Director’s Panel: Directors on Directing aka Directors Banter Each Other
(I sat in the rear of the Lobero Theatre and took notes.)
The panel presentation, hosted by Peter Bart, Editor-in-Chief of Variety magazine, was not about directing movies. It was about directors getting together and bantering with one another in a language I didn’t understand – hollywoodese was it? In-joke-ese? It was not anything I understand. Here are some of the little clips that I did catch at least part of:
Brad Bird (Ratatouille): The theaters have to be smaller to screen 3D. 3D needs to be seen with glasses.
Jason Reitman (Juno): The best way to watch a movie is in a small theatre. My parents would drop me off at the theaters as my day care.
Judd Apatow (Super Bad, Knocked UP) Is satire loosing it’s appeal? What the fuck are you talking about? Ha, ha. I thought it would be funny to make fun of other movies. But I did a parody of movies that people like, not ones they don’t like. Our humor is related to the penis. We did not compete with anyone. Why are you putting me down?
Adam Shankman (Hairspray, Stuck on You): My mom is a sex therapist. Is this TV material? Yes, of course it is, isn’t it?
Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) : Yes, I like a big canvas. I would like to propose, to those who have an influence on young people, can we have a ban on the word “awesome”? It is a generic word, everybody uses it. I don’t like kids to say “awesome”. If you say it, the kids would say it.
Host, Peter: You shouldn’t see “Super Bad”
Can we play a little game here? The presidential election: how would you use the presidential screening room?
Judd: Bill (Clinton) wanted to watch “Knocked up” on the plane to Europe. He thanked me for allowing him to screen my film on the plane, but he never mentioned the name of the movie. And the cuff links he sent me were kind of cheap looking, at least the box was.
Julian: This is a panel of those kids that sit in the back of the classroom with their hands up all the time, and now they’ve grown up?
Host: Why are the moves nominated this year are so dark, other than Juno?
Adam: I want to congratulate those of you who were nominated.
Julian: If I win, I’ve already had the script written.
Host: We read your acceptance speech.
Judd: I’m really honored to be hanging around with you guys.
(Lots of in jokes that I didn’t get) Something about Shawn Young.
Host: Most of us don’t know who Shawn Young is either.
(Moan from everyone)
The oscar may or may not happen.
Host Peter: Brad, tell us about the animation business – Disney.
Brad: Disney was a product of his time. Producers were higher rated than directors at the time. He wasn’t really a good director. He did recognized good story structure.
Animation is a craft. I’m going to do live action films now, because I like films. I got the opportunity to do animation so I went there. My ideal career would be to make different genres of films.
But it takes a big budget to do good moves around complicated movements in the background. And animation is geared to children.
Julian: But some things are better as an animated film.
Brad: And on a comedy level in animation you can get away with more things than in live films.
Julian: Craft or art form: Depends on whose doing it.
Brad: Animation is often committeized. That makes it difficult to deal with.
Host Peter: Anyone tried animation in your films?
Judd: It’s hard. Awesome.
John: Daunting. Phatt. (laughter)
Host: Baffo is a better word than awesome.
Jason: When you say the word awesome your mouth has to open wide.
Julian: like a giant asshole. (laughter)
There was a question and answer period after the bantering and I asked the question: What makes a film Good?
Nobody answered my question. Here’s one comment:
Julian: There’s a lot of bad movies that are bad: Showgirls. Under Siege when she comes out of the cake. Some are really bad, but they are fantastic!
What film or director made you want to be a director?
Julian: Billy Wilder.
Others: Kurosawa, Andre Torkowski, Die Hard
Brad: I can’t answer that. Some filmmakers continually draw me in. Stranger Than Paradise. Dr. Stranglove.
Jason: The Invincible.
Judd: Stripes. James Brooks, Hal Ashby, the director. I go back time and time again to see what he did.
Host: We are doing a retrospective about Hal Ashby at the Oscars.
He was a very original, unusual filmmaker. He was a character from Utah.
Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl): I’m a 70’s guy.
Host: Nobody ever talks about Hector Bebencko.
Question: What is the biggest challenge? What advice can you give to aspiring directors?
Judd: I got shut down after shooting “The Virgin” because the studio said he looked like a serial killer. They thought I was lighting it like an Independent movie. We made no real adjustments after that point. But we did continue. To not give up was a challenge.
Advice? Work from your heart. The Savages is a movie like that. That’s the type of work that moves me.
Brad: When I started in the business I love ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and hate ‘maybe’. ‘Maybe’ – it sucks away your life from the middle men. The ones at the top say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ Those middle men give the ‘maybes’.
Adam: I was a sell out for the first several movies. Hairspray was the most personal experience ever for me. The cast was crazy and I loved it . Out of the chaos came the order. Be truthful to yourself. Mr. Schnavel wouldn’t do anything that isn’t deeply personal.
Schnavel: When you’re making a movie you have to fight battles. You need to know what is important and what is worth fighting for and what to let go of.
How much can you take and still look yourself in the mirror?
Craig: Film is collaborative – camera, editors – they can all add to it and will help push it along. They make you look good and you get all the credit.
Question: How close is what comes out the way you wanted it to?
Julian: In my case it does.
Jason : A lot of your shots are out of focus….(laughter).
Brad: Most of mine are what I expect,
Jason: Both of mine are what I had in mind. But sometimes I change my mine.
Julian: But you don’t have to do it that way (with scripted, planned precision). You don’t always have to rehearse.
Question: How do you use comedic elements?
Julian: Get a paralyzed guy and put him in the hospital.
Jason: Comedy lets you laugh at things you might not be able to talk about otherwise. It can start to push political buttons.
In Diving Belle the main character has a sense of humor. It makes him a real human being.
Judd: The dark movies this year has some comedy in it.
Julian: I think we are living in dark times, and that is why there are dark movies, and they do have comedy in them. It’s like arts and leisure. Is it an oxymoron?
Question: Can we get Diablo Cody (writer of Juno) here next year?
Jason: She got sick, exhausted. She would love to come back here. She’s the best person to have on a panel. In Juno, the woman doesn’t live up to the time, like Shakespeare – and when I met her – you’re laughing – but she does live up to the words, you’ll see it.
Question: I just got my degree from AFI (American Film Institute in LA). Can you talk about shot selection versus blocking. How important is blocking to you in relation to the camera.
Answers: It depends on the film. Musicals are important to be blocked, and to make schedules.
Snavel: In The Diving Bell, everything was shot listed before production and everything was blocked. We had 5 cameras. Doing the same shot. I’ plan things out carefully and do all my work before.
Julian: blocking? The guy didn’t move! Ha, ha.
My AD said to me, you never took one shot that you rehearsed.
Jason: It all depends on the movie. Sometimes we do long dolly shots. Don’t get locked into anything. Everything needs to be fluid.
Julian: You have to think about what the story is that you are telling. You have to at a certain moment, be spontaneous. You need to think filmicly about what you are doing and how you shoot it. Release yourself of having a system for shooting. Use your instincts.
Question: I’m a costume designer. Any anecdotes?
Brad: Incredibles and Ratatouille were nominated for art direction. It’s the same no matter what department you work with, like sound. An empty refrigerator sounds different than a full frig. It’s not about making things look slick. What you do tells you something about character, the composure. I talk about the feeling, the sense of the scene.
Craig: I asked my costume designer for a little more “bite”. (Ha, ha)
Costume designer once came up with these sweaters, and trying to find the right one for the scene and the feeling. We picked one that conveyed the right feeling.
Julian: A recorded picture is going to stay with you the entire length of the film and it’s permanent. So it will be with you always.
Can anybody explain the banter to me?