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Jason Reitman built his own Internet for 'Men, Women & Children'

2014 Toronto International Film Festival - Day 3

To make a movie about the Internet, sometimes you need to build your own Internet. At least that was Jason Reitman's approach for his latest film, "Men, Women and Children," about how technology complicates people's attempts at love, sex and connection.

So, the Internet.

I’m living in an age of uncertainty in my business, which is caused by the Internet, which has brought uncertainty to so many people's lives — in their jobs, love relationships and relationships with their children. It is a moment of great question. It is the dawn of an industry like humanity has never seen. I don’t think that the printing press comes close. It is something that relates to everybody. It’s clear that nobody has any answers. You can watch as many TED conferences as you want, we just don’t know. That’s probably what drew me to it, because I have so many questions.

You're dealing with a lot of traditional relationship problems, though. How much do you think the technology changes the situation?

It's the ability to communicate with strangers, to communicate with the unknown. And the ability to find it. The moment in a relationship when you go from cell phone face-up [on the table] to cell phone face-down. Yeah, things have changed and there’s opportunity, but it’s opportunity to follow human desire that has been around forever. And that can be desire for true intimacy or infidelity or to get into trouble. That’s always been there. The Internet is this curiosity box that allows us to explore everything inside us whether it’s good or bad. Everything is instantaneous, and the availability to young people threatens the concept of innocence, if you believe in it at all. And there is something nice about the concept of innocence, that there is a moment where we are untouched, but that is kind of dissipating.

Kaitlyn Dever and Jennifer Garner in "Men, Women & Children." Kaitlyn Dever and Jennifer Garner in "Men, Women & Children."

What was your process for tackling the problem of making people on staring at their phones and computer screens look interesting onscreen?

We had to build the Internet; the Internet is a location in this film. We can’t just put an actor at a desk and say, "Go to Facebook." Because if you go to Facebook you’re going to wind up on a page with lots of people who are not cleared, making lots of comments that are not cleared, taking pictures that are not cleared with ads that are not cleared. This whole movie is people interacting with the Internet, their tablets, their phones, and I wanted it all to be real. So we built the Internet as a location to the actors. For every scene we built our own software that would emulate the Internet that would have pages you could navigate where every user, every like, every ad was our own. The first thing was to create an Internet that we 100 percent recognize the way that we would recognize walking down the street and into a Starbucks or Gap. Yes this is the Internet, this is the world I live in on a daily basis. Because we recognize Facebook, Instagram, twitter Google and PornHub as well as we would a Starbucks and we would know if a Starbucks looked an eighth of a bit different.

Was it on a server that was connected?

Yeah, but it was local and we didn’t have to connect to anything because that would be a f---ing nightmare.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick

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