"swimf@n" was shot in and around the New York tri-state area - New Jersey suburbs, Westchester, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Long Island - during the summer of 2001. "I think the fact that this movie was shot all over New York, yet doesn't feature New York City, makes it very unique, "says Williams. Although the original script was set in sunny Santa Barbara, GreeneStreet always intended to make it a very East Coast movie. "We had initially discussed principal photography beginning in the fall of 2000 carrying into the winter of 2001, because there would be no leaves on the trees which would make it easier to capture an eerie, stark feeling. But schedules conflicted during these months and caused production to be pushed to the spring of 2001," says Caracciolo.
The shoot went extremely smoothly. "The biggest difficulty stemmed from the fact that, because we were shooting during an impending strike (the threatened WGA and SAG strikes during the summer of 2001) and "swimf@n" was one of the smaller movies in town, we had trouble getting available crews. However, it turned out to be a blessing, because we ended up with an excellent crew, who had just come off of larger films and went on to deliver great work," says Williams.
Since "swimf@n" is about a high school swimmer, many days were spent shooting in and around the water. The underwater sequences were not only tough for the director and the director of photography (Giles Nuttgens), but for the actors as well. "Moviemakers and actors in general don't spend a lot of time underwater," says Williams, "so that sequence of filming was very difficult. There was a lot of pressure to get it right. But our DP made it worth it - - the underwater footage is incredible. Giles was a real coup. " Both Gordon and Williams saw Nuttgens' film "The Deep End" at Sundance 2001, and were blown away by its beauty and style. In fact, Nuttgens won that year's Cinematography Award at Sundance. "'The Deep End' was so visually unique I knew he would bring something different to our film," says Gordon.
"We were worried that Giles wouldn't respond to the material because it was a teen thriller. Once he heard Polson's vision for the film, he was convinced," says Caracciolo. After "The Deep End" Nuttgens had returned to his native England to shoot parts of the latest instalment of "Star Wars," so he seemed a natural choice to deliver a combination of aesthetic and style. "He's an artist, he's a filmmaker, but he's first a photographer so everything he shot has a beautiful artistry to it," says Penotti.
Nuttgens used a new type of Kodak film, which added contrast, and then he manipulated the film even more - constantly pushing one to two stops. Says Caracciolo, "He wanted a great contrast and he achieved a visual, very present feel. He had a whole color scheme which, although admittedly fairly simple, worked tremendously well. He also used a "bleach bypass" process, which enhanced the storytelling and mood of the piece. "
"There's one shot that blew me away. It was day two and they put Erika on a rotating dolly while she played the cello. She rotated one way while the camera went the other way - - it was right after an intensely dramatic moment in the story, and she comes around revealing she's playing for a tea party of old ladies. She was beautiful; she looked like a porcelain doll from a 1955 movie. It just a gorgeous shot and Giles made it look highly engaging and ominous," says Williams.