On Directing

I’ve spent years working on the script for the movie Closure, but so far mostly as a writer. While the writing never stops (and I mean NEVER, I could spend the rest of my days and the next two lifetimes rewriting all my plays, screenplays and TV scripts) it is time to shift focus. Put on another hat:

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“This is the best hat in America.”

Not that hat, sillies! Although he does look super sharp in it.

No, I’m talking about my DIRECTING hat.

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A little on the nose, but you get it.

I’ve been so focused on writing I can’t forget the big picture. Is that a pun? I’ve spent so much time writing, rewriting, revising and tweaking that I haven’t thought as much as I should about how the movie will look. I certainly have a vision for the style and tone of the script, but I haven’t worked enough on translating that vision into a language that actors, the director of photography, and all the departments can understand. Fortunately, I have some time to develop that language and learn more. A lot more.

Directing is hard. It helps that I’ve done it before, directing a number of short films, industrials, and even a feature that was seen by approximately thirty five people. Having this experience helps, as I can learn from past mistakes and hopefully anticipate most of the new mistakes I will make… and there will be plenty of mistakes. Daily.

But even with the experience. Directing is hard. Very hard. How hard? Let me give you an example: Natalie Portman.

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This photo is from the recent New York Times Style Magazine. Inside, she has a conversation about filmmaking. Last year Natalie directed her first feature, A Tale of Love and Darkness, which is a loosely biographical drama about the last days of Mandatory Palestine and the beginning of Israel. Portman directed the movie and starred in it. It took her EIGHT years to find funding and write the script, which she insisted remain in Hebrew instead of being translated in English. For her performance, she worked with a vocal coach to eliminate any hint of her American accent in her Hebrew.

So to recap, she raised funds, adapted the script, shot the movie in a different language…

…and if you look at this photo again, she did it all in her underwear. That’s right, the ad promoting a conversation between her and Jonathan Safran Foer (who, presumably, got to keep his pants on) features the director in her underwear!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Natalie Portman has had quite a career so far. She has starred in the blockbuster series Thor and Star Wars (okay, not the good ones), worked with esteemed directors Woody Allen, Tim Burton, Mike Nichols, Anthony Minghella, Terrence Malick, Milos Forman, and Wes Anderson among others,  and has won an Oscar for Black Swan. She is definitely A-list.

And here she is, promoting her directing debut in her underwear. Let’s get past two obvious points: 1) she is a beautiful woman and looks great in whatever she chooses to wear, and 2)this is the style section, not the front page.

But yes, this is a HUGE double standard. No male directors have ever been asked to pose in their underwear, that I know of. Maybe Terrence Malick has been BEGGING to pose in his underwear, but no one has taken him up on his offer. But unlikely.

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“You want me to… do what?”

But here’s my takeaway: a director will do what it takes to get more exposure (heh heh) for their project, and their craft. Would Ms. Portman be on the cover in her underwear to promote Thor 14: A Thor in my Side? Doubtful. She did it to bring more attention to her other career.

This means while I’m preparing to get behind the camera, I need to make sure all the resources are lined up. And that will involve hustling: many emails, phone calls, and meetings to make sure we are ready to go. And if I need to get in my underwear on the cover of the NY Times Style Magazine, I’ll be ready… after a few more crunches.

 

 

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