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LA Film Festival Tue 7.14.2015

How Big-Time Directors Fake It… Even After They Make It

Successful directors have the same insecurities as everyone else. It’s surprising, but it’s true.

With high budget, high profile films under their belts one would assume that directors like Colin Trevorrow, Paul Weitz and Anne Fletcher have staggering levels of awareness and confidence. But at the Los Angeles Film Festival Coffee Talks last month, it was refreshing to hear that all three of them are, in fact, human.

Fletcher, who has directed rom-com hits like 27 Dresses and The Proposal, kicked off the Coffee Talk with an anecdote about her first time on set as a director. “The production designer came to me and asked me, ‘What color do you want the wall?’ My immediate reaction was, ‘Ask the director’ and then I realized, ‘Oh shit it’s me! I have to come up with the color of the wall.’

Trevorrow, whose Jurassic World is breaking box office records, shared a similar sentiment of not feeling fully prepared. “For [Jurassic World], I had to engage in method directing. I had to assume the persona and psychology of someone who has directed eight movies instead of just one,” said Trevorrow. “It was like I had to travel to the future and be myself in 20 years, with all that experience and work. That involved a lot of absorption of skills and intelligence of people around me.”

Fletcher also stressed how important it is to rely on the crew. “There are better ideas than your own,” she said, “Even if you hear it from the craft services guy, it might be the best idea ever. Don’t be so arrogant to think you have the best idea. Someone can elevate it to make it better. Trust that you’ve hired the right people to work with and they will have your back.”

Paul Weitz, who’s been sending audiences into fits of laughter since American Pie, and whose Grandma opened the LA Film Fest, admitted that stepping on set can be a little scary. “When you step onto a film set, it’s such an alien environment for everyone,” said Weitz. “That moment when you are standing there and everyone turns to you with a, ‘What do we do now?'”

And then after weeks of shooting and months of editing, there is a film, and that film is not always successful. Weitz, though, said even bad box office receipts or bad reviews have their uses. “Failure doesn’t necessarily kill you. You can use it as a radioactive core to motivate you.”

Fletcher agreed. “With success, there is also failure.” And she insisted that no matter how many times you’ve been through it, it’s always tough. “As much as you can tell fellow directors that it’s ok, it’s a bump in the road,” said Fletcher,”it can be so emotional. Because you’ve birthed something from your little brain and you might have created something that didn’t succeed. It’s a gigantic struggle to trust your instincts. You can start to feel like you don’t know what you are doing anymore and people aren’t going to believe it.”

But the directors who are successful, the ones who make another movie, don’t let those feelings beat them. Said Fletcher: “You have to take those thoughts and push them out of the way. Just own it!”

Lorena Alvarado / Film Independent Blogger

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  • I enjoyed reading this. It was candid talk and refreshing to hear straight from the mouth of directors, whom most credit with having the last word on the set.