|A filmmaker's method of flying a kite.|
My son is a filmmaker. His view of the world constantly changes mine. I see this change in how I watch -- and understand -- movies, as well as in how I see and study people. My son has taught me more about cinematography in the past three years than I had accumulated in the fifty before them. There are the mechanical details: the blocking, the storyboards, the mixing, the rough-cuts and a hundred other aspects of the profession that he has assimilated and continues to study and perfect. He has also exposed me to the machinations of managing and directing artists. A film requires the creative best of stylists, light engineers, sound engineers, set and costume designers, producers, actors and a cadre of committed people. When he makes missteps, he backs up and tries to correct his mistakes, whether they be in bookkeeping, in the angle of a shot, or how he treated someone. So very much of being a director seems to rely on pitch-perfect timing, detailed planning and an uncanny ability to extemporize. Think high-wire act, no net.
My most recent lesson came to me by way of David Fincher, a director of great repute, who was most recently responsible for The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. I understood that Fincher was known for taking key shots and asking his actors to repeat the scene an excessive number of times. For example, a three-minute take may be repeated for an entire day. Why stop at ten times, when fifty might be better, or stop at fifty if the humanity of the character is not shining through? His object is to have the actors repeat their dialogue so much that they internalize it. The actors make the words their own. Once that happens, they bring their own personal touches to the scenes. It is exactly these natural touches that make David Fincher’s films so realistic and successful.
I learned all of this when I watched a recent project my son shot. He filmed an actor delivering a three-minute monologue from The Social Network. After eighty-eight takes, he struck gold. When I viewed the first against the eighty-eighth take, I was stunned by the progression. A shifting, uncomfortable and stumbling character was transformed into one that projected intelligence, confidence and condescension with eerily perfect tension. Repeat ad nauseum to get it right. Check off that box for "lesson learned."
It is an adventure, an odyssey and a gift to watch my son’s journey on this career path. Wherever it leads, I know he will have the knowledge that sometimes, the biggest rewards come from going the distance.
David Fincher’s Feature Films (Wikipedia)
- Alien 3 (1992)
- Seven (1995)
- The Game (1997)
- Fight Club (1999)
- Panic Room (2002)
- Zodiac (2007)
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
- The Social Network (2010)
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)