No, I don't mean Anne Rice. I mean this account of the making of David O. Russell's latest movie, whose preview looked quite intriguing:

"Mr. Russell shouts: "Eeeeee! Eeeee! Keep rolling!"

Mr. Hoffman: "We're rolling. What's `Eeeeee'?" There is no response, but Mr. Law keeps emoting.

On the next take, Mr. Russell lies on the ground, just behind Lily Tomlin, but out of view of the camera. Perhaps he's trying to add to her feeling of unease in the scene. "Most likely he was looking up my skirt," she deadpans while watching the playback a few minutes later.

It seems impossible that a film set could feel any less formal — but come lunchtime, it does. Mr. Russell sheds the rest of his clothing, leaving only his boxers, and starts to exercise — first jumping rope, then sparring with his personal trainer, right on the sidewalk of the suburban street. Many of the actors and crew join in. They, however, keep their clothes on."

The article, which is well worth reading in entirety, reminded me of the years I spent doing theatre. I majored in it as an undergrad, focusing on stage management, and then got my MFA in playwriting. I also spent a few years stage managing professionally in LA.

One of the things which became clear to me early on was that a rehearsal hall, like the set of a film or TV shoot, can very easily turn into an echo chamber. Everyone inside thinks they're doing brilliant work, there's a real and thrilling excitement in the air... and then the show opens to universal puzzlement, sneering, or worst of all, boredom. And the scary part is, if you're honest with yourself, nine times out of ten you don't think the audience is wrong. You realize that all of you were wrong. You were creating garbage and somehow you never noticed.

This is why it's good to invite outside observers whose judgement you trust to take a look at your work. Whether you're working in a team or at your desk all by your lonesome, sometimes your ideas about what your doing can become completely detached from the reality of the work and float away like a blimp. Sometimes, as seems to have happened to Russell, you decide that indulging in raving semi-consensual insanity is a really good idea. Sometimes, as seems to have happened to Anne Rice, you conclude that everything you touch is gold and should not be sullied by anyone else's thoughts. Most commonly, you think it's complete garbage and would ruin your reputation if anyone saw it. But whatever you think, it's not a bad idea to get someone else's take on it. Maybe they will prevent you from inserting a totally meaningless dream sequence into your revival of a classic play which the hero is trussed up in leather bondage gear and suspended from the ceiling while all the other characters emerge from the wings and march around him in a circle, chanting "Schnapps. Schnapps. Schnapps."

Or maybe they won't. But it's good to give them a chance. Think of how wise it would be if authors would ask their friends if they would read the letter they're planning to send to their critics, and taken the friends' advice on whether or not to actually mail it. Think of how much pain David O. Russell could have saved his actors from if he'd turned to that New York Times reporter and said, "Give me your honest opinion: Is my behavior on the set producing great work, or am I just embarrassing everyone and making myself look ridiculous?"

In other words: if the whole world thinks you're wrong, that should not be taken as proof that you're right.

This has been your Anti-Lone Individual Standing Firm Against The Masses public service announcement for the day. Thank you.
Anonymous (will be screened)
OpenID (will be screened if not validated)
Identity URL: 
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


If you are unable to use this captcha for any reason, please contact us by email at

Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags