I went into this project with the attitude that it was not about me and that I would accept whatever anyone wanted to bring to it. The result is so much more than I ever could have imagined on my own. Donations of time, locations, artwork and support have been generous and have given us production value well above and beyond our budgetary means. We shot for free inside 7 World Trade Center, the Ritz Carlton and Rockefeller Center. Dozens of artists contributed their 9/11 related artwork to the gallery scene, and then stayed to be extras. Our extensive special effects were entirely donated. People were so generous with their time and stories. Anecdotes from friends became moments in the movie. The cast, the producers, and everyone involved brought all their resources to the table." As a result, the movie encompasses diverse details, high profile cameos, and access to the private New York City that tourists rarely get to experience.
Ultimately, as the intensive filmmaking process came to a close, Lucas watched the film become broader and more transcendent than she had imagined it would be.