Winning 4 Oscars, 130 other wins and 226 award-nominations (IMDb Pro) since it was first released, Wes Anderson’s film, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) is a cinematic masterpiece in the world of auteur cinema to look out for. However, few know about all the efforts that went into making this film, including the industry climate and production styles that have shaped it. Wes Anderson’s film, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) is an example of the combination of the Fordist, post-Fordist and artisanal styles of production which is portrayed through the film’s reoccurring cast & crew, the decentralization of the film’s VFX & score and its funding.
In regards to the film’s production, the primary production & distribution was carried out by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film’s story and the script were written by Anderson and Hugo Guinness, with inspiration taken from the written work of Stefan Zweig. It was produced & directed by Wes Anderson, in conjunction with producers Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales and Scott Rudin. In addition, the production design was realized by long- time collaborator of Anderson’s, Adam Stockhausen, who achieved his notoriety as a production designer on Anderson’s films (First working on Anderson’s film The Darjeeling Limited (2007)) (Motion Picture). Given that Anderson wrote, produced and directed the film, he had more creative control and had more of a say in the time used to execute the film, which is synonymous with the artisanal style of production. He also wrote all the copy for the newspaper articles that were used as props in the film, further emphasizing this point.
In terms of labour, Anderson is known for consistently working with the same cast & crew, both above and below the line. This draws upon principles of Fordism, which allows him to realize his creative visions on a low budget. According to chapter 7 of Film Studies: A Global Introduction, “Fordism is typically described as a comprehensive form of production management designed to achieve maximum output at minimum cost. One of its chief objectives is to make goods affordable to everyday people, which, not coincidently, also augments profits” (Davis, 185). For example, Anderson hired cinematographer Robert Yeoman to film The Grand Budapest Hotel, who had previously worked on 7 films with Anderson. The filming took an entirety of 10 weeks, with film equipment rentals provided by various companies, such as camera dollies from Chapman/Leonard (IMDb Pro).
By renting, saved Anderson the additional costs of owning his own equipment and having to upgrade as industry standards & cinematic needs change. Additionally, the film’s editing was carried out by Barney Pilling, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the film. However, he’s one of the few exceptions of crew members that didn’t work with Anderson beforehand or on his next film set to be released, The French Dispatch (2021). This brings into question their working dynamics together, as well as Pilling’s availabilities between other projects.
As for the main cast, we see the likes of Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and Bob Babalan (amongst others) in several of Anderson’s films. They are all are part of a key circle in the indie film (Hollywood) world and have respected followings and connections that enable Anderson to do a lot more with the budget he has and make more of a profit at the box office. This, outside of camaraderie, is one reason why he continues to work with the same cast over and over again (And also why it’s difficult to land a job working on one of his films, due to the clique/inner circle mentality). Furthermore, using much of the same cast & crew helps him save time and money on having a new cast & crew learn how to work with him and recreate his visions on screen. Beyond this, Anderson’s sets have become like a “family reunion” for the returning cast & crew. As stated in Behind the Screens, Wes’ “Particular style of production and labour practice kept the same cast keeps coming back because of the unity and joy provided on Wes’ sets” (Behind the Screens – DVD Filmschool, (7:00-7:08). Therefore, all members of the production benefit from a sense of unity and organic chemistry, which translates on the screen and makes for a more convincing picture. Moreover, his principal cast & crew are all aware of how their roles contribute to the making of the film, as Anderson is a director who is rather transparent and returning production members have learnt to know what to expect from him. Therefore emphasizing the point that “A crew can achieve successful results by working as a well-integrated network in which everyone understands their specific niche and how it connects with those of others. These objectives fit snugly with Fordism, allowing the factory line to flow smoothly” (Davis, Glynn et al, 219). Additionally, this “Repetition and standardization also allow for easier dissemination once
movies are completed. “High concept” films, for instance, […] benefit enormously from a known formula. Audiences often prefer a movie that they can understand according to past experiences of something similar” (Davis, Glynn et al, 188). Given Anderson’s distinctive style and the familiar faces in his films, audience members know exactly what to expect from his future films. Therefore, fans of his or the principal cast he uses will invest in seeing his films & film memorabilia/soundtracks.
In terms of secondary cast members, Anderson hired 150 extras to play hotel staff & visitors, amongst several other small roles that helped add a layer of realism to the film. Moreover, each extra had their own character/personality, even if their story wasn’t explored in the film. These personalities were carefully crafted and portrayed through the skillful and creative costume work of costume designer Milena Canonero (Also a long-time collaborator of Anderson’s) (Behind The Screens- DVD Filmschool, 16:01-16:26). This also adds that extra level of detail to Anderson’s films, that other directors/producers don’t typically have in theirs. On the other hand, these cast members don’t associate with the main cast/above the line workers outside of shooting their scenes (As is typical of working on set) and thus are faced with a sense of alienation.
Considering the film had a meer budget of $ 25M USD, Anderson was not able to recreate his vision for the world of the Grand Budapest Hotel using standard production means. Therefore, he had to turn to creative, somewhat unorthodox methods to create the various scenes and sets of the film. One way he cut production costs is through the use of miniatures and matt paintings, which also aligned with the more classic “cinematic look” he was going for. For the exterior of the Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson hired a German-based company, Babelsberg Studios, to recreate a miniature version that fit his vision for the hotel as well as several other miniatures used within the film. Moreover, since there wasn’t a real hotel in existence that matched Anderson’s vision, he transformed a vacant department store in Gorlitz, Germany into the Grand Budapest Hotel, drawing inspiration from the 1930s- 1960s European hotels (Behind The Screens- DVD Filmschool, 9:05-11:45). The top floor of the
the department store also doubled as the production and art department, which meant that they didn’t have to rent additional space and thus saved money.
The Grand Budapest Hotel benefitted from the post-Fordist decentralization, by outsourcing the VFX work (elaborated later on) and the musical score present within the film. For the soundtrack, Anderson worked with “GRAMMY®-winning music supervisor Randall Poster [who] is one of the most active music supervisors working in film and television today. Well-known as the long-time music collaborator of director Wes Anderson, Poster also works regularly with renowned directors Harmony Korine, Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, Todd Phillips, Martin Scorsese, Sam Mendes, and Jason Reitman, among others” (ABKCO). He worked with Anderson alongside “Academy Award ®-nominated composer Alexandre Desplat and […] the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra. To help create the film’s musical character, the team chose a combination of Desplat’s original compositions, traditional Russian folk songs and an exquisite Vivaldi piece to set the scene for a chase through the snowy tundra in this gripping tale of intrigue” (ABKCO). Working with both enabled him to create a vivid soundtrack that matched the tone of the film and encompassed the imaginative fictional world of the Republic of Zubrowka. Moreover, Desplat had also previously worked with Anderson on several of his films, such as Moonrise Kingdom (2012) (ABKCO).
In terms of funding, the film was primarily financed by German investment companies. This is a funding market that is often not tapped into and was made possible to Anderson thanks to one of the VFX companies he worked with, LOOK FX, who had the connections. “Fett worked for nearly two years to identify the first American production that could be presented to MFG for consideration, and was inspired to set up “The Grand Budapest Hotel” with the organization’s leadership after he discovered that Anderson planned to shoot much of the picture in the Saxony region of Germany. The result was about 450,000 euros or $600,000 in subsidies and the establishment of a base for LOOK FX in Stuttgart” (Lang). Thus, the funding was a subsidy that promoted Germany as a filming location. Moreover, this financial backing meant that Look FX had to employ several German professionals to
create the visual effects for the film (Lang). Anderson also received funding from several other companies, including a tax credit of “450,000 euros from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg [DE], [as well as} 900,000 euros from Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM) and undisclosed amounts from Deutscher Filmförderfonds (DFFF) [DE], Twentieth Century Fox [US] and Indian Paintbrush [US]” (IMDb Pro). Making this film heavily influenced by German landscapes, cast & crew.
Wes Anderson’s film, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) is an example of the combination of the Fordist, post-Fordist and artisanal styles of production which is portrayed through the film’s reoccurring cast & crew, the decentralization of the film’s VFX & score and its funding. Drawing upon each of these production styles as well as utilizing German funding and tax credits, Anderson was able to bring the Republic of Zubrowka to life. Thus, creating a film that would become an instant favourite amongst his fans.
ABKCO. “The Grand Budapest Hotel (Original Soundtrack): ABKCO Records.” ABKCO, ABKCO Music &
Records, Inc., N.d, www.abkco.com/film/grand-budapest-hotel/.
Anderson, Wes, director. Perf. Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Léa Seydoux, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman. The Grand Budapest Hotel. 20th Century Studios (FOX), 2014. DVD.
Behind The Screens – DVD Filmschool. “The Grand Budapest Hotel – The Making Of”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 21 Feb 2020. Web. Nov. 18 2020. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V184G71lHMg> 7:00-7:08 min, 9:05-11:45 & 16:01-16:26 min.
Davis, Glyn et al. “Film Labor”. Chapter 8 of Film Studies: An Introduction, 209-233.
Davis, Glyn et al. “Film Production Practices”. Chapter 7 of Film Studies: An Introduction, 182-201.
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Lang, Brent. “’Grand Budapest Hotel’ Cracks German Financing, While Crafting Dazzling VFX.” The Wrap, 8 Apr. 2014, <www.thewrap.com/grand-budapest-hotel-cracking-german-financing-crafting-dazzling-vfx/>. Accessed Nov. 18 2020.
Lighting Stores. “Delicate Décor – about the Production Design in Grand Budapest Hotel.” Lighting Stores, Lighting Stores, 27 Mar. 2017, <www.lightingstores.eu/the-production-design-in-the-film-the-grand- budapest-hotel/>. Accessed Nov. 18 2020.
Moviola. “Editing The Grand Budapest Hotel | Barney Pilling Interview”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 18 May 2020. Web. Nov. 18 2020. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGY_2ahG4mg>.
Olson, Mike. “The Grand Budapest Hotel Production Designer Adam Stockhausen Goes Handmade.” The Credits, Motion Picture Association, 19 Mar. 2014, <www.motionpictures.org/2014/03/the-grand-budapest-hotel- production-designer-adam-stockhausen-goes-handmade/>. Accessed Nov. 18 2020.
Piercefilm productions. “GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL miniature effects”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 9 Oct. 2020. Web. Nov. 18 2020. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz6tCq7jsUI>.
Sound & Picture. “Barney Pilling on Editing The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Sound & Picture, Sound & Picture, 25 Feb. 2015, <soundandpicture.com/2015/02/barney-pilling-editing-grand-budapest-hotel/>. Accessed Nov. 18 2020.