Last weekend I went to an event called "Behind Closed Doors With David Cronenberg" held by BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts). Basically, it was an interview/Q&A/Career Retrospective. If you aren't familiar with Cronenberg's work, he's probably most famous for The Fly, The Dead Zone, and more recently History of Violence and Eastern Promises. I always considered him a second cousin to David Lynch in that he was pretty weird and experimental, especially in the early part of his career.
What was really interesting about the interview was not only how normal (and funny) he was, but how much of what he said really applied to what we are trying to do with Love in the Time of Monsters. You see, Cronenberg started as a self-taught indie filmmaker, before there was even a word for it. He talked a lot about the vagaries of getting a film actually made, and how a director has to be aware of more than just what's going on in front of the camera to succeed. He used his current film A Dangerous Method as an example of this.
A story about the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and the birth of modern psychotherapy, it was over 8 years in the making. Originally a project for Julia Roberts (!) but now starring Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightly, Cronenberg talked about casting, and how there is so much that goes into it that has nothing to do with who is best in the role or not. Because the film was a co-production between Canada and Europe, the most importnant thing was that all the actors literally needed to have non-US passports in order to be in the film.
And once cast, it wasn't like they had a lot of time for rehearsals or "chemistry" tests: the first time he heard the lines spoken outloud and had the actors in the same room together was the first day on set! I got the feeling that Cronenberg was ok with this dangerous method (see what I did there?), because he seemed to like the inherent "tightrope" effect this had on his moviemaking experience; he thinks it keeps everybody focused and excited about the scene at hand (apparently he gets most things in 2 takes).
As a director who has gone from very small experimental films to much bigger budget Oscar-type films, it was really interesting to hear how Cronenberg still deals with similar issues as he did when he started out. His approach to the craft of filmmaking hasn't changed much either. Basically his motto is, try to work with people you trust, do the best you can with the resources you've been given, and have a little fun along the way for gosh sakes! I don't know if this makes me more excited or more sad about my future, but it's certainly feels like the truth. 🙂
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