yU + co Recalls 1930s L.A. with Ask the Dust Titles
yU + co took a page out of Los Angeles’s literary past in creating the main title sequence for the new Paramount Pictures release Ask the Dust. The studio design team collaborated with director Robert Towne on the project, delivering a beautiful and spectacular main title sequence that uses a copy of John Fante classic Depression-era novel as the vehicle for introducing its story of a struggling writer.
The title sequence opens with the camera swooping slowly through a writer studio until it discovers a copy of Fante book. An unseen hand opens it and turns the pages, which reveal the names of the cast (led by Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek) accompanied by finely drawn line illustrations. When a sketch of 1930s Los Angeles appears, the camera moves in and the drawing transforms into a photographic image. The scene continues in stunning fashion with the camera entering the landscape. It soars swiftly over hills and buildings before diving through the window of a Bunker Hill apartment where Arturo Bandini (Farrell) lives.
Ask the Dust is a dream project for Towne and the director wanted to use the title sequence, in part, to pay homage to the long neglected Fante, according to yU + co creative director Garson Yu. ‘The book provided a wonderful vehicle to use in introducing old Los Angeles,’ Yu said. ‘By ?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§entering’s the book the way we do, we are inviting audiences to immerse themselves in Fante world.’
yU + co designed and built the practical set that represents the writer study. ‘Our challenge was to make the environment completely believable,’ explained yU + co art director Martin Surya. ‘It had to match the look of the film and it couldn’st be over the top or look too ?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§designed.’s Yet, every detail in the room is significant and refers to elements in the story.’
The book illustrations, carefully crafted in the style of the 1930s, similarly serve a narrative function. ‘The drawing for each actor relates to his or her character,’ noted Surya. ‘Farrell name is accompanied by a drawing of the worn fedora he wears in the film. Hayek drawing features a camellia, a flower linked with her character.’
yU + co most spectacular work is featured in the riveting traveling shot that caps the sequence. Designed by Garson Yu, the sequence features a massive and meticulously detailed digital matte painting. ‘Through the use of still photographs supplied by the production and elements gathered through our own research, we were able to recreate the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles as it appeared in the thirties with near photographic accuracy,’ observed yU + co executive producer Claire O’sBrien. ‘We used a helicopter to study the geographic details.’
yU + co intent was not merely historical accuracy but to make audiences feel as though they are being transported to another time and place. ‘Robert Towne was a marvelous collaborator,’ said Yu. ‘His enthusiasm for this story was infectious and his knowledge of Los Angeles and its history is virtually encyclopedic. He was a source of inspiration for our entire team.’
Credits for yU + co go to Garson Yu, creative director; Claire O’sBrien, executive producer; Sarah Coatts, producer; Ryan Robertson, associate producer; Mark Kolpack and Jamie Venable, VFX producers; Martin Surya, art director; Edwin Baker, Dominic Daigle and Otto Tang, 2D artists; Nate Homan, Kamal Hatami and David Rinder, 3D artists; Jerry Bingham and Dean Tschetter, illustrators; Robert Cribbett, Shake artist; Elika Burns and Rocco Gioffre, matte artists; Ryan Miller, editor; Andy Dill, Kevin Ellis and Zachary Scheuren, Inferno artists.
yU + co is located at 941 N. Mansfield Ave., Hollywood, CA 90038. For more information, call (323) 606-5050.