TABLE OF CONTENTS 4 6
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
BABY DRIVER: HOW EDGAR WRIGHT IS SAVING THE ACTION FILM
AVA DUVERNAY ON HER OSCAR-NOMINATED DOCUMENTARY 13TH AND RESISTANCE THROUGH ART
ARRIVAL DIRECTOR DENIS VILLENEUVE ON HIS SCI-FI FILMâ€™S UNEXPECTED TIMELINESS
James Laxton, Ashton Sanders on set of Moonlight / A24 Pictures
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TO GIVE BIRTH TO MOONLIGHT, WRITER-DIRECTOR BARRY JENKINS DUG DEEP INTO HIS PAST
ALEJANDRO IÑÁRRITU INTERVIEW: THE REVENANT, DIFFICULT SHOOTS
BEAUTY AND INSANITY: THE NEON DEMON
12 QUESTIONS WITH PATTY JENKINS, DIRECTOR OF WONDER WOMAN
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Dennis Villeneueve , Amy Adams on set of Arrival / Paramount Pictures
When presenting an entire publication that celebrates film through directors, it is important to note that movies are collaborative efforts. While some directors are referred to as auteurs, it is an imperfect term. Here are David Fincher’s thoughts on auteurism, from an interview by Matt Thrift in 2017 (via Little White Lies): “The problem with auteurism is that it presupposes that one person can impress upon 95 people, so clearly, that the manifestation of whatever it is going on in your head can be clearly attributed to them. The reality of moviemaking is, y’know, it’s a rat fuck. Every day is a skirmish, and you might escape every skirmish, but there are injuries and there losses, and there are things that you had 10 meetings about that go off perfectly, and there are things that you’ve had no meetings about that ended up taking eight of the 12 hours in the day because you didn’t think it was going to be so complicated. So the notion that someone calls this perfect, idealised version of the scene… It’s like the jet-propulsion industry, the idea that something is wind-tunnel tested and is gonna go
off the way it’s supposed to — it never goes off the way it’s supposed to. My issue with auteurism is, how do you attribute a master plan to a happy accident? There are certain things that you can count on. You have to work at it, and you have to know what it is you’re trying to do and impart that to an army of people who all have their own ideas about what’s important. Everybody who comes on to a set looks at it from a slightly different standpoint. You can’t say to the third violinist, ‘This is what the totality of the thing should sound like.’ You just need them to get them to do their thing. When you hear it, it either moves you or it doesn’t, so you have to figure if it needs a little bit more of this or that. That’s happening in the rehearsal, it’s happening in the coverage throughout the day. You hone in as you get tighter and tighter and tighter on people, but you’re also getting tighter in terms of time. You’re honing in on one little thing, and then you do the same again in the edit, with the sound effects, with the music, with the colour grading. Suddenly all this stuff comes together, and the notion that anyone could say, ‘This is precisely what it’s going to look like,’ to me is amazing.”
BABY DRIVER: HOW EDGAR WRIGHT IS SAVING THE ACTION FILM Chris O’Falt / June 29, 2017 / Indie Wire
The Hot Fuzz director’s visceral approach to staging his new car chase movie recalls a style of action filmmaking that Hollywood abandoned long ago.
Edgar Wright, Ansel Elgort on set of Baby Driver Tristar Pictures
The first day of shooting car chase scenes on the Baby Driver set, stunt coordinator and second unit director Darrin Prescott asked Edgar Wright if he wanted to sit in while they filmed their first high speed chase. “Oh my god, you’re never prepared for what it feels like to go that fast around the corner and it was incredible,” said Wright in an interview with IndieWire. “That’s the thing — in terms of sitting there as a director, this is what I want the viewers to feel like when they are watching it.” That commitment has yielded one of the best-directed pieces of action filmmaking in years, but pulling it off was no easy feat.
Lily James, Ansel Elgort, Edgar Wright on set of Baby Driver / Tristar Pictures
Ansel Elgort, Lily James / Tristar Pictures
Visceral Pleasures For Wright, the idea of shooting his heist film about a young getaway driver using visual effects never entered the equation. “If you are making a car chase movie and you didn’t get to film any car chase stuff, what’s the point?” he asked. “If my only bit is sitting on a green screen shooting people reacting and steering wildly, what am I doing?” That’s the type of tough guy quote one might expect from one of Hollywood’s overly masculine directors, a tradition that stretches back to Howard Hawks and continues all the way through Michael Bay — not the short, selfeffacing film geek behind the pithy genre comedies like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” But that’s the state of Hollywood in 2017: It has taken a British comedic director to remind the American commercial film industry of what they use to do so well.
Wright likes to joke in interviews that he’s spent the last 12 years convincing director Walter Hill that his 1978 car chase film The Driver is a masterpiece – which has included doing a Q&A and screening with Hill at his pal Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly theater and giving the veteran director a cameo in Baby Driver. Hill’s talent is a striking contrast to the way franchise-addicted, CGI-obsessed studios have lost touch with visuallyorientated action directors (Wright has also curated the 22-film Heist Society retrospective starting at BAM on Friday). It’s a topic Wright can’t discuss enough. “Action sort of tends to get bigger and bigger to sort of like fulfill this need to top the last thing, but I think there’s sort of real visceral pleasures to watching a somewhat realistic car chase,” said Wright during an event last March at SXSW, where Baby Driver premiered.
Wright tried his hand at the VFXdriven franchise game with Marvel’s Ant Man before departing over creative difference. It’s not something he speaks about in great detail (although he did tell Variety’s Kris Tapley that he wanted to make a Marvel film, but he didn’t believe the studio wanted to make an Edgar Wright film). But Wright doesn’t really need to say too much about his intentions, because Baby Driver – an original, unapologetically fun summer action film – acts as a manifesto on what it takes to realize the potential and forgotten pleasure of the action genre.
“IF THE ACTION IS GOOD, THERE’S NO REASON TO CUT AROUND IT,”
musicals that have about five big numbers, it’s five action set pieces, a song for each. Then I would [write each action scene] to the songs.” It was a great idea in theory — but required a complicated strategy to come to life.
Prescott (Black Panther, John Wick, Deadpool, True Detective), who has become a go-to second unit director and stunt coordinator for directors still looking to take an old school practical approach to visceral action, instantly recognized Wright as a kindred spirit in their first meeting. “What Edgar understands is if characters are in peril, the action should make you feel more for them and you are more vested in the film,” said Prescott, “versus a movie where they just run into a bunch of people in cars and kill a bunch of people.”
Action, Meet Song To immerse the audience in the driver’s seat with Baby (Ansel Elgort), Wright didn’t just want viewers to see the action from the character’s point of view, but to hear it as well. Built into the film’s premise is that Baby – who suffers from tinnitus (painful ringing in the ears), like Wright did as a child – can only perform his virtuoso driving when listening to a carefully preselected song on his iPod. “If you look at Hong Kong cinema, Jackie Chan and John Woo, they both point to Gene Kelly and MGM musicals as one of the biggest influences,” said Wright. “I took that premise that Hong Kong movies are Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Edgar Wright, Flea, Lanny Joon on set of Baby Driver / Tristar Pictures
A Careful Setting As the story takes a turn and Baby is forced to confront his situation and relationship with the heist ringleader (played by Kevin Spacey), the glamour of Wright’s high-speed chases starts to fade. Pointing to the strategic use of Los Angeles in what Wright calls the “Holy Trinity” of ’90s heist films
—Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break, and Michael Mann’s Heat — Wright studied the city’s history of high speed chases. He wanted to unearth the key to successful getaways and where others went wrong, even going so far as to talk to ex-cons and FBI agents. When the film was switched to Atlanta, where Georgia offers a
30% tax incentive, Wright re-did the research and rewrote the film to become location specific once again. “I tried to keep it in the realms of reality, in terms of things you could actually do with cars and guns and not go too crazy,” said Wright. “The action is all stuff that could actually happen. I really wanted people to get the feeling of what it would be like to be a getaway driver in the middle of pursuit with the police because one of the things is [not] everybody fantasizes about robbing a bank, but I think most people have that fantasy of being in a high speed chase and [the] thing the movie is about is you see the dream that quickly becomes a nightmare.”
Don’t Cut Around the Good Stuff The most important element involved Wright’s approach was the decision to shoot the action scenes practically (no visual effects), a task made more difficult by Wright’s refusal to “hose down” a scene by running multiple cameras from various angles and then building the scenes in post. That’s a safety blanket approach Prescott said he has to fight against on most studio films. “If the action is good, there’s no reason to cut around it,” said Prescott. “Audience likes to see what the car is doing and the geography and what is going on.” Rather than creating the action in the editing room, Wright followed the model of early Jackie Chan films and Hill’s The Driver by designing specific shots for each action beat, which would also need to be timed and choreographed to each beat of the song. On a budget a fraction the size of a Hollywood blockbuster, which allowed for only 57 days of shooting – Wright kicked part of his directing fee back into the
production to keep the third act foot chase — with only three weeks of second unit, Baby Driver had to be meticulously planned. Prescott admitted that he didn’t know how they’d pull it off when Wright first pitched him the concept, but once he saw Wright’s animatic storyboards with the music laid in, he started to get excited. Prescott would visit the real location to measure out the distance, then take stunt driver Jeremy Fry (John Wick, Jason Bourne) to the Atlanta speedway to test it out. Hanging out the window of his rental car, he would film Fry replicating the stunt with his cheap video camera. He and Wright would then load the footage into the animatic to test the timing. “So we’d now know if that action gag takes 12 seconds on the speedway, it’s going to be approximately the same at the real location,” said Prescott. “We could test out the timing — if it missed the beat, we talked about altering the stunt or maybe Edgar might decide he wants to cut away to a shot of Ansel.”
Jon Hamm, Edgar Wright on set of Baby Driver / Tristar Pictures
A Perfect Alignment On most current Hollywood films, expert action units like Prescott, Fry and stunt coordinator Robert Nagle would be left to their own devices, on Baby Driver the strong collaboration with the director
continued during the production. According to Prescott, this was a big reason why the geometry and the physics of the action in Baby Driver feel so perfectly aligned. “It’s Edgar’s massive attention to detail, to be really on point with what he’s doing with actors on main unit and how that affects what we do on second unit,” said Prescott. “If we go first and shoot a 180 in and 180 out of alley — like you see in the trailer — Edgar wants to know exactly what Ansel should be doing with the car at that point to initiate the stunt. He wants to know if he’s clutching kicking, or braking, or counter steering. Between that detail work and letting the action stand on it’s own, it’s what translates to this feeling of it being so believable and visceral.” Wright also had Elgort and Jon Hamm train in the basics of stunt driving to make their on screen actions believable, in addition to having dance choreographer Ryan Heffington (Sia’s music video for Chandelier) work with the cast on their movements, both for
Ansel Elgort, Jaime Foxx / Tristar Pictures
“YOU NEED TO KNOW YOU GOT [THE SHOT], BECAUSE THERE’S NO BACK UP.”
Edgar Wright, Ansel Elgort on set of Baby Driver / Tristar Pictures
action and non-action scenes. Wright also had one of his longtime editors, Paul Machliss, on set to make sure the action still perfectly matched the music. “There’s not a b-shot or master to go to, most of the time that’s because with some of the choreography you [couldn’t do that],” said Wright. “You
need to know you got [the shot], because there’s no back up.” During the second car chase, set to the two-and-half minute song “Neat, Neat, Neat,” by The Damned, cinematographer Bill Pope and Machliss made it clear the timing of their shooting was longer than the track. Wright was determined not to
cut action from the scene, nor break his plan of one song per action scene, so on the last day he shot an insert of Elgort panicking as the song ran out and rewinding the track so he could finish the getaway. While Wright was a slave to the songs, he wasn’t necessarily a slave to his storyboards. Prescott said he’s never worked with a director so clear about what he wanted, but so open to collaboration and letting the best idea rise to the top. Wright’s underlying goal was to place the audience at the center of the action — the pacing, story and direction are one organic whole. Each bracing sequence is a natural culmination of dramatic tension and the elevation of character’s conflict into something that keeps the audience engaged. Wright knows it’s a gift that he’s been able to write and shoot an original action film on Hollywood dime, but he refuses to accept it as some kind of anomaly. “It’s rare,” he said, “but it shouldn’t be.”
Ansel Elgort / Tristar Pictures
THOR: RAGNAROK Directed by Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi, Christ Hemsworth on set of Thor: Ragnarok / Marvel Studios
“WE’RE ALL FRIENDS ON SET. WE BECOME MATES. AND THAT, TO ME, IS THE PERFECT WAY OF CREATING A FREE SPACE TO BE CREATIVE...”
“...IT’S A SPACE WHERE WE FEEL LIKE WE’RE FAMILY, AND WE CAN TELL EACH OTHER ANYTHING, AND HASSLE EACH OTHER, AND MAKE FUN OF EACH OTHER.” / TAIKA WAITITI Tessa Thomspon, Taika Waititi on set of Thor: Ragnarok / Marvel Studios
Christ Hemsworth, Taika Waititi on set of Thor: Ragnarok / Marvel Studios
AVA DUVERNAY ON HER OSCARNOMINATED DOCUMENTARY 13TH AND RESISTANCE THROUGH ART Eliza Berman / February 10, 2017 / Time
“I KNOW WHAT I THINK, When the 13th amendment was ratified into law on December 6, 1865, it abolished slavery, with one key caveat: “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” More than 150 years later, that exception has proven much more than a mere footnote to history. More AfricanAmerican men are incarcerated, or on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, and the United States, which accounts for 5% of the world’s population, counts nearly a quarter of the world’s incarcerated people. To understand how we got from there to here, look no further than Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary 13th. Released just a month before the presidential
election last fall, the film draws a line from the ratification of its titular amendment to mass incarceration today, making pit stops at significant moments in history, from the depiction of black men as a threat to white women in The Birth of a Nation in 1917 to the thinly-veiled racist appeals of President Reagan’s Southern strategy in the early ‘80s. The subject is familiar territory for DuVernay, who has also touched upon it in her narrative work. As she told Oprah in an interview that accompanies 13th on Netflix, her interest in the topic was visceral before it was intellectual. As a child growing up in Compton, California, she explained, she learned to see police officers as a symbol of fear rather than one of safety.
BUT I’M INTERESTED IN KNOWING WHAT EVERYONE THINKS.”
13th / Netflix
The issue of mass incarceration is so interconnected with other issues in America, from education to healthcare to employment. How did you draw the line on what to include? I gave myself a 100-minute limit. Netflix was very flexible on the format. They just wanted me to tell the story in whatever form fit best. I wanted to be more rigorous than letting it be a free-for-all, told over six or eight episodes, mainly because I didn’t think that people would watch it, and it was important to me that it be seen. It’s hard enough to get a national conversation in America going about race in a meaningful way, that’s not in reaction to something bad happening. Some viewers might be surprised by some of the people who are interviewed in the film, like famous conservatives Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist. How did you decide on this particular group of talking heads?
Ava Duvernay / Christopher Patey
Eliza Berman: This documentary came out a month before the election, and it includes footage of both Donald Trump and the Clintons talking about incarceration and related subjects. Was your hope that it would influence the conversation about the candidates? Ava DuVernay: Certainly. It was important for us to make the piece evergreen so it could live beyond the election, but also with hopes that we could contribute more information to the national conversation as people were making their decisions.
It was important for me to make sure that we included people on both sides of the aisle, so to speak. I know what I think, but I’m interested in knowing what everyone thinks. Everyone who I asked to be in the documentary said yes, and they were included because I wanted to hear their side of the story. I was eager to sit down with them and pick their brains. I spoke with every subject for two hours, and the most intriguing parts of those conversations are in the film. Did it surprise you when Gingrich admitted to changing his position from what he had believed in in the past? I knew that he had that position, so it was really just a question of whether or not he would repeat it to me on camera. What surprised me was ALEC [The American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of conservative legislators and
representatives of private companies that has promoted policies that keep prison populations high]. Having been an African-American Studies major at UCLA, a student of black liberation theory and growing up in Compton, I was very familiar with the history that I share in the film, and being a part of the Black Lives Matter movement, I understood that part of it. But I was so shaken up about discovering ALEC that I delved into that research for a good six months so that I could learn it fully enough to share it in the documentary. You show footage of Trump rallies next to violent footage from the Civil Rights movement. Do you feel like history is repeating itself? A lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same. But when you have a divisive figure like Donald Trump instigating violence and prejudice against people at his own rallies as he pursues the presidency, then he takes power as President and continues to perpetuate misogynistic, homophobic, racist points of view, I feel that I have to, as an artist,tell that story as vigorously and passionately as I can. It was very apparent to me, as I was watching, that he was asking his supporters to be aggressive with and violent with people who were expressing dissent. I saw the alignment of what he was asking for and what had happened in the past, and I wanted to make that point in the montage that we crafted in 13th.
artists who are seeing the work as art and not as work for hire, it’s saying something about how they feel. All of the work that I’ve done in film and television, even the commercial work, the images that I try to craft are saying something about me. That won’t change. In a recent interview, your fellow Oscar nominee Raoul Peck, who directed I Am Not Your Negro, said that he refuses to make films that audiences come to consume; he wants them to engage. What’s your take on that? I don’t make films for audiences. I make films to express myself. Through that, I have confidence that there are people out there—it might be a small audience, it might be a large audience—but there are folks out there that are interested in looking in through the window of the world of my story, in the same way that I enjoy watching films by filmmakers of all kinds, all over the world, from all generations. Raoul Peck is a legend and a master, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with him as his publicist on his landmark film Lulumba. I think his current film is a masterpiece, and I’m proud to share this Oscar category with him. I hope that audiences engage, but I don’t make it for that reason.
You’ve talked about resistance to the new administration. For you, how much of resistance is in your art versus your life outside of your work? I feel like all art is political. As artists, we’re sharing our point of view, asserting our identity through our work, whether you’re making a romantic comedy or you’re making a documentary about prison. For 13th / Netflix
“I THINK THAT IS A MISCONCEPTION, THAT HOLLYWOOD’S LEADING A CONVERSATION. IT’S REALLY NOT. PEOPLE IN THE REAL WORLD ARE DOING WORK AND HAVE BEEN. MY JOB IS JUST TO REFLECT IT.”
Angela Davis on the set of 13th / Netflix
What do you make of the fact that three of the five documentary Oscar nominees are about race and civil rights? The category has five beautiful films by five very different filmmakers. I love the fact that four of the nominees are black, from different parts of the country with different issues. There’s a film in there that touches on themes of immigration, so I think four of the five really deal with matters of race and class, and that’s a beautiful thing. I wish there were more women nominated. And it’s important that when we speak of inclusion, it’s not just black folk. We need Latino filmmakers, we need LGBT filmmakers, we need Native filmmakers, we need Asian and Asian American filmmakers and actors and people below the line, and this is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed. But this year feels nice to be included in a year that has more inclusion than in the past.
The movie calls out the influence that Hollywood has on public perception and policy, beginning with The Birth of a Nation a hundred years ago. How do you feel about the impact Hollywood is having on conversations about racism and civil rights today? I don’t know that Hollywood is having an effect on it. I feel like the world is having an effect on Hollywood. It would be disingenuous to say that this conversation wasn’t happening before this film. There are people that have been working vigorously on issues of incarceration, criminalization and prison abolition for decades. Many of them are in the documentary. So this work is just to capture that and share it with a wider audience. I’m grateful to Netflix for making it available in 190 countries, which is pretty stunning. I think that is a misconception, that Hollywood’s leading a conversation. It’s really not. People in the real world are doing work and have been. My job is just to reflect it.
Directed by Dave McCary / Written by Kyle Mooney and Kevin Costello
Kyle Mooney, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. / Sony Pictures Classics
“WE SEE THE WORST VERSIONS OF OURSELVES— THINGS WE DID OR COULD HAVE DONE—IN THE CHARACTERS WHO INSPIRE US. THAT MOTIVATES US. WE WANT PEOPLE TO BE MORE SELF-AWARE, TO SEE HOW STRANGE WE ALL ARE, HOW DELUSIONAL. AND HOW WONDERFUL.” / DAVE MCCARY
ARRIVAL DIRECTOR DENIS VILLENEUVE ON HIS SCI-FI FILM’S UNEXPECTED TIMELINESS Todd VanDerWerff / December 8, 2016 / Vox Media
If you’re one of the millions who’ve seen the sci-fi drama Arrival, about a linguist’s attempts to establish communication with aliens who’ve just landed all over Earth, you might have found yourself wondering who was behind the film’s beautifully sleek images, its gigantic alien antechambers and carefully guarded reservoirs of emotion. And the film’s director, Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, is definitely someone worth knowing. Since his breakthrough film Incendies in 2010, he’s made four other films — Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, and Arrival — and he will release Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to the classic 1982 sci-fi detective film, in October 2017. So, needless to say, Villeneuve is a little tired. He didn’t do a lot of press for Arrival’s November release because he was on set for
Dennis Villeneueve on set of Arrival / Paramount Pictures
Blade Runner, but he’s both happy and a little taken aback by the surprise success of Arrival. I met with Villeneuve when he was back in Los Angeles to talk about his film, and though it was the end of a long day for both of us, he nevertheless became visibly animated when talking about how he created puppets to suggest Arrival’s aliens to its cast, and why he needs to take a break to get perspective on his career.
Myself, as a filmmaker, I’m not sure I’m that interesting. Some filmmakers, it’s worth it to listen to them. I could listen to Martin Scorsese for hours. Myself, I think I’d rather people watch my movies than listen to me.
Amy Adams / Paramount Pictures
“I THINK TODAY PEOPLE KNOW TOO MUCH ABOUT FILM... I FEEL THAT TRAILERS REVEAL TOO MUCH. IT’S BEAUTIFUL JUST KNOWING THE TITLE AND [NOTHING ELSE]. WE ARE SEEING TOO MUCH RIGHT NOW.”
Todd VanDerWerff: Arrival has its reveals, definitely, but it’s also, on some level, a movie about how knowing spoilers can make certain experiences richer. I wonder how you, as a filmmaker, experience the idea of spoilers. How do you feel about them? Denis Villeneuve: I was on a jury for a film festival once, so I had seen something like 17 movies without knowing anything about them. I was sitting in a theater, not knowing where [each movie] was from, what genre it was, who was in it. It was one of the most intense and beautiful cinematic experiences of my life. To sit in a dark room, not knowing what the first frame will be and what it will be about. You don’t know if you’re watching a comedy or horror movie. I think today people know too much about film. I understand that there’s lot of movies and it’s expensive [to go]. People want to know what they will be seeing. But I feel that trailers reveal too much. It’s beautiful just knowing the title and [nothing else]. We are seeing too much right now.
There’s been a lot of political upheaval throughout the world in the last year, and Arrival was released in the US in the immediate wake of the election. How do its themes of communication and understanding resonate for you as you look at the world at large? What was interesting for me in that project was the playfulness of the idea of language changing your perception of reality. There’s a link with cinema, with that. There’s a lot of things that I was really deeply moved by in the story, and the politics [between world powers] of it all were more in the background. They were there to bring tension and to give a proper journey. With Joe Walker [Arrival’s editor], we were in the editing room, saying, “Are we going too far?” Then I would open the newspaper and say, “Oh, no. [Russia] just invaded Ukraine.” Sadly, we are going through not a nice period. We’re seeing the result of a decade of reality TV shows, where the goal is to see people get humiliated, and the more they are stupid, the more they are stars. When people are looking at that shit for too long, they confuse politics and reality shows. The fact that Arrival seems like a balm on people’s souls right now means a lot.
A lot of Arrival is solving puzzles, figuring things out, watching as characters think things through. That can be tricky to portray onscreen. How did you work with the actors and others on the crew to convey that intellectual quality? Actors need to be driven by emotions. What I do first is try to make sure that they can work with as much reality as possible. On Arrival I put a lot of time into the interior of the spaceship, to create that chamber with that tunnel, to create physical things, to use as little green screen as possible and always be in contact with something real. That huge chamber that we built, all my friends, other directors, came, and they went, “Whoa!” At the end [of the chamber], we had that huge white screen, and I thought that it would be a good idea to have puppeteers behind it [where the aliens are in the film], to act like a shadow presence, so the actor will feel that there’s some presence there, that there are beings there. In order to try to create original and fresh and interesting moments, to try to create something that looks like life. I’m trying to create an environment where the actors can evolve safely and take risks and not be judged. For me with actors, it’s really about their inner journey as a character. My job is to focus on the meaning and the poetry of what was coming out, but I love to be surprised by actors.
Amy Adams / Paramount Pictures
You’ve made enough films now, in enough different genres, that we’re starting to get a sense of what your career looks like.
At home, where I was raised, I was used to doing a movie every three or four years. By the time you write the film, by the time it’s financed, years have passed.
That’s terrifying ! Time was so compressed in the last few years. I made five movies in six years, which is too much for me. I will need to have a slower pace in order to make sure I don’t repeat myself and try to do things that are meaningful.
You want to slow down, but have you liked the pace of that work over these past few years? Honestly, yes. It was not planned, but I had never felt that alive, working like that.
To be in contact with the camera that often, with actors, I learned so much in the past six years. It was a massive, intense cinema crash course. That’s why after Blade Runner, I want to stop, slow down just a little bit.
“I’M TRYING TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THE ACTORS CAN EVOLVE SAFELY AND TAKE RISKS AND NOT BE JUDGED.”
When you look back at these five films, they’re very superficially different in terms of genre and story, but I’m wondering what links you see between them. Do you see a throughline in what material draws you to it?
You don’t move the camera a lot in Arrival, but when you do, it’s very precise, very methodical, often with a kind of ominous forward momentum. How did you approach the question of when and how to move the camera in this film?
That’s why I need to stop. Seriously! When you keep the pace of what I did, for instance, in a row, I didn’t have time to see necessarily the links.
A process I’m enjoying more and more that came from my relationship with [Roger] Deakins [the director of photography on Prisoners and Sicario] is the process of storyboarding.
Honestly, I’m attracted to a story if I feel an intimate link that goes to my own evolution as a human being. It can be a relationship with anger or a fear that I have or an obsession that I have or a weakness or something. I dig into it, and I make it my own. It’s something that is hidden under the hood. That’s the fuel of the movie for me. Other people will not maybe see what is there, but it’s how I am able to direct the movie. The link between all those movies, honestly — I apologize, I have no distance. It’s not a bad thing. It’s good. When you make a movie, you need to deeply be in control of what you are saying. It’s important to not try to overthink and censor yourself, to be truthful and to say something honest. To be honest, I need to look at myself [to find that link].
In my early movies, I only storyboarded sequences where I felt that there was some technical challenge, like a stunt or an explosion, where you need to storyboard so that people know [what’s going to happen]. I thought storyboarding was a restrictive process. I discovered working with Roger that it was the total opposite. It’s a way to find the right [shots and camera movements] in a more precise way. It brings me more freedom on set, because everybody knows what we are doing. Then I can tear the storyboard apart. For me, storyboarding is about what’s written [in the script], and finding the right pacing and the way the movie will breathe. It’s something that is a very intuitive process, but it’s tracked in the storyboards very early on. Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner were tracked in storyboards. It doesn’t mean I always follow the plan! It’s a very intuitive process to find the best shot for a scene and what will be the most meaningful. What will have the most impact and will create the most tension and most poetry. It’s my favorite moment of my job.
Dennis Villeneueve, Amy Adams on set of Arrival / Paramount Pictures
“I THINK THAT FILMS AREN’T NECESSARILY TOOLS TO CHANGE THE WORLD. A FILM IS JUST A BEAUTIFUL THING IN ITSELF.”
Hee-Bong Byun, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Bong Joon-ho on set of Okja / Netflix
Lilly Collins, Devon Bostick / Netflix
Directed by Bong Joon-ho Written by Bong Joon-ho and Jon Ronson
Seo-Hyun Ahn / Netflix
“HOWEVER, WHEN SOMEONE IS EXPERIENCING THE BEAUTY OF A FILM, THAT ITSELF IS CHANGING THE WORLD IN SOME ASPECT.” / BONG JOON-HO
Bong Joon-ho, Seo-Hyun Ahn on set of Okja / Netflix
TO GIVE BIRTH TO MOONLIGHT, WRITER-DIRECTOR BARRY JENKINS DUG DEEP INTO HIS PAST Rebecca Keegan / October 21, 2016 / LA Times
Barry Jenkins / Jeff Minton
Alex R. Hibbert, Mahershala Ali / A24 Pictures
Since Labor Day weekend, Barry Jenkins has screened his new film, Moonlight, to enthusiastic audiences at seven prestigious festivals, collected near unanimous praise from critics for its tender portrait of black masculinity and closed a deal to adapt one of the hottest novels of the year, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, for television. Jenkins has not, however, shown his movie to his mom, who inspired some of Moonlight’s most unflinchingly honest scenes. “It’s not a question of when I’m ready to show it to her, it’s a question of when my mom is ready to watch it,” said Jenkins, 36.
Jenkins adapted Moonlight from a never produced story by the black, gay playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The film follows a boy named Chiron, played at different ages by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes, whose sensitivity, sexuality and dark skin have left him especially vulnerable in the sunlit streets of 1980s Miami. With Chiron’s single mother, Paula (Naomie Harris), consumed by a drug addiction, the boy finds acceptance and stability in an unlikely place, the home of his mother’s drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali), and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe). He finds intimacy, and all the confusion that accompanies it, in a confident
Jharrel Jerome, Ashton Sanders / A24 Pictures
friend, Kevin, played at different ages by Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome and André Holland. Audiences and critics are responding to the vulnerability and authenticity on-screen in Moonlight, which shows a world rarely seen on the big screen and which is an amalgam of Jenkins’ and McCraney’s biographies. Both men grew up in Miami’s Liberty Square neighborhood at the same time, and both had mothers who grappled with drug addiction. Jenkins’
mother survived, McCraney’s did not. McCraney is gay, Jenkins is straight. Jenkins shot the movie on the same city blocks where he lived as a child — one location was an apartment balcony he jumped off to retrieve an old girlfriend’s shoe. His path from Liberty Square to the Telluride Film Festival, where Moonlight premiered in September, included a crucial stop at Florida State University, where he studied
film with Moonlight’s producer, Adele Romanski, and cinematographer, James L a x ton, who is also Romanski’s husband. At film school in 2003, Jenkins made a short film, My Josephine, about a couple of Arab immigrants who ran a laundromat where they washed American flags for free. “For most of us, it was a safe space to make bad short films,” Romanski said. “Barry was the kid who was
“BARRY WAS THE KID WHO WAS CONSISTENTLY MAKING SOMETHING BEYOND HIS PEER GROUP. HE WAS EXPLORING CHARACTERS WHO WERE OUTSIDE OF THE MAINSTREAM.”
Ashton Sanders / A24 Pictures
Mahershala Ali , Barry Jenkins on set of Moonlight / A24 Pictures
Alex R. Hibbert, Mahershala Ali / A24 Pictures
consistently making something beyond his peer group. He was exploring characters who were outside of the mainstream. What 21-year-old from Florida is making a movie in Arabic?â€? Jenkins won over critics with his first feature, the 2008 independent romance Medicine for Melancholy, and attracted the attention of Plan B Entertainment, the production company behind 12 Years a Slave, Selma and The Big Short. It took Jenkins a long time to land his second film, however. In that period, he started a commercial production company and wrote an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel he didnâ€™t have the rights to (If Beale
Barry Jenkins, James Laxton on set of Moonlight / A24 Pictures
reality is, this is my story. That’s who my mother was, so what do I do?’” It was Jenkins’ openness that won over Harris and many others, Romanski said. “Barry is a person people love to love,” she added. “He makes people comfortable.” On set, that meant winning over his own childhood neighborhood, where he hadn’t lived since before college.
Trevante Rhodes / A24 Pictures
“I’M STILL PROCESSING WHATEVER THE HELL IS THAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE FILM RIGHT NOW.” Street Could Talk). In January 2013, Romanski intervened. “I said, ‘Barry, you’re gonna make another movie.’ It’s shocking to me, but I guess I was the first to say, ‘I’m going to force you to make something.’” Romanski and Jenkins started a routine of video chatting twice a month about his projects, and Jenkins began work on McCraney’s play, which he learned about through Miami’s Borscht arts collective. (Despite growing up in the same neighborhood at the same time, even going to the same schools, Jenkins and McCraney didn’t meet until they were adults).
In September 2013 at the Telluride Film Festival, a serendipitous meeting brought Jenkins back into Plan B’s orbit, as the director, a longtime staffer at the festival, moderated a screening of 12 Years a Slave. Plan B’s Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner encouraged Jenkins to focus on the Moonlight script, and A24, the independent entertainment company that distributed best picture nominee Room, soon came aboard, making Moonlight its first homegrown production. Jenkins assembled his supporting cast in trips to middle schools and community centers. Harris shot her scenes in three short days on a break from promoting Spectre, the latest James Bond film. “I had reservations about taking on this role, because I’ve always wanted to represent black women in a positive light,” Harris said. “I’ve never wanted to play a stereotype. I’ve always said I will never play a crack addict. But the script deeply touched me. I was in conflict. Barry said, ‘I don’t want you to play a stereotype, but the
“I had to re-prove my bona fides,” Jenkins said. “It’s like, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ We’re shooting in the roughest neighborhood in Miami. I get there and the guys were basically like, ‘No disrespect Mr. Jenkins, but it shouldn’t be like that. They were helping me write.’ They’d say, ‘Nobody out here uses their government names.’ It was about them taking possession of the piece.” In many ways, Moonlight is about the families we find — not necessarily the ones we’re born to, an experience Jenkins seems to be having with his collaborators. In between festival hopping, he directed an episode of Justin Simien’s Netflix show Dear White People and has another project in the works with Romanski. Of his suddenly busy schedule, Jenkins said, “When you go eight years doing nothing, you make time.” T he ove r whe lmingly p o sitive response to the film has taken Jenkins’ breath away at moments, including in film festival environments where predominantly white, wealthy audiences would seem to have little in common with Chiron. “It’s all sort of a blur,” Jenkins said of the last six weeks. “Having grown people cry in my arms at screenings is a surreal experience. I’m still processing whatever the hell is that’s happening with the film right now.”
THE DISASTER ARTIST Directed by James Franco
“WHAT I HOPED I COULD DO IS TELL A STORY ABOUT CREATIVITY, TELL A STORY ABOUT HAVING A VISION THAT NOBODY ELSE BELIEVED IN AND PUSHING THAT VISION OUT INTO THE WORLD, BUT THROUGH THE UPSIDE-DOWN SKEWED LENS OF THIS VERY STRANGE AND UNIQUE FILM, THE ROOM.” / JAMES FRANCO
Paul Scheer, Seth Rogan, James Franco / A24 Pictures
ALEJANDRO IÑÁRRITU INTERVIEW: THE REVENANT, DIFFICULT SHOOTS Ryan Lambie / January 15, 2016 / Den of Geek
Oscar-nominated revenge drama The Revenant is out in the UK. We talk to its director about its ice-cold shoot, modern filmmaking and more.
The tribulations of Iñárritu and his cast and crew during The Revenant’s production make walking through sleet sound like a positive joy. This was, after all, a movie that saw filming take place in sub-zero temperatures, with lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio suffering from repeated bouts of illness. Last July, an anonymous crewmember told The Hollywood Reporter that the shoot — which took place in remote parts of Canada and Argentina, among other locations —was “a living hell.” Yet through the cost overruns, grim conditions and unexpected problems, Iñárritu ploughed on, returning with perhaps his best film yet: an earthy, violent yet also beautiful film about death, survival and vengeance.
Ryan Lambie: What was it like to shift from a very interior film like Birdman, to an exterior, expansive story like The Revenant? Alejandro Iñárritu: The difficulty is, when you put the camera in those huge landscapes, out in the natural environment, it’s very... cinema, in the end, is about excluding the whole world and just literally finding whatever you want through a pinhole, right? But in those territories, you’re trying to concentrate on a tiny little thing but you get lost. Like, where do you put the camera? Because everything is massive! To keep focus is very overwhelming. That’s the sensation: it’s very overwhelming. Not only because of the logistics, to arrive at those places and prepare them — the implications of shooting for 16 hours
“WHEN THERE’S NO CONTENTION, THE SENSATION IS OVERWHELMING YOU. THAT’S A CHALLENGE, TO DO THAT.”
in exterior weather— tough conditions, low temperatures, all that. I would say dramatically, to really pin down an infinite horizon, it’s really hard to grasp. When you shoot in a room, that’s a symmetrical thing that contains you. When there’s no contention, the sensation is overwhelming you. That’s a challenge, to do that. Where do you think that comes from? That particular style of yours: the very mobile camera. It’s almost omnipresent, isn’t it?
Alejandro Iñárritu:/ 20th Century Fox
I want the camerawork to fit the narrative and tell the story from the point of view of the character, but sometimes, to be interacting with the sensations of the story, you almost become like a ghost, you know? Like, someone that is floating, observing, not really judging what’s going on. The camera is a time-space trick. So yeah, I want the fluidity. The flow of that, I think is important — to not be in any way pinned down to this fragmented, very familiar way of understanding an action. To experience film in a different way, you know?
Do you think there’s a greater appetite for films that are shot in a real environment, not in a studio in front of a green screen? Do you think we need that kind of filmmaking now we’re in such a technological bubble of phones and laptops? I would say it isn’t happening a lot. Or enough, I would say. I think, unfortunately, everything is becoming about comfort, you know? A comfortable way to tell a story. The comfortable way, so that the audience will never be lost. A comfortable way to produce a film with green screens or without a lot of physical effort or losing control because of the weather or physical locations. Or they’re based on known material and franchises. So everything is about reducing risk, about control. I remember when films were done more in the tradition of, I would say, a valid artform, which is to get lost as you are doing it, metaphorically. Where you take a journey - as you are doing, you are finding out what exactly it is you’re trying to make. That’s exciting. Original material —
Leonardo DiCaprio, Alejandro Iñárritu on set of The Revenant / 20th Century Fox
DIRECT producing something with physical things that can change, and you have to adapt. You find surprises. Or you fail. To surprise people with something that is unexpected or unpredictable... Everything is [being pushed] into this frame, this box. And everybody’s embracing that — from studios to directors to producers to opinionators on the internet. Film critics. When something’s out of their comfort zone, it’s a little bit disrupting - everybody’s... [mimes sitting up straight, as though electrocuted]. They all call it a pipeline now. They don’t call them films. It’s a pipeline! They call it content in a pipeline! Which is to say [chuckles], it must be used to sell something. So when there is no content... So anyway, what I’m saying is, I’m very privileged that we were able [to make The Revenant]. That we were supported to do something like this.
What motivates you to set yourself those challenges? When you made Birdman, didn’t people try to dissuade you from trying to shoot it as though it was all one take? It’s not about taking risks stupidly or rashly. I think Birdman and this film, there’s a very intrinsic reason to tell the story that way. And for me, I think, deeply, that... there are two points. One, I feel it’s the best way to tell that story, and it will serve a purpose, the dramatic tension. It’ll feel different if the story’s told that way. And it will reveal something else. Or at least, I’ll try it - even for me as I’m doing it, I’m attempting something that I’ve never seen done, to see what comes from that. It’s important to push yourself and push boundaries Even if I’ve failed with both of them — time will tell, I don’t know. Nobody can tell me now. I wouldn’t believe somebody if they told me [Birdman and The Revenant] were great or they were shit. I think there
Forrest Goodluck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy / 20 th Century Fox
“THERE’S A RIGOUR WHEN I’M MAKING SOMETHING THAT WILL BE ON THE SCREEN FOREVER. I THINK IT HAS TO BE RIGHT, BECAUSE YOU JUST HAVE ONE TIME TO DO IT.”
Leonardo DiCaprio / 20th Century Fox
hasn’t been enough time to really know it. But, at least for me as an artist, I think it’s important for me to play with things, like a kid. If you don’t allow yourself to do that, then everything becomes about succeeding. I think, at this time, there’s a lot of punishment of artists - there is no support of a career. They want success, not a career, you know? If you don’t allow yourself a process of exploring, and sometimes losing one or two years of your life, you’re just getting something that is already proven... and that won’t really get us anywhere. Do you think of yourself as an obsessive filmmaker?
when I’m making something that will be on the screen forever. I think it has to be right, because you just have one time to do it. So yeah, maybe when you’re writing a page, you’ll correct it many times because you cannot allow yourself to have something printed that has some fucking mistake on it or something. I don’t like to do that. How do you think you’ll push yourself in the next film? What challenges do you think you’ll set yourself next time? I don’t have a next film. I have a life in front of me. I would like to become very ordinary! [Laughs]
[A long, thoughtful pause] I don’t know if I’m obsessed. I think I’m very rigorous, you know? I’m very... maybe both words are the same, in a way! [Laughs] But yeah. There’s a rigour
BEAUTY AND INSANITY: THE NEON DEMON Neil Matsumoto / July 28, 2016 / Creative Planet
“With The Neon Demon, I wanted to create a funny, beautiful, violent, sexy, melodramatic, titillating teen horror film, but without the horror,” Refn said in his director’s statement. “This idea had been simmering in my brain from the time I started making films, but it was my beautiful wife who inspired me to turn it into a story about beauty and insanity, resulting in a very visceral experience.” Elle Fanning / Amazon Studios
Elle Fanning / Amazon Studios
Elle Fanning / Amazon Studios
Elle Fanning / Amazon Studios
Elle Fanning / Amazon Studios
Elle Fanning / Amazon Studios
The Neon Demon was shot by Argentinean-born cinematographer Natasha Braier (The Rover, The Milk of Sorrow). During their twomonth prep, Refn and Braier did not have a philosophy of what the film should look like, nor had they selected any movies or photos for style references. Instead, Refn gave Braier and other crewmembers a list of movies to watch, selected not for their photography but for the
Elle Fanning / Amazon Studios
Neon Demon / Amazon Studios
mood they evoked. The list included Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and several short films by Kenneth Anger. “They were more to get the feeling of an atmosphere and mainly a statement that this was going to be a very strange movie,” says Braier.
“WE MAKE MOVIES THAT ARE REALLY UNPREDICTABLE AS A WAY TO SHAKE OURSELVES AND THE AUDIENCE OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE” / DANIEL SCHEINERT
Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe / A24 Pictures
SWISS ARMY MAN Written and Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
12 QUESTIONS WITH PATTY JENKINS, DIRECTOR OF WONDER WOMAN Belinda Luscombe / June 15, 2017 / Time
Belinda Luscome : Wonder Woman became the first film directed by a woman to make more than $100 million in its opening weekend. Are you surprised? Patty Jenkins: I’m stunned by the success of the film. But I’m also surprised how rare it’s been.
H ow l o ng u nti l we can stop pointing out women’s achievements because they are not surprising anymore?
I can’t wait till enough women filmmakers have had a chance to make movies of this size and scale and those movies have been successful. There will still be conversation about smaller issues. But it will be nice that they can just be filmmakers making films.
It’s not like we haven’t seen female action heroes before in Divergent or The Hunger Games or Tomb Raider or Underworld. Why Wonder Woman? There was a very difficult time when a female hero was a man in a woman’s body. Hunger Games really changed that: a woman leading a non-woman’s film in the action genre. I think Wonder Woman does that on a very big scale.
Wo n d e r Wom a n has always been a proxy for A merica : scaril y powerful, but a force for good. Did you make love her superpower with current affairs in mind? She always has stood for truth and love. Her genesis was based on Artemis. However, I do think that it’s very important right now to celebrate exactly that quality.
Our fantasy of a hero is that he’s the good guy who is going to shut down the bad guy. That has got to change if we want to deal with the crisis that we’re in. There is no bad guy. We are all to blame. New kinds of heroics need to be celebrated, like love, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, diplomacy, or we’re not going to get there. No one is coming to save us.
Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins on set of Wonder Woman / Warner Bros.
“NEW KINDS OF HEROICS NEED TO BE CELEBRATED, LIKE LOVE, THOUGHTFULNESS, FORGIVENESS, DIPLOMACY, OR WE’RE NOT GOING TO GET THERE. NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US.”
Robin Wright, Patty Jenkins on set of Wonder Woman / Warner Bros.
Your dad was an Air Force F-4 fighter pilot who was awarded a Silver Star in Vietnam. Did his experience of war color your thoughts? Yeah. My father wanted to be a hero. He went to the Air Force Academy, was valedictorian, and then he found himself strafing villagers in Vietnam in a war he didn’t want to be in and didn’t understand. He was extremely conflicted about the line where he went from being the good guy to possibly being the bad guy.
What did you do with your first big paycheck?
I’ve yet to have one. One day. I’ll tell you when that day comes.
You r la s t fi l m wa s Monster, about a female serial killer. Is there a through line here?
You have a reputation for being very exacting. How do you get the best out of people?
I’m as interested in exceptional characters as men are. It’s very easy for me to be curious about what it’s like to be [killer] Aileen Wuornos, just as I am about what it’s like to be Wonder Woman. And in both cases, I think it’s about what you do with power.
I want greatness. To me, aiming for greatness in a day might mean you work 20% harder, but you make that day worth it 10 times over.
“...AIMING FOR GREATNESS IN A DAY MIGHT MEAN YOU WORK 20% HARDER, BUT YOU MAKE THAT DAY WORTH IT 10 TIMES OVER.”
Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, Chris Pine on set of Wonder Woman / Warner Bros.
Gal Gadot / Warner Bros.
Why have you banned the word cheesy?
When artists, who are supposed to speak freely, are afraid to be earnest and do beauty and sincerity, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands. Cheesy makes people afraid to be emotional. And I won’t have it.
Your husband [Sam Sheridan] is a martial arts fighter?
If you had to settle a duel, what style would you choose?
He fought as his way in, but then from there he’s really become known as a writer about fighting.
Boxing or mixe d martial arts, probably. I’d rather not do it, but at least I understand those.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Alejandro Iñárritu on set of The Revenant / 20th Century Fox
Magazine project completed for Publication Design at Columbia College Chicago. Direct features some of my favorite movies from 2015 to 2017.
Published on Feb 13, 2018
Magazine project completed for Publication Design at Columbia College Chicago. Direct features some of my favorite movies from 2015 to 2017.