Bringing MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA’s textured atmosphere to the screen was a major challenge, as well as a rare opportunity to take the audience into a vanishing world. After realizing the obstacles to filming in an actual hanamachi, or geisha district within a city, and after further scouting on several continents, the filmmakers decided to build their own hanamachi.
Production designer John Myhre devised a detailed floor plan for the village with director Rob Marshall. Next came a full set of technical drawings for some 40 buildings and the construction of a quarter-inch model of the hanamachi, complete with toy cars and rickshaws and the carved path of a serpentine river. The model provided a frame of reference for many production decisions. “We put a small ‘lipstick’ camera inside the model so we could view on a monitor what it was like to be in there,” said Myhre. “Rob and director of photography Dion Beebe played with it all the time and even used it to plan a complicated crane shot.”