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Feb 13th
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War Of Words

aeSanta Cruz native opens up about his creative role in Steven Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln biopic

Now that our collective post-election hangover has mostly subsided, politics are probably the last thing you’re looking for in an escape outing at the movies. But Steven Spielberg’s new film—about the triumph of the political process in a time of near-apocalyptic social discord—might surprise you.

Toby Thiermann, a filmmaker from local production studio Impact Media Group, worked on Lincoln for six months of last year and was on the set in Virginia for the duration of filming.

The biopic, which covers the final four months of the title character’s life, details his struggle with the ongoing Civil War, as well as his clashes with members of his own cabinet regarding the decision to abolish slavery.

Thiermann’s contributions to the film were threefold: assisting Oscar-winning production designer Rick Carter, shooting behind-the-scenes documentary footage, and appearing in the film in a cameo role as a cartographer.

As written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, Lincoln is the most performance-driven film of Spielberg’s career, which means that the production design and set decoration play a crucial role in the blocking of a scene and how actors interact with the constructed space. “The production designer touches the script before anyone gets there, so Rick envisions these environments ahead of time, and we took a huge amount of effort in order to ae-3 In his cameo role as a cartographer, Toby Thiermann appears in a scene with Daniel Day-Lewis.allow the director and the actors to feel comfortable and natural within them,” says Thiermann.

Part of that effort is the painstaking lengths for historical accuracy. “We recreated the second floor of the White House, almost to scale, inside this huge warehouse in Virginia,” Thiermann says, reflecting on one of the many sets he helped construct. “And we tried to match historical pictures to make even the wallpaper accurate to the type and the design of wallpaper that Lincoln may have had in his White House, and we had that custom hand-printed in Virginia.”

ae-2Santa Cruz’s own Toby Thiermann on the set of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, in which he played the Union cartographer.In addition to Lincoln’s numerous Oscar-recognized below-the-line artists, you would be hard-pressed to find a film with a deeper bench of acting talent. Several inches of column space could be spent simply listing names from the enormous ensemble, but it is headlined by a pair of two-time Oscar winners, Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, who play the president and first lady, respectively.

In his cameo role as a cartographer—“It’s funny because my family actually owns a local map company here in Santa Cruz,” he says—Thiermann appears in a scene with Day-Lewis, as one of the beneficiaries of a long-winded joke told by Lincoln.

Day-Lewis’ performance as the nation’s 16th president counterintuitively complements his seismic turn as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, and adds to the actor’s still-growing legend. Aside from those aforementioned Oscars—not to mention an acclaimed overall body of work—Day-Lewis is famous for his complete inhabitation of a character for the duration of a film’s shooting schedule.

It is a process that has become almost mythical in its retelling, but to what extent is the myth a reality? “It’s a complete reality,” says Thiermann. “Daniel was in character the entire time, even when he wasn’t on set. He lived in a period home, he wore period clothes, and he slept in a period bed, and those were all things that he requested so he could really become Abe Lincoln while he was there.”

Moreover, Day-Lewis’ preparation for and devotion to his role benefited the rest of the set, according to Thiermann. “I think it changes everyone’s dynamic when you’re working with an actor that’s that serious,” he says.

That sentiment has stayed with Thiermann long after leaving the set. “I think being involved in a project like Lincoln—once you taste that level of professionalism and talent—it inspires you to do your best work and to try and work with people that are at that level,” he says.

Thiermann believes that audiences will find something to take away from the film as well. “It’s a really awesome piece of American history,” he says. “To learn that Lincoln was such an influential president, and he put so much on the line for his ideals and his beliefs—he’s profoundly affected the direction of our nation.” 

‘Lincoln’ is currently in theaters.

Photos: Toby Thiermann

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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