Making a movie is hard. You want everything to go right, but you have to be willing to accept that some things won’t. Every single step of the filmmaking process is, to me, about translating the vision in your head into a coherent final product. There are hiccups and hurdles and frustrations, but, when you’re the crazy son of a bitch responsible for the whole thing, it’s important to step back, breathe, and remember. Remember that, hell, making movies sure does beat working.
But more on that later.
To be clear: filming for Earrings is going fantastic so far. We’re halfway through shooting, with two more days of principle photography to get in the can, and I couldn’t be in a better place emotionally and creatively. Translating ideas onto the page has never been difficult for me; by the time I’m completely finished with a script, I’m always confident that it is the story I want to tell. Shooting a film is different. There are so many outside factors that appear to want nothing more than to damage the vision you set for yourself. But there’s a trick to trumping the curveballs: hire people who know what the fuck they’re doing.
|An "untouched" still photo from filming|
Catherine and I have been friends for many years, so we have a vernacular on set, or lack thereof, that is completely cohesive during the shooting of a movie. I can say very little about how I want her to play or tweek a scene, and she is able to translate that flawlessly onto the screen. She doesn’t forget lines or gestures or mannerisms – she improves upon them.
Yesterday was the most difficult day emotionally of shooting. We spent the majority of the evening filming several scenes that required her to give everything, which she did, and then some. There’s really not much more I can say about the work she’s doing other than I simply cannot wait to share it with you all. Switching the lead role of this movie from a man to a woman was the smartest thing that could’ve been done. Period.
|Another still image from set|
Likewise the talents of Martin, Andrew, and Nathan, the three other major players of the cast. Each have taken my direction incredibly, and have never once given the slightest shred of pushback if some of those outside factors are fucking things up. For example, this morning I spent six hours on top of a mountain in Los Angeles filming a very lengthy conversation between Catherine and Martin. But because of the helicopters and airplanes and dogs and women on their cell phones, capturing the sound was a nightmare. They had to do it over and over and over and over. Throughout this, they never presented the faintest shred of frustration. I simply couldn’t ask for a better crew.
Which brings me to another point. Film is often considered a visual medium. Think about it, how many times do you find yourself talking about that excellent piece of sound mixing? Hardly ever. You discuss cash registers being thrown through convenience store windows in slow motion. Or the magnetic way half of Liv Ullman’s face matches with half of Bibi Andersson’s face. I’m an extremely visual person, and it has taken me until this movie to understand the importance (no, the necessity) of capturing crisp sound on a movie set. I’ve never pretended to know much about the art of recording sound, but I can tell you, after spending a few days with Dan, my sound engineer, I have a newfound respect for people who make a living holding boom mics.
Dan and I have polar opposite methods of filming. I’m fast and raw and speak my own language. Dan is patient, decisive, and is in dire need of hearing the words “action” and “cut.” I’ve never, literally never, begun a take with the word “action” and ended it with “cut.” It seems so… snappy to me. As in: Perform, now! But I’ve learned that many crew members on a set need those words to do their jobs. Basically, having someone like Dan around, someone with completely different philosophies on cinematic capture, has been remarkable. I’m not annoyed that he does things differently, I’m enlightened.
A final note on those hiccups and hurdles. After the 12th take of Catherine and Martin’s long conversation was ruined by the persistent sound of airplanes, I put the camera down and walked away. I needed a minute to shield my aggravation. Everyone was performing so well, and to have their work ruined by things we couldn’t control was just crippling. So I looked out.
I looked out over Wilacre Park. Over Studio City resting miles below. I took in the bright blue sky, the plush green trees and the 80 degree sun. I closed my eyes and reminded myself aloud that if I wasn’t here, shooting a movie under the Los Angeles sun, then I’d be behind a desk wondering when I’m going to make my next movie. I opened my eyes and looked back at Catherine, Martin, and Dan, who were all waiting for me to come back and say “action.” Which I did. I know no better feeling than that.