Friday, July 23, 2010

Flashback Friday: Exclusive Mark Rance Interview

Today we take you back to August 21st, 2000 when our site first posted an exclusive interview called "Reliving 'That Moment'" that focused on Mark Rance. My own interview title offering featured on the banner. On topic: Mark was the filmmaker responsible for creating the feature length documentary following Magnolia from pre-production to projection that can be found on the newly released Magnolia Blu-Ray disc.

Reliving "That Moment" with Mark Rance
Mark Rance & his company, 3 Legged Cat has been a pioneer in creating supplemental footage for special edition releases. Mark made a name for himself working for Criterion on their LaserDisc releases such as Silence of the Lambs, This is Spinal Tap, El Cid & Lord of the Flies from 1991 - 1995. 
Mark then helped establish New Line with the ground breaking Platinum Series DVD’s. Mark was an integral part of many of the early releases including Spawn, Blade, Lost in Space, Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, Detroit Rock City, Austin Powers, Dark City, The Corrupter, Pleasantville & more.  
It’s Mark’s work with Paul Thomas Anderson that immediately comes to mind. He worked on the commentary tracks for both the Criterion LaserDisc of Boogie Nights & New Line’s first DVD Platinum Release. 
He followed that up with his work on the Hard Eight Special Edition for Columbia/Tri Star before tackling his most ambitious DVD project to date. That Moment, A Magnolia Diary, is a 74 minute intimate look at the creative process following PTA’s latest film from conception to creation. 
Not your typical promotional documentary or featurette,  That Moment shows you the highs, lows & especially the hard work required to make a film. I spoke with Mark about his relationship with PTA, making “That Moment” & his future projects. 

C&RV: When did you first meet PTA & get involved with the Boogie Nights releases on DVD & LaserDisc?
MR: I had already been given the assignment to work on the Criterion LaserDisc of Boogie Nights, when we met really briefly at the Los Angeles Film Critics Award luncheon. I went over to an apartment where he was living. I got there early so I was in the building sitting on the steps across the door from the apartment & he comes up carrying groceries. 
There's this young woman following him carrying groceries as well. "Hi I'm Paul, how are you doing?" I really didn't put two & two together until everybody sat down for the interview & I realized, "Oh, that's Fiona Apple." She sat there during the interview drawing pictures & listening. We did that in the living room of his apartment in January 1998.
C&RV: How did the Hard Eight DVD come about. Did PTA seek you out?
MR: Yeah. I was at a screening of one of my friend's films & we ran into each other. Paul says, "You gotta help with this thing". We began recording the tracks with Philip Baker Hall while he was still writing Magnolia. We probably did about six hours worth of recording. This is my tendency. I like these longer interviews & try to reduce them down to fit. Edit them to sound chatty without them being chatty. 
There was a lot to talk about on this film. When it was edited down, we had one full track & a half hour worth of material for a second track. We dedicated the first track to PTA & Philip on his first film & making the thing. The second was dedicated to isolating the soundtrack cues & talking about Rysher. I wanted to make the ultimate commentary about first films, bad experience & successful experience.
C&RV: Rumor has it that Columbia/TriStar was not happy with one of the commentary tracks that PTA did & his comments about Rysher. The word inflammatory comes to mind. Did anything have to be reedited for the release?
MR: Yes. When the thing was submitted to Columbia, they reviewed it with their legal department & asked us to take out all the stuff referring to Rysher. Around that time, MGM had been sued by a writer who did not receive proper credit on a commentary track. The suit went through & the guy won. 
That made some of the studios nervous about what people might say on these things. It's that whole issue when an opinion is libel. It took them months to decide this & Magnolia was in production. I came on the set & I was thinking exactly what Paul said. Let's go around & interview everybody that worked on Hard Eight.
C&RV: Whose idea was it to isolate the score on the second commentary track?
MR: I wanted to do that because I'm always fooling around with the format. I loved the score & sort of by accident put it up against the picture without any dialogue. I thought in that in a couple of cases, when you do that with a movie, it becomes a different movie in a good way. In addition, the soundtrack's not available, so it seemed like a good idea. 
C&RV: And include the alternate closing credits song [Aimee Mann's "I Should've Known"]?
MR: Yeah, it was a surprise because he was singing that song during one of the commentary recordings to loosen up. I knew the song really well & thought these lyrics are kinda cool for this movie. I had it better in a rough cut, the timing was cooler. 
They're was a better edit. It's off a few frames. The really interesting thing is that it's the exact running time of the original credit sequence. The great thing about working with Paul is that he lets you surprise him & I try to.
C&RV: Tell me about recording his commentary tracks. I know you prefer to do extensive interviews & then edit them coherently to the film? Is that what you did with the Boogie Nights & Hard Eight?
MR: There's a lot of stopping & starting. I'm a firm believer in not forcing people to watch the movies. It's the technique that a lot of studios have adopted because it's fucking cheap. But I also think it's the technique that's killing commentaries. 
That's why a lot of people don't want to do them anymore. There's so much resistance at this point from people who have heard all the dumb ones. There's more of those than the smart ones, that the idea of being trapped, having to come up with something as fast as the movies are generally cut is criminal. 
MR: In all of these cases & especially with Paul, I like just sitting & talking, seeing where he's at, trying to understand where he's coming from. Finding more if I can about the background to a particular movie, a particular scene, working with an actor, an idea in the film, films that he likes, what he admires in those films. Let those digressions take the conversation where it goes because often enough, it comes back.  
C&RV: It seems that PTA went from house to house doing segments with all the principal actors on Boogie Nights, were you involved with the recording?
MR: Paul & Dylan Tichenor did the original actors & I helped with the new additions of Melora Walters & Luis Guzman. When I got it, I made separate tracks with each voice. We dropped in the new interviews where Paul's solo commentary used to be since it duplicates the other commentary track. The new material will hopefully make the "Is Luis Guzman High?" joke pay off.
C&RV: Your condensed version of what happened to Exhausted?
MR: Paul toyed with the idea of including WADD: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes but decided to stay with the Exhausted footage from the Criterion LaserDisc. It ultimately came down to money & the director of Exhausted & New Line couldn't agree on a price.
C&RV: Moving to the Magnolia DVD, with PTA’s public comments about not wanting to do a commentary track for this film, did you explore other possibilities such as a cast & crew, actors, composer or film critic [Roger Ebert recorded one for New Line’s Dark City Platinum Edition]?
MR: No commentary period. No analysis.
C&RV: Did you guys explore other supplemental material such as the Charlie Rose Show, The "Cops" Footage or the Worm subplot?
MR: We did talk about all that kind of stuff, but he really didn't want any more of the deleted scenes on the disc. He was very specific about that. Paul's vision here was a simplified DVD with the fewest buttons to push. After Paul saw the work done on New Line's Detroit Rock City DVD, he called me up & said, "OK, Mark we got to talk about this. What the fuck were you doing?"
C&RV: I assume PTA chose the Magnolia 12 chapter stops as well?
MR: Yes, I think the beauty of it is that it emphasizes, as Julianne Moore says, the operatic structure. It's in movement, it's in passages. It's not in scenes. These scenes interconnect. There's an association building up between the characters, the lives they lead & the meaning of those lives. Paul is dead on about this & he told me that you could probably do it with one button or chapter. It's probably coming. Someone's gonna do that again.
C&RV: How did “That Moment” come to fruition?
MR: It was Paul's idea. He told me that I would be the only one on the set & "do my thing." He had seen a documentary I made called "Mom". He told me to try & document everything. It was that simple. There was no other direction or list of things to get.
C&RV: Tom Cruise, was noticeably absent from the film. Were there any limitations to your filming or access?
MR: Cruise's people asked that he not be filmed. The only limitations were my availability as I was working on multiple projects for New Line.
C&RV: It's surprising to see Tom Cruise in the outtakes then?
MR: We thought since we didn't have him in the documentary & Tom liked those outtakes, thought they were hysterical, & that they would represent his participation. Paul & Tom had a great relationship, so it really wasn't a stretch to include them.
C&RV: Was there every any tension on the set between you & the cast & crew?
MR: The only time that happened was when one of the actors was ready to start work & didn't want to be distracted. He made a good point that when the second camera is there, his peripheral vision would catch that & he's not sure where to play. It throws him & I understood that. The way that I was taught to make films is that it's not the camera, it's you. It's your job as a filmmaker to be human, to be present, to be the person you are. You just happen to have a camera. 
You do things to make them familiar with you holding the camera. In this way, you develop a more intimate relationship with everyone around you. Try to minimize the idea that they should feel like there's something different between you with the camera & without. That's just the whole style. Not to over analyze this, but interviews tend to separate you. The power switches from the star to the interviewer. In that imbalance, you get less. 
People are less willing to talk. They become guarded. If you show that you are not threatening them, then you get different kinds of footage. Like walking up to Bill Macy to ask him what he thinks about the script is sort of like walking up to Macy for the umpteenth time & asking him a stupid question. That's the way he talked to me all the time. If you needed a laugh, just go say something to Macy. 
C&RV: How much footage did you shoot?
MR: 128 hours. I had two very good people logging the stuff. We started thinking about structure & because we didn't have a lot of time to edit. I kept shooting. We decided on the most linear structure. It could been much more of a mosaic or organized in a different manner. The diary thing just became the guiding rule because there was no time to play with it more than once. The first edit was eight hours. The second edit was four. Then it hovered around 2:20 - 3:00 hours for a couple of weeks. I showed the cut to Paul three times after it was less than three hours. Paul gave me notes three times & we finally ended up at 74 minutes.
C&RV: Did you have complete freedom in what footage was ultimately included?
MR: Yeah. Paul did give me suggestions on where to trim it. There was plenty to choose from & that is always a problem. Throwing away a lot of good stuff early was kind of painful, but it was the only way. If you hang on to something, then you would have to hang on to two other things to explain it. You want to try to avoid adding voice over & let it evolve from the camera's point of view. 
C&RV: Was the very funny exchange between Paul/Fiona spontaneous or scripted? How did it come to pass?
MR: Spontaneous. I came upstairs & Paul said watch this. They did it again later in the evening at dinner. It wasn't quite as funny because she couldn't move around as much. They probably did some version of it at home. It was on the night it went into wide release (January 7th). We were about to get in a car & drive around to the various theaters & see the audience reaction.
C&RV: The last shot shows PTA listening to Aimee Mann’s Red Vines & working. Was this actual footage shot during the editing process?
MR: Paul was working on Fiona's Limp video. There was still this residue from the release of the film. Articles were lying around. There was just this feeling of exhaustion. I don't even know why I started shooting. I was just goofing around. I really love that song, too.
C&RV: What are your thoughts now looking back on the Magnolia Diary?
MR: The beauty of what Paul asked me to do...He's like the first person who really believed me as a filmmaker in ten years. I can't thank him enough. Making that thing for Magnolia was maybe the most challenging & the most fun thing I've had to do in all of this. As much as I like meeting all my cinema heroes & making these commentaries that is more meaningful to me. The fact that he liked it is even better.
C&RV: What future DVD projects can we expect from 3 Legged Cat productions?
MR: We're working on the Seven Platinum Series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me & a John Waters box set for New Line. A Crow box set & Red, White & Blue for Miramax. I really want to do more work on foreign films but the market still isn't there yet. The market is still heavy into the science fiction films because they are the big sellers.
Tomorrow we will have details for an interesting upcoming screening of There Will Be Blood.

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