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Dumplin' with Anne Fletcher and Adam Shankman (Ep. 188)
Director Anne Fletcher discusses her film, Dumplin', with fellow director Adam Shankman. The film tells the story of Willowdean "Dumplin'" Dickson, a plus-size teenager living in the shadow of her former beauty queen mother. To prove a point about measuring up and fitting in, Dumplin' signs up for her mom's Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant.
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Bad Times at The El Royale with Drew Goddard and Matt Reeves (Ep. 163)
The Hello and thanks for tuning in to another episode of the director's cut brought to by the directors guild of America featuring today's top director sharing behind the scene stories of the latest films and insights into the craft of directing. Please take a second to subscribe to our podcast on itunes or wherever you get your podcasts. This episode takes us behind the scenes of director drew Goddard's new thriller bad times at the royale the film follows seven strangers who meet at lake tahoe's El royale a rundown hotel with the dark past. A secrets come out and lives are entangled over the course of one night. Everyone will have a last shot at redemption in addition to bad times at the El royale Mr. Goddard's directorial credits include the feature film, the cabin in the woods and the pilot and episodes of the series. The good place following a recent screening of the film at the DJ theater in Los Angeles. Mr. Goddard spoke with director, Matt Reeves about filming bad times at the Royal during their conversation. Mr. Goddard discusses how his background is. A writer informs his directing the importance of meticulous planning a lesson he learned from Ridley Scott and how he pitched the film to studios knowing it wasn't typical blockbuster fodder. All right, you. You were always my favorite. No. I mean, there's still time guys. You can still. It's not a competition. Okay. Hi, Hello, everyone. Hi, lovely to see you all. This is exciting for me because I've known drew for longtime. We worked together and I consider him an incredible friend and you are true artists. I mean, the thing that I know about drew we first started working together on Cloverfield and I just know the way he is creative person, which is that he cares so deeply and you can tell by what you just saw, which is that everything and also, you know, you would know the I went to the premier. Was it a week ago? Two weeks ago. They just I'd never seen that before the literally the the movie had just been finished. How, how many hours did you wait? I think I pulled a few all nighters right at the in there, and I think it was eight hours before premier. We finally delivered a wet print literally in the old days, it would have been. There was this on film? Well, no. But we shot on film. Yeah, right, right. Amazing. Anyway, it's such a beautiful film and I just I, I mean, I, I know I've told you that, but I wanted to talk a bit about because I know you in all kinds of capacities and as a person and know how passionate you are. It's such an interesting path that this is your. This is the second film you've directed and cabin in the woods, which is, I'm sure everybody's seen is a great movie and this one is so different but yet. So totally you. And I know that inbetween that you directed. And are you still working on in any capacity on the good place which is like the tones of all of these things. You know, like they encompass so much, and I guess I'm wondering first of all, just about this film, how where did this come about? Like how? Because because you right, obviously, you're, you're an incredible writer but to write to direct like, do you always right to direct like when you're writing in the Marsh, neither you writing from the same place saying like, hey, this is what I would. If I was going to go shoot it, I'd do it like this and then released. Got does whatever he's going to do, but that's, that's the way you right. Is that right? Yeah. I mean, I learned early, treat it as though you are directing and not not not in a way that some that doesn't respect the director. I, I love directors when I'm writing, whether I'm writing for myself, I treated the same because I'm always trying to solve the problems that the director is going to run into. I really think that's important to to protect the director. And so when I started, you know, Cloverfield which had a lot of, you know, tricky logistics, and I do feel like if you can help a director feel like he or she is not alone, it makes a huge difference because directing is so it's so hard. And so I do try to treat every script as though I am directing. Even if I know that I'm not going to so that I'm conscious of. And it's not just directing. I try to be conscious of the production designers needs. I try to be conscious of big costume designers needs to be clearly conscious of the actors needs for sure, so that your document goes to them and says, I, I really thought your problems through and we will have new problems to solve, but at least know that I'm on your side. Right, and you are you in your incredibly choosy. I mean, it's just true, but who I mean there there are a number of films along the way that you were maybe considering doing, but then this ended up being the one which again came totally from you. What was it about? What was the nugget that said, okay, there's there's. There's a lot of time between the two. I'm ready. I wanna do it again. And do you remember that? I just what the spark was that said, hey, this is what I want to know. Because boy, that's a good question because I, I start with the script and then I try not to worry. Did you not know that you wanted to direct this for sure, or are you weren't every script? I do. I sort of a soom I probably will direct then somewhere along the line either I go. Marshon you were going to. That's right. And so I sort of always approach it that way. But I also think it's very important to treat the writer and the director very differently. So I, it's almost a weird method style, even dressed differently. Like I, it's very important to me to separate the two things. What's the difference dwell? The writer looks like a writer sweatpants, and you know, all the Slava unle Ness of a writing of a writer and just try to, you know, it's the introverted side of the artist where you're just alone, just trying to try to struggle with your art, I suppose. And then and then the director is much more. I mean for me director, the directors that is much more about the extrovert, the extroverted side of the artist, right? And the your job is very much to sort of nurture other artists in many ways. And so I treat that very differently, you know, and that I've learned that works very well for me because the there, it took me a while to understand that writing and directing are wildly different, and you have to. You have to treat it that way. So this one when you were starting the screenplay just started with a passion for doing a Clem thriller, you want to use it. That would be great too. Right, and potentially directed. And then this is the one that really felt like, what what's the difference here between? Why was it that you decided got this is the one as opposed to, let's say you're working in the Martian. I know that would have loved to have done that too. I remember now. So. Well. Not to get too inside baseball, but I, I was doing the Martian and then I had a chance to do Spiderman film and the margin was going to go second. And then we would do the Spiderman film versed in Sony got hacked. And then suddenly I wasn't doing spider man film anymore, and I didn't want the Martian go down and Ridley rented and said, I want to do the Martian. And I was like, I, here's the thing. I love writing. I actually love writing for other directors when it's someone like you or someone like really Scott, it's actually wonderful. Like I, I'm not. I've always rejected the idea of the disgruntled screenwriter I, I love me when I'm a screenwriter. I love being a screenwriter. So how I mean, how many times in your life you're going to get to work with at least. Got you. Just say yes when that comes up, so and thank God I did because he made me such a better writer such a better director, such a better person just being around him. And so so yeah, it sort of filmmaking so volatile like it just is in this business is so volatile, you just sorta. I've learned to just sort of go with it the flow of what. And then when that moment strikes you had a chance to make this, and the thing about directing is it's too. Two years for me the way I do it. I, I'm very intense. I can't do anything else what I'm directing. I'm not a person that could do lots and lots of different things. I focus very intensely, so it's two years of your life. And so part of it is just you're like, okay, it's time this is time to devote to years of my life doing this. One is very personal. This movie is very personal to me for for many different reasons. And so can you talk about that? Yeah, I mean, it started. It's funny, right? I sort of right on instinct. Certainly as I've gotten older, I've trust that I'm writing on instinct more and not intellectualize. So it wasn't until I, I thought about the script for probably two years and then and then I try to write really fast. Once I get the outline right wrote the script for three weeks of started in November of two thousand sixteen so that I finished right before the holidays, and I grew up very Catholic and I went home to see my mom and I'm not Catholic anymore, but she, she likes to go to mass. We go to Massa sitting there and mass as I've just finished the script and I and it just hits me ago. Oh my God. I just want the most Catholic movie ever. Oh, this entire movie, this entire movie as a Catholic. I clearly working through my Catholic childhood and the Catholic notions of right and wrong and spirituality, and I didn't. I wasn't really aware that I was doing it because again, I Don, I try not to intellectualize when I'm writing and so that that was the first stage and then. This is all small stuff, but with this is how the pot, this is what goes into the pot. I, you know that you know, there's Twenty-three in media. Another side, the genetic testing on a whim, a few years back. I, my wife and I did twenty three and me, and it was in the early stages where you still got to this ending, you get results back. If your genetic tests and it's like, oh, you have Brown hair Brown eyes, right? Well, this is all very accurate. Then you get to a thing that says, do not open this if you do not want to know this is where the the scary stuff is. Don't open this part of the of the genetic testing. If you don't want to know your genetic issues, they don't do that anymore. By the way, only happened at the beginning when you got genetic issues. Genetic issues that might be like something healthwise. Right. Okay. I flip it over and it says, I'm a fifty percent chance of developing early onset Alzheimer's. And so it was one of those like, oh, I probably shouldn't open to that. So. So anything you know who who knows how accurate this is, but it certainly Alzheimer's. We have. We have Alzheimer's on our family, and so I've watched a lot of family members struggle with it. And it's I think that was very much on my mind as I was working on this and working on notions of faith and becoming a parent is very much in this and it all sort of goes into the Stu, right? And so it all felt very personal and around, and I was like, this is this is the one let's go comes through. I mean, you feel of that. So let me ask you this when you're riding in that way. One of the things that struck me watching the movie a couple times is just the sheer and I know this about you, but this one in particular is so meticulous. I mean that plotting where you're going backward and forward and yet every detail like it struck me at the premiere when the the ledger goes into the fire. I mean, I'd seen it before when you showed it to me. But then when I saw then it just it struck me even harder, just how what a puzzle. This is what an incredible intricate puzzle. And it made me think about the visuals, which I think are extraordinary. I think that the direction is just beautiful and it's one of those things that you look at it and you're like, wow, and then you told me even when I came in, hey, I didn't get coverage on that. That's how I shot that. And I'm like, oh my God, you're out of your mind. So the thing about it is, is that my my question to you about that is as you were writing this, and I know to some degree when you're writing you do think about visuals, but we're you thinking. About the wonders where you thinking about just the visual approach, was that imbedded when you were writing, did it did expand when you started to plan it out? And then I know love to talk about how you actually did rehearse and got some of the shots. But let's let's start with when you were writing. Were you seeing the shots or style or an idea about how the visual aspect of the phone network? Yes. I mean, I tend to think that way I tend to see I'm a visual learner. I finished see image when in scripts even when I'm no, I'm not directing. I still see it and try to just write down what I see, and but it also develops over time the way I tend to work as I get moments in my head, right? There's just moments and then I try to stitch the moments together. So I remember very clearly thinking about, oh, let's get a priest who's lying. And then he has to dig up the floor while the singer sings. I was like, that's a moment. Okay. Put that on the board. Okay. The priestess, lying. So we should have a believer. In the believer should die in his arms. Okay. That goes on the board in the preschool, you know. And then we have the detective and the detectable show up and he will see everybody. That's interesting. I'll it'd be. It'd be interesting if he saw everyone at once and you went down the hall one by one to see everybody. So that's where the wideness of the windows and then you're like, oh, I wanna put them in the audience and the detective shoes, right? I want you to feel what the detective is feeling. So much of the movie to me is about empathy and how empathy changes, and how much where who you who you thought you empathizing with changes as it goes. And so a lot of this movie is about taking the time to be in someone's shoes, and I felt early on that that I wanted to establish that to say, okay, we're going to watch these people and we're gonna. We're gonna feel what it feels like to be a voyeur. And so I just felt like that would be the way to do that. And so these moments sort of go on the board and you, you just start stitching them together, and then. And then I'll, but similarly, you get in with your team and you get in with my extrordinary director photography shave mcgarvy and my extrordinary production designer. Yes. Am I strong area production designer, Martin list, and it all just starts happening and you just sort of organically feel these things out. And so when you had because some of them you would have to rehearse and you told me this. So I'm just, I think this is just worth discussing because I found it so interesting. Those kind of shots take a tremendous amount of rehearsal. And what kind of a hersal period did you have? And did you do? You mentioned to me that you set up some of these shots in advance because you didn't get the kind of rehearsal period that you wanted, and how was that process of work? Because by the way, on top of everything, I think the performances are extraordinary and and so to be able to do something that is very accomplished visually, but still to allow in my experience, actors being good is about also giving them some space so that those surprises can happen or the camera's not going to capture them. And yet you're so meticulous. I'd like you to talk a little bit about how you were able to square that. So that. You could be meticulous visually and still give the actors the space they needed. And how did that evolve? I have to say it's the thing that changed the most after working with release God in me because we came from TV you and I sort of come from TV and and certainly the directors I work with MTV, Josh Weeden j.j Abrams. There's something that happens in TV where where you your, you have eight days to prep? Maybe like usually we had like three days to prep. And so a lot of what I witnessed directing early was people figuring things out in the moment being in the moment, sort of showing to set when the set is still being painted at the end and figuring out coverage. I kind of thought that's what directing was. To be honest. I thought that I didn't. That made me very nervous because I thought, well, I'm young in green. I'd actually like to plan. I actually like that. But this is clearly what I what I know that directing is. And I thought there was something wrong with me for liking to plan. And then I got with Ridley and rid. The was the most meticulous planner. I've ever seen like he knew. Six weeks in advance of shooting something where every camera was going to be where every lighting which he did through boards sketch. He just sketches and ski and then and then does the overhead lighting plan. And because he really likes to know when you when you want to know where five cameras are, you need to know where your lights are going. And so he really was meticulous and I loved it. It was so calming to me to see like a wait. No, that's here's one of the greatest directors of all time and he is planning so far in advance and I, that is a style that works better for me. And what I learned was the more meticulous I plan in prep, the more fun I can have on the day, the more I'm actually not worrying about where cameras gonna go over lights. You're gonna go, I it's done, and then I can just be with the actors. I can just be with the actors and we can say, like, here's the camera, but don't worry about it. Let's just let's just be here. It it worked much better for me, and it really changed the way I approach this film, but some of those shots are they're totally set dependent. So given given your. Shorter schedule. You said in some cases you plan them out. Did you plan them out with with standings or some shot? Like what kind of shot in from the movie might you have done that with like the hardest shot? John Hampshire is the is the corridor shot. That shot probably took us eight months of prep because it was deceptively difficult because we, it looks hard. We built the, it's harder than you think because we built. So we had, we had to build the entire set and we wanted to because I wanted to set to be symmetrical and have indoor outdoor capability. So I could control the weather that meant that everything that you see in that shot dictates the architecture of our sense, and it's one of those weird things when you it sounds good when you write it. Okay, we'll just it'll be continuous and he'll just walk up and down the hall, but then you really get on the nuts and bolts. And I, I wanted to see his reflection so I didn't have to cover the scene. I thought only really work as a wonder. If if you can feel John's president John can act because otherwise it's just going to get real real old real fast. I need to see John's emotion. Which meant I have to see his reflections, which means if you can seize reflections, you can probably see the camera. If you're not careful, then you also have Jeff digging up his floor, you have the coda running outside in into the parking lot. You have the room the windows of the room. You have to figure out what lens you're on. All of these things dictate each other if you're on a forty or if you're on a fifty that determines how big are floors, right? So you have to figure all of these logistical things out. Thank God for shameless mcgarvy part of why I hired him other than the fact that he's, he's one of the greatest artists of our time is that he's, he's very comfortable with these embassies shots who did the the atonement Dunkirk sharp, like he is. He's extrordinary figuring this out and he figured out how to coat the mirrors, the glass with a special silver coating and put the mayor's on Bevill so that we could as cameras going. So you won't see the camera and you'll see John and to make it even more complicated. Cynthia has the sing the entire time live. And so that means all of this stuff that we're doing. We have to do silently because we have to figure out all these again. It's one of those things had I known. I never would have done this had I, it's not like I knew it was going to be this complicated. It's just like, okay, you do it and then you start figuring out how hard it is going to be as you're going and then and then you're into deep. So you're like, well, we're doing it anyway. Anybody say it's really satisfying when it comes through so get. We would rehearse that withstand. It's I, it was just Martin waste our production designer and me, and it'd be taping it out of the warehouse taping out here in LA, just walking it and I would play all the parts and Martin wouldn't just sort of walk and we measure and figuring out and then then shame has got there and we figured out and then we started with standards it. Luckily I had a cast who was we got what we were trying to do and understood the importance of it and understood and brought their own things to it. I mean, so much Jeff's emotion in there and what the code is doing and what. Kaley, who's tied to the chair, those little things that are happening, our stuff they bring to it you. So you can find where it goes and then adjust as you go, we I think we did at twenty seven times and that's the twenty-seven. Thank you. See that one day and you rehearse the day before that one for her somehow we rehearsed the full weekend before. Okay. And then probably several weakens before that as as technical over her souls with standings and just our camera and our and the other secret weapon of that shot is our focus puller Doug lavender because the focus is insane. And Dave first camera. Yeah. I mean, those guys do not get enough credit because it is when you have reflections in particular reflections on an animal or fic- lands continuously moving a real nightmare for these are things I didn't know until it happened, and then I looked at them and gave them all a big hug at the end because God bless them those guys they were. So there's this o talented, it was really fun to it was really satisfying to watch it. I'll come together. I have to say. And and that shot, you didn't know coverage, no coverage know. In order. That's the thing in order to justify the shot. You have to be really sure of it and with you, I was really sure if I have to say I, I really believed that that was the way to to show that tell that story because it's so much about all of them in their rooms and what they're struggling with. I really felt like Cynthia singing live into me the movie. She's amazing. Yeah. I mean, it's a, it's a credit to her quite honestly because she sang lot. It's so much. The is not just about the about singing, but it's about the act of singing and why? And how creating art when no one is watching, we'll get you through these hard times. Right? And so I that shot sort of dictates that. And so I knew emotionally, that's what it wanted to be. And I said to sit the look, there's places we can cheat. There's places where the camera goes away and you can protect your voice because I need to my job is also to protect your voice. And she said, no, let's do it because you'll start if my voice starts to get raw that will make it better. It will actually show that I'm not worrying about. Performing for anyone else other than than me. And you know, it's like, I love you Cynthia. That's exactly right. And so that's her voice. There's no, I didn't swap out different takes, you know, when we go off of her because I was like, no, that when we soon as she said that, I thought, that's right. That's the right way to approach this. Let's just let it be what it is and and go from there and and we're the other other things in the movie where you didn't cover like where you worked out. I mean, I know there's some some beautiful shots. I mean, there's lots that's the did this. Here's my question. What is the first of all? Here's one of the things I also think is extraordinarily at a moment in time where the kind of movies that studios make big studios, especially there's all kinds of consolidation going on. Everyone's looking for blockbusters and what you would consider as dramatic thriller. That's not a studio film, very rarely, at least. And so to be able to to make this and then to do it as boldly as you did, I think is it's really incredible. It's it's a testament to you as a writer as a direct. How much I know Emma and everybody believes in you. But still when those things happen and they are watching dailies and they go, wow, that's a great shot on take two g. twenty seven of these. Is there a moment where they go, hey, drew, are we ever going to get coverage on this? Or are you good with that? Or what? Or were they just like, you know what? We are. We see your vision or how did that go? I mean, it's very, I part of the reason I wrote this on spec for this exact reason because I want people to be very clear about what I'm trying to do and see the whole picture. And so it's not like they don't talk about this, but we try to have those conversations before the day. Right? I try to have those conversations before were shooting, so because I'm a big believer in prep, I'm a big believer and I want all value, the studio, they're, they're inside is great. But I always say guys, the reason I've worked hard on the script before we ever start so that we can have these conversations now and we're not burning film. I hate burning film. I hate burning crew time to have these conversations. And so we try really hard to have those discussions early and and I, I do try to be safe. And and give myself offramp since I call them. Sure. Like an offramp. What do you mean in general? I knew that shot was going to be one or so. I didn't get myself in offramp, but if there was another shot that that we're going to hold for a long time, if there's a organic place to put a second camera it so that you have it, then you have a cutting point. I do try to do that. It's calming to me in the editing room to have options for sure. So I don't want to be disingenuous, but there are a few shots that I just knew like this is the movie. So let's let's not second guessing supportive of that. Once you've laid the groundwork to say, hey, that guys what I want to do and that's part of writing on spec to do. You took the I mean, even though you had a great relationship with FOX, did you take the script to a number place and say, hey, look, I I'm going to sell to the place that lets me make my movie the way I wanna make it correct. I mean, I took it to everyone, and luckily there was a great response to it. I, I do feel like we sort of self edit these days, and I keep hearing this is the type of movie that no one wants to make. And the truth is that's been true of every movie I've worked on like every movie I've worked on when we're doing Cloverfield. They were like, this is insane. What are you guys doing when we were doing your the mar at the Martian? At the time, it seems obvious. Now, but it was like a hard scifi movie about gardening in your own feces, like it wasn't like an easy sell at the time. It was very much this thing I do believe actually studios are more receptive than we think they are. I think the trick is you have to keep your costs slow. You have to, you have to keep your costlo so that you're not scared heart of how you approach this. You say, I'd like to make this in a certain range and then, but I want to be able to do what I wanna. Do. You're going to buy. I hired a UPN. We did a budget. We did. You know, I did my storyboards as much as I can. I really try to show them the whole movie so that so that they know I'm a partner and they know what this is, what it is, and, and I'm. I mean, you had you had story boarded before some the scripts. I try to give them as much as much information as I know at the time I want them to know because I've learned that actually allows us to be more bold. Like if you can say, we're going to keep our costs down and so we don't have to appeal to everyone everywhere like we don't. I, I wanna take that fear away from you because I don't want that fear either. Frankly, it applies to me as well as those costs go up. I recognize like we have to please everyone that that's that's the deal. And so I try to. I learned that way when we did the cabin in the woods, we did that. We did that exact approach and kept it kept her Cussing and it allowed us to do some of the crazier things that we did in that movie. If we didn't, you know, we would have to please everyone, and I've just learned it's more fun to work this way. And in terms of your how you work with the actors, you said you have this rehearsal period. So you had the period where you were working at your shots. You story blurred a lot of shots he brought them into to that, but what is how long was the rehearsal period would just actors. And what is that process? How much do you rehearse before. Hand. And what is that nature of the rehearsal versus what you do? Let's say, on the set the day of, well, it's a do it in a couple of stages. The first thing I did, I think probably six weeks before shooting. I I said, let's get all the actors together. We rented a little house here in Los Angeles, and I said, this is your, let's just get together because none of these actors other than Chris Hemsworth I hadn't worked with any of them before, and so I said, let's let's just get together. We'll do a read through. We'll spend a couple of days not really rehearsing, but just getting to know each other. And if we want to read the script, great, if we want to do if you want to try crazy ideas. Great. It's it's so much about I call it getting rid of those first day at school jitters, like just get comfortable with each other because we're artists and so much of what we're doing is understanding each other's wavelengths. And it took me a while to really understand that every actor is different in every every artists that you're working. Every crew member is different than you and your job is a director is to listen to how they are different. So for me, it's about, let's just get to know each other. And and I was really lucky that I had such an extraordinary cast because day one Monday morning, half hour early Jeff bridges shows up right before anyone else's there. He's already. They're trying to learn the PA's as names and just trying to get to know other people's brought his guitar. It was like, who's the right person for this approach? Because when you have someone like Jeff at the top, it just radiates outward. And so it really became, you know, we spent a couple of days and then and then as the days went on, started talking about all those little things that can kill you on a film like like, how do we make these steps so that Jeff can hold Lewis at the end and build fire around those? Are those things that if you don't think about them, like you're like, oh, yeah, just going to have to do this scene for for a two days, right on these steps, holding this, this kid in the middle of fire, oh, I need to go talk to my production is about how we're going to build padded steps and hide them and do all of those things. It's all of those. I actually just looking for logistics trying to spot the land mines, not an, I thought it was important to. Not worry about performance. I told that worried about formats in the performance in. Right here because I was like guys just tries to because I want to be open to this stuff. Let's just see. Let's just get to know each other and see and live in this and and it worked really well. I have to say because nobody felt that that need to be right. Nobody felt that need to say like, oh, this is how we need to do the scene. This is how it was just letting them started understand their characters and understand me and with the switch other. Yeah. I also said, listen, this is your time with the writer, and then I'm gonna fire the writer. That's what's going to happen because I don't actually like to be the writer when I'm shooting. I like to be the director. I don't want to be constantly rewriting pages at night when I should be thinking about. Get my shots for tomorrow. So I said that worked really well too. 'cause then they knew that they were being attended to and that there any problem, any script problems ideas they had, we could go do and I'll go put them in the script and and I thought that worked really well too. So we were doing it was a lot of that. It was a lot of the approach of talking about the script as opposed to talking about the performance. And then the day of is just seeing when the magic happens and captured saying like, okay, can this be hotter? Can this beat whatever that is. Yeah, as we got closer than I would try anytime you can the problem with it when you're shooting time because a real real commodity and it's hard. Certainly when you have a cast like this to it's almost a a Jenga puzzle of everyone's schedule is you're trying to get everyone together, but any opportunity we could once the sets were being built because I do feel like once the set start to go up, you want to start dialing in what you're going to do. So that I can figure out where to put lights and whatnot, and and so then any chance we had we would we would dive in and sometimes there's on the weekends and that was after after we wrapped and just get. Everyone together and Renison and see what came out. Well, I've been shown that this time is up. I keep talking about. It's such a beautiful film, and I'm it's so great to be able to talk to you guys. Thank you so much. Thank you for coming. That really meant a lot bigger guys. Thanks for listening to another DJ QNA if you'd like to hear more, you can find passed up of the director's cut wherever you listen to podcasts. We'll have a lot more for you in the coming weeks as a word season approaches, including QNA's from George Thomann junior Alison Chernick and feel expand grown again. So be sure to subscribe. So you don't miss an episode. If you're enjoying the podcast, please take a moment to rate and review us on. I tunes, we'd love to hear your feedback and you can help fellow Sinophile find the show. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time. This podcast is produced by the directors guild of America. Peeves zek is Dan Wally. If you're joining the podcast, please take a moment to rate and review us on I tunes, we'd love to hear your feedback and you can help fellow Sinophile find the show.
The Director's Cut
Aired 2 weeks ago 36:46
Vox Lux with Brady Corbet and John Krokidas (Ep. 185)
Hello, and thanks for tuning in to another episode of the director's cut brought to you by the directors guild of America. Featuring today's top directors sharing behind the scene stories of the latest films and insights into the craft of directing the director's cut is now available on Spotify. So please take a second. Subscribe to our podcast on Spotify. I tunes or wherever you get your podcasts. This episode takes us behind the scenes of director Brady Corbett's new drama, vox locks. The film tells the story of Celeste a young singer who had a meteoric rise to fame after she survived a violent tragedy as a teenager and captured the nation's attention when she sang memorial service years later, the now superstar celebrity must deal with the aftermath of a scandalous incident, which could derail her career. She seeks to reclaim her place in the entertainment world, the an album of sci-fi anthems, entitled vox Lux and must find a way to come to grips with everything. Her life has become. In addition to vox, lox, Mr Corbett's credits include the feature film, the childhood of leader and the short film, protect you and me. Following a recent screening of the film at the DJ theater in New York. Mr Corbett spoke with director John crooked 'as about filming vox lox during their conversation. Mr Corbett discusses the lessons, he learned while working with acclaimed directors such as LARs von Trier, and Catherine Hardwick as an actor creating fiction in an era of post truth and his shift away from realism and his direct to'real approach to the film. I thought I had seen the most definitive scene of Natalie Portman breaking down in addressing room and my life. But I was so wrong. I just wanna I congratulate you on making a movie that. There are a lot of great movies this year. And I feel like we're in a moment when artists such as yourself are taking a mirror back to our society and trying to say something about where we find ourselves at this really weird time that we're in. There have been a lot of great movies. But no other movie this year has left me completely guessing while watching it and having no idea where the director was taking me, but because of the storyline the performances and the strong direct toil choices you made I was ready to just let go and have you take me wherever you took me. And it is so rare that a movie does that. And honestly, that's the best praise that I can give this film. It actually gets even better on a second and third viewing. So. Jonah Miller a bit about Brady. Brady started is creative career as an actor. And I I saw him had film for him on screen and a movie called mysterious skin. I think you're about fifteen nine fourteen house fourteen fan. I it's it's funny. Because this film is playing the film forum. My first film of the film forum since then I made something that worked on. And that was. Exactly. Fifteen years ago. And since that moment he's worked with hold on. I had to write this down. I then saw him in such movies as thirteen and funny games. Melancholy a- Simon killer. Martha MARCY may Marlene. So you know, you've worked with such lightweight says wise montier, and Michael hannidy and. Antonio campos. But no seriously. When did you decide did, you know this whole time when you were acting that you were going to be a director? And did you like what did you learn from your experiences with them? Is there anything that you took from those films when you started becoming a director and realizing yes, that's the way I wanna work with actors, or that's the way I wanna run a set. I just realized that that the people that I that I respect a lot are very human. Also that they that. They also. Are not always perfectly prepared because he can be very prepared. And you sometimes you're not prepared for the most important problem of the day. I learned. That to be brave in your work is not the same thing as being. Brave personally, I'm I'm quite shy. And my, and I know that the films are not the films have made or not CHAI films. I'm aware. But. But but I care about the medium Allott, and I care about the advancement of the medium a lot. And I care about. I think it's not worth making something unless there's at least some attempt at doing something that is adding to the conversation a little bit. Otherwise, what you get out of bed. I mean. Certainly not for this kind of project to make a lot of money. So or frankly any, but, but I just my first aid is here, and he did he did a great job. And he's laughing because he knows it's true. I didn't make any money. It was a big Cathal. Anyway. So I I think that. You know, making movies like this in this day and age is very very complicated. There. There's there's literally no one asking for it. It's true. I mean, you go into a meeting, they they ask you. The proverbial. They they say so. DAV genre film, you're working on? Or do you have like, and it can be any kind of John RIA like we have force. And they're like, I don't know. It's everything where it's nothing. I don't know what it is. And that's not there. It's not what anyone wants because it's not Amazon prime. It's not delivered to your doorstep. Something which is quantifiable and qualifiable. So. I understand that we love things very very neat. And in this day and age and sometimes I do too. But I I grew up looking at films that were not neat. And which was not to say that they weren't confident. And didn't know exactly what they were. But they were not neat. And I think that that is an important thing to keep alive. And we we lost Nicolas Roeg this year, one of the most important filmmakers that that that ever lived and nNcholas rogues movies were very messy. But can we really call them that because there's some of the most conic films ever made. And. Were they actually messy? I don't know they seem to messy because they were very live. And they were very. They were very life. You think this phone was messing? I know. It's not no. No, this I can say for with some some certainty that it's not messy. It's a lot of other things. It's sort of like. Being on a press tour for film. Mike this across this country. Feeling a lot of different responses. Reactions the film, which are all valid. You know, I mean. It's a lot of things. But it's exactly as it was designed to be so so then it's sort of like, well, it's if it's not a mistake, then especially skew for. For. Vernier for your intense. You know, I which I also understand I felt that someone would really say you at Acuna. No, no, no. But but but. No, no, no, no one said skew yet. I'm However, I of course. Been I I've been met with befuddle mint and puzzled viewers across the globe. Which is interesting to me because it seems like everything which is in the film that we should all have a point of reference for like, we're all experts on this moment in time that we're living in and the film is no more. Obnoxious or difficult than this administration is and and, but I've really feel the way I think that it's very like. The film is really about how how can. How can our fictions exist? How can our narratives exists in a moment in time, which is post truth because the thing is is that melodrama something that we that that most filmmakers, really celebrate. Because melodrama was it was people used to not make fun of you for for for an operatic. Gesture. But but now, you know, people make fun of you for an operatic. Gesture. And and I understand why I mean to a certain extent, I feel like it's like cooking. Mike, our dishes should become more are cuisine should be become more refined or distilled more precise more subtle. I don't I don't I personally don't like things to have too much salt. But there is something to. Doing things in in the way that they were done in the past. And this film is about the digital revolution. But it was photographed on celluloid. And that's important that the form is the content, and I think that interesting contemporary films. You cannot separate the do. I mean, I thought the fact that your choices were unsubtle where wonderful because as a director who's often criticises being unsubtle myself. Sure, you know, I feel like we're living in a time in an era where film as often praised art house, quote, unquote, film for being as quiet and as close to reality as possible like this Neo real like is New Relic because we can get the more awarded we should do it. So to see somebody stand up and to make really bold bravado. Choices in the music in the slow zooms in putting the end credits at the top of the movie, and all of these choices that you've made you make us question. Why you did it and you don't give us the answers. But I can tell you you we've all of us after the movie thinking about it for a long time. And after watching a second time, I could start seeing some of the decision making processes behind some of those sure. Choices. Although I have to admit I have no idea. Why did you put the opening the closing credits at the top? Well, that was one of the reasons I was so glad I got to do this queue and ages to ask that question. I'm I, you know, I think that in general there's things that we used to do a little bit better. And and that was one of them. I think the credits used to be really really Zillah rating as opposed to something they're part of the movie like it's not like when you go to a show, and you get a play Bill where it's like who gives a outlooks because it's not actually a part of the experience of watching the film or or the show. In the case of movie, I think that that you established very early on how much you care about your frame. How much you care about your crew? And it takes hundreds. I mean, I know that we're in the directors guild here. But a director doesn't make movie one hundred one hundred people do one hundred and fifty people do. And so for me, I think it's important to. Celebrate those people make them part of the whole experience of watching something. And I also it's very old fashioned. And so when you're you come to see a movie about a pop star, and you see something as old fashioned is that and it's not we're not reinventing the wheel. I mean, this is a very old fashioned way of doing things. Placement is contemporary like in terms of doing something ten minutes in we weren't seeing Preston Sturges doing that. But but but but all the credits. Upfront was was was thing of the past. So as soon as you start playing with people's notion or expectations of time and movie time. Then they perceiving it through that sort of a person that the whole thing is yes, it's about right now. But it's it's it's about looking towards the pass to access the present look towards the future. It's it's all of those things. And I hope personally viewer is a viewer that is a little bit. I maybe it's because I have a kid now. And it's like a little bit of a process to go and see movie. But you know, I'm not that usually engaged. I wouldn't even say impressed very easily impressed. I'm not I'm not. I'm not easily engaged by anything watch something for a few minutes. My daughter needs something I need to be there for her. You know, I want to watch something that is so wild that. It turns me into a bad parents in a bad person. I mean, it I like this hold on one second. And I don't I don't I don't feel that very much. I for for the most part, you do this for a little while you make the thing watch things it's not that fun to watch watch other people's things. But but some people make it exhilarating, for example. I think that David Lynch's. Third season of twin peaks is masterpiece. And I think that that it's it's wild and his alive. It's a thing you have to have to deal with and and I really enjoyed that. That's the last time. I really enjoyed something. So your first movie the childhood of alita, which is also great also deals with a child who is the witness to something absolutely horrible and then later on in their life. It's a fictional character. Set in real history is the cause of something. Terrifying. Horrible. Sure. So the two arcs are very similar in the two movies. Did you conceive with them together? Did you once you started coming up with this one? Did you start realizing that it had a relationship with the first or am? I just completely putting this together. No, no, no. You're totally right. I mean, they're they're they're related the films are the film. I I wrote it like a sequel. To to to childhood on. It's very freeing writing a sequel to move the no nobody saw. 399 on I tunes. He won best director at Venice. I highly recommend it. But it's very. After me that film, and I was working. I was making a movie in Europe as an American about the early part of the twentieth century. And when I finished that I wanted to make movies about the twenty first century in America. So so it was definitely written in response to what I just come off of. And. I I was curious to work with characters that were. Less stilted in terms of how how the the the the moment. Time allowed them to behave. And and so this was the opposite spectrum. My the film, I'm working on. Now, is is a film that's said in the mostly in the nineteen fifties and sixties so it's in between this and that. But I yeah. But I I approached them in the same way I approached this like a period pace, and you work with the same DP on both films. Right. Yeah. How do you? How do you decide to cover a scene? I don't think there is one scene in this movie in which you use traditional coverage. And I was just curious the slow menacing zooms the long tracking shots behind the characters that last ten to fifteen minutes. Do you to come up with this plan this beforehand? Is it something that you guys? It's in the it's usually in the script and its postscript the shots. Yeah. Yeah. I'd like it. It sort of says, you know, not in. There's a noted a top of seeing that will say, you know, in one continuous take until otherwise noted and then cycle cannot done. And then that's the Embiid for that sequence. I we had a few things that changed along the way, but not much the film was shot in twenty two days. So we had to we had to be very prepared. And and so especially to disband a great deal of time in the narrative with only twenty two days of shooting to little off. It's a daunting task more philosophically than then practically I think just to be like oh cable. Now, we're, you know, twenty years later whether reference movies, or did you have a mood board that you guys created together of images of Tigers. Or we we put stuff together Philip locate a caution there was. There was a little bit of Nicolas Roeg in their recognize the ambulances from bad timing. But not too much. I mean, we didn't need to much simply because of the fact that we all have a point of reference since it's about so much of it is right now. And then there are a lot of discussions about how absurd is too absurd. In terms of the characters outfits things like this like, well, you know, like let let's let's show is just gonna look like Br bride of Frankenstein. But but that's also accurate. I mean, it's not certainly not inaccurate. It's we basically realized when we looked at references. That there was no such thing as too far because it's ever everything about the pop pop shows and stuff is imbalanced and pretty tacky. It's it's it's plaid. They're not leather. Speaking of too, far, you push Natalie Portman further than I think I've seen anyone pusher. And I thought the work was marvelous, and I'm just curious did you how coming from acting? How do you like your casting is awesome? Impeccable. How did you work with your actors do do over hersal periods? Do you talk about characters intellectually beforehand with Natalie? I mean naturally heavily so clever that. She absorbed. Everything that we discussed very early on. We like the characters like a little bit of the mob. Weiss I was getting ticket character that has embellished her origins. So that when you find her later on it's like, you know, in part one, she's she's she's like a human being like like a haunted human being him being. And then I was like, and then she's quite introverted. And then the second half of the film. She's totally extroverted and she's playing a part. And so I saw I was like it should be going. Madonna takes on accents. Yeah. Yeah. Mean there's there's so many examples, and I don't want to I want to. Moc anyone because I've also grown up in front of the camera. But it sure it is sort of a sort of a stick. And I understand why people do it because when you feel a little embarrassed in front of a crowd. You take on airs and almost everyone. Does you become a avert your ticket? You're too much. You start sounding like you're from another place and that that happens to to everybody. And so the idea was not to mock her, but but to demonstrate it that that you when you're living your life in public that. Of course, it's impossible to be yourself. And because we've spent an hour with this character as herself we're able to identify it very quickly as this is this the this is the sort of fishy -ality. You know, pretty real to me reminded me of certain actors I've worked with there's a lot. There's a lot of things we discussed, and we were like be discussing the writing stage when we work in the film lake. Should there be a moment where you see her with you know, sear strip down? And I was like well, but we've already seen it we spent all this time with the character for now are, and I was saying I think it's more interesting that that that she she doesn't back down. She's like this is how I am. Now is this why am now? So I am now she has moments where she's you see that she's emotional and she's moved or disturbed or whatever. But but insists she's a human being in that sense. But she's lost herself completely. And and so it's a it's a very theatrical decision. But luckily, all of the the actors were curious to try and do that because Neo realism is not done very well in this country. I mean, I can't remember the last time. Like, a great neorealist American film. But it exists, and I've seen great new neorealist pictures, although for for whatever reason we decided to approach this thing in a way where we protest the thing by being the thing. So. In further. Well, at the end of the film, you're watching the show for a long time. And the idea is that you are after a while you go really going on for a long time. And then and you're like is a good and to I like this sound it sounds. I mean, it sounds how concert sounds so and concentrate of blown out and it's hard to discern the hooks and stuff, but. You have a lot of feelings while you watch it. Whether you're with somebody or your loan. You're like, this is a curious, and then there's sort of a conclusive statement from the film's narrator, and then there's some more music, and so everything about it is sort of going against the what what what a movie wants to be which is sort of to be like, I mean, the the move the movie moves along at a certain clip. And then all of a sudden you have to sit and watch the thing that you showed up to to watch. So everyone comes into watch move at a pop star. They get an hour and forty minutes or something else. And then they get thirteen and a half or fourteen minutes of a pop concert, and then and then they have mixed feelings about that. And that's interesting. I think now did you plan that structure or did you find that in the editing room? It was completely planned. Okay. I know people must have a lot of questions I just want to throw out. So my read of the concert the first time, I watched this movie, and after everything we've been through that being the ending and you giving me four pop songs in a row. I was like over the banality of it all, but then you went biblical and it made me rethink, okay. The entire narrative is her character's decision, whether or not to do this pact with the devil. And then I remembered she said when she woke up in the hospital bed. Oh my God. I've done the most horrible thing and that one for the money two for the show. She the music video. And I was like, oh, okay. So there's a this is a. A fable. Sure. But then you went on the faces of the family the sister and the daughter enjoying the performance. And I remember she said all she wanted to do is bring joy. And then I realized I was feeling happy and not the pop performance that I was criticizing is being banal an empty and everything that's wrong with our culture with a reality show president I was actually enjoying right? So okay. That was my read, but is all of the. Yeah. But it's of course, but the, of course, is all of those things, and I would say that it's those things and movements like so. So the part of the reason that the show is thirteen and a half minutes is that the most Baletic performances are about that long. And so the idea was to sort of, you know, elevate this thing, which people don't have a great deal of respect for. I mean. I mean because people love to to take take down. People that are successful. And so it's sort of like, oh, it's ridiculous. And yes it like grabs the attention of everyone else, but I'm above it. And so the idea was to sort of, you know, analyze that to to to be fascinated by it to enjoy it too. Suddenly jump outside of it. And and and I feel differently about it at different moments. When when I watched the film, and it was constructed in that way. It's unusual. It is it is unusual. Because those things you're usually designed to make you feel something it's supposed to be triumphant or it's supposed to be tragic. And the fact that. We don't have the perspective or the object tippety to speak about the moment in time. We're living in yet. So at the end of the film. You know, you see the actress repressing another role who seems to be reincarnated as someone else who is being given another chance at a future. But. Her future's uncertain. Our future is totally uncertain. I mean we wake up every day with with. With a new expert informing us that we have maybe seventy five or seventy years left in on this planet, and we decide okay? Actually, I think about a click on the link that's right beneath that one. That I don't have to think about that. For for too long. Because even though I might not be alive. Then my relatives might in my case my child, there's a very good chance that my child will be around seventy years. And and that the things that we were doing right now. Will affect her. But can't we save the world and listened to Arianna 'Grande at the same time. Yes. And we have to make a choice. No. And actually put that's the thing is that I agree with you. And I think that that I feel like they're all these people who do not deserve who who didn't. And when I say deserve. I mean, they they don't they don't deserve to be tied up in such a complicated socio political landscape. Oriented 'Grande did not ask. To perform at a venue that someone would would would attack. So that it so that so that she would have to answer to that. And talk about that for the rest of her life and her career that happened during the production of this it did it did. So I mean, the film was not written response to that. But I just mean to say that we see this young woman who has been really brave really she she really stepped up. I mean, she really handled it like an adult, and I'm very impressed by her. And and this character has nothing to do with our grenade. It was written years in advance of what happened. But, but I do feel like the like we're in a moment in time where we have celebrities that have decided to become politicians, and we have you know, celebrities that have have not asked to become to take a political stance on anything, they're they're being forced to because of ideological mobs. And and I think that it's complicated for them. And I think that we should we should go easy on them. I think that you know, we did not elect them to represent us. They are not our politicians. They they are people that that that we enjoy listening to him, but they made a deal with the devil. She did she did. But anyhow, I I I think these things are endlessly. Complex. Sure that everyone has an opinion about it. And you know, regardless of how anyone feels about this film, which talks about all of these themes. I really really hope that we go out and support the young people are put in in in in the crossfire, the the ideological crossfire of these situations all the time, and I think that we should go a little easier on them. Thanks for coming. You gotta let them ask questions. Do do. They isn't isn't it time to go with with somebody like to ask a question on the way. He's got a question. How many how many minutes do we have left? I it's okay. You know, what I thought that? I was seeing a hand. Okay. I'll stay. Hey, well, did everyone hear that. Whole you know, what I actually think that the answer will. I think the answer will suffice. I think so. The. Basically, I will I will quickly talk about what the sisters purpose in the story was I was asked if it meant one thing or why she's there, but but it's not important because that's not why she's there. The thing is is that the reason that that character exists is because we we live in in Rizon false stories like in rise and fall cliches, there's generally a person behind the person like someone in the shadows. It's actually doing all the work and almost every single one of these movies. Or stories flirts with that that sort of scenario. The reason that that I have that kind of character in this film listed talk about how. That character. Is no longer important in contemporary narratives for the following reason. We all know that the majority of our popular figures are not responsible for their success. We already know that. And it's something which is. There are exceptions, of course. But if somebody came out tomorrow and said your favorite artists does not write her or his own songs. Nobody would give because. You know, if if we live during a period where nobody gives a fuck about the president's sleeping with porn star. Or if we live in a moment in time where we don't care if the president committed a crime, if we live in a moment in time where we don't care if artists are responsible for their own artworks, how on how on earth can we possibly care about a pop artists that lip syncs, of course, at a live show. So it's complicated. Because if we live in a moment in time, which is post truth, it means that we are. Post narrative because narrative relies on steaks. And if there are no stakes you have no drama, and if you have no drummer, you have no cinema. And so this film suggests that in a moment that should be a turning point in the story that it's impossible for that to be a big enough turning point because nobody gives a and therefore what what will people care about people care about something? Penultimate something fabled the deal with the devil. No. That won't care about that either. Because even that is Pesci. So the whole film is very complex because it uses things uses melodrama to to talk about talk about something that used to work, and it doesn't work anymore. And so and. Since this is the and it's a group of oughta storytellers and stuff in the room. What do we do about it? It's very very complicated. And and it's hard because it's like, I mean, every time you go to work. You don't wanna have you don't want to be burdened with that kind of kind of kind of. Hypothesis which which is all it is. But but what do we do? How do we make people care, and I feel like as a writer when I sit on a right something constantly trying to figure out. How do I make anyone care right now? And it takes a lot and it's a little disruptive. And in the film functions is as an destructive way to disrupt your expectations of where you're coming to see or whatever. But, you know, not not not for nothing. I've been told to wrap it up. So I think the answer to your question is we keep telling these stories, I think that I should just keep talking to you for the for the last the last forty five seconds. So I don't have to answer another question. John. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay. Thank you, very kind of you. And no to all of us though. The answer to your question. We just have to keep committing to telling the stories that reveal the truth and show who we are. And those are the ones that take five years to get made. But we got us be stick with them. And I think everyone in this room is with me in that. These stories do matter and thank you for making one. That does go having a Growney have a good night. Thank you very much. Thanks for listening to another QNA if you'd like to hear more you can find past episodes of the director's cut wherever you listen to podcasts. We'll have more for you in the coming weeks, including QNA's from directors Adam McKay, and Peter hedges, so be sure to subscribe. So you don't miss an episode. If you're enjoying our podcast, please take a moment to rate and review us on. I tunes. We'd love to hear your feedback. And you can help fell center files on the show. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time. This podcast is produced by the directors guild, America music is by Dan, Wally.
The Director's Cut