Monday, May 20, 2013

Actress Greta Gerwig reflects on 42 takes of a brief scene in "Frances Ha"

There's a very fun and candid peek into the imperfect world of movie making in the New York Times "Riff" column this week. Actress and screenwriter Greta Gerwig reviewed and commented on the 42 takes she and fellow actor Mickey Sumner made of a scene in the new movie "Frances Ha." A few examples:

Take 5 (2:20 p.m.): Still hunched over. Less angry, more sad. I’m probably just sad for myself, which is a terrible trap for an actor to fall into. I can tell that Noah [Baumbach, the director] is not thrilled with what we’re getting. He hasn’t said anything yet — no “Good take” or “Mark that one” to let me know that I’m on the right track.

Take 24 (3:15 p.m.): I overarticulate some of the words. I emphasize the “me” too much in the way I say “Don’t treat me like a three-hour-brunch friend.” It makes it sound as if there is someone we’ve just been interacting with who is the three-hour-brunch friend.

Take 32. (3:34 p.m.): We start, and it’s going fairly well, but the camera “rolls out,” and they have to change the memory card.

Gerwig's piece makes it clear what we know but teach ourselves to forget: a movie isn't something organic, but something crafted out of hundreds of individual pieces, like a mosaic. It's a miracle that a director can sort out these little fragments and create something that feels like an integral work. Moreover, it gives you respect for an actor's performance - the ability to create a person that comes through despite hundreds of line misreadings and camera "rollouts."

See what contemplating mistakes can do?

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