Friday, October 12, 2012

Interview: The Daily Show


Transcription by Kris Elgstrand

JS:  I don't even know where to start.  So I'm going to start, I'm an enormous fan of yours.  And I'm just going to start on the performance end of it for the actors.  Forget about the beautiful writing, the shooting, all the things you do.  The performances you get from the actors you have.   Obviously they're great actors.  As a director, how do you feel like you're able to empower these actors to get the kind of performances you get?

PTA:  Um...

JS:  I'll leave.

PTA: I hire good ones. 

JS::  Okay.  That helps. 

PTA:  That helps.  And I try to do as much as I can in the writing and I try to listen to them and see how they feel about things.

JS:  Do you stop, in a scene, after a take, and, [feigning anger] "What? You're supposed to look mad!" On set, do you get maniacal?  What's your temperament?

PTA:  Pretty…I don't know, boring-

JS:  You seem angry.  You seem like an angry guy.

PTA:  I try to play it pretty cool.  When you're a writer you can get mad at yourself in the room and bang your head against the wall and then when you go to be a director you've kind of got to pretend you didn't do that stuff and be cool and be everybody's boss.

JS:  Do you complete the writing process in your mind and then become the director?  Or as you're writing are you, you know, I find it's very difficult to…the difference between writing for the page and writing for the performance is a very different art form.  Do you do that as you're writing or do you have to transition that?

PTA:  When I write, when it's at it's best, when it's going really well, it's just sorta like you just kind of blink your eyes and ten pretty good pages have sort of happened.  At it's worst, you're just sort of trying to get the writing going well.  But when you get to the set, I just sort of throw the script out the window and hope they know it and they've done it well.

JS:  You just throw it out the window?  Do you ever tell yourself the writer, "Hey man, don't sweat this, I'm just going to fucking ditch it?"

PTA:  Yeah! 

JS:  I find for myself with writing, there are times where it's very difficult not to be precious with the words.  To remember, to convince yourself, just put it on paper.  So much of writing is rewriting and you can really hold yourself back from just putting it out there.

PTA:  I think that's true.  You know, I've written 50 drafts of things and thank God for, you know, saving everything you write because sometimes you look back at the first thing and realize you had it right the first time just because it sort of vomited out of you or something like that. But the other thing is, that I've found is, unfortunately, sometimes you can write something 50 times and you can make it better so it makes this endless sort of reach for something that keeps you hungry, keeps you guessing.  How does it work, how does writing work?  It's so confusing.

JS:  What makes you stop?  See, what makes me stop here is it's six o'clock.  You know what I mean.

PTA:  Yeah.

JS:  We're write to the point of, "Hey, man, there's an audience here and they look mad.  They've been sitting there for five hours, you better get out there and do a show."  But as a writer of film how do you stop, how do you not overwrite?  How do you not destroy it on the back end?

PTA:  It's kind of the same thing.  I mean, with getting a film together, the clock is not ticking that badly but basically you sort of say we're all going to get together in March and let's say that's six months away.   As a writer basically you've got six months and the clock is ticking and you've got to really get it together.  You have to plan that far ahead in advance in film.  It's like a really slow ticking bomb.

JS:  Let's talk catering.  Okay, what do you… No, we have a different system here.  Once it's done.  then you have all the post-production and all those other things that you have to do.  Does the selling of it feel like you're making something that you did a long time ago… Does it still feel vital in your mind?  How is it in that process?

PTA:  Oh God, I mean… yeah, it feels far…You know I was watching that clip and I didn't remember what they were going to say.  You know?  I remembered what Phil was going to say.

JS:  I completely understand that.

PTA:  And that's a nice place to get to, actually.  Where you have a kind of have enough distance from it.  Yeah, there's a lot that I don't remember about this film already. 

JS:  I would love for M. Night Shyamalan to be in one of his own movies and be like, "You mean the guy was dead the whole time?  I can't believe that?"  What I love about what you do, too, is everything, you just feel… you just feel the art of it.  It's so vivid.  Maybe it's every choice you make.  Is all that preconceived?  Do you have an idea of each one of those moments, how you wanted to create it?

PTA:  No.  I mean, inevitably you're going to get disappointed because usually the things that you see in your head when you really are standing in a place with three dimensions, they're just going to be different.  The light's coming through the window in a different way or somebody's wearing something different.  So you just try to be as open as possible to situations.  But at the same time, you're making a film, it can't just be this endless search.  There's a lot of kind of planning you have to do but hopefully you can create situations where those accidents happen or things can kind of go wrong.

JS:  A fertile environment. 

PTA:  Yeah.

JS:  Aspirational but realistic.

PTA:  There you go.

JS:  The Master!  It is a beautiful piece of filmmaking.  It's in theatres now.  Oh, the great Paul Thomas Anderson ladies and gentlemen!


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