A-list Hollywood screenwriter Scott Frank was in town this week to discuss his directorial debut The Lookout, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an accident victim whose short-term memory loss leaves him vulnerable to a gang of bandits planning to rob the bank where he works. Reeler critic Michelle Orange echoes most of my sentiments about the film in her review, so I'll spare you my wobbly critical insight. That said, I asked Frank -- whose Lookout script had both Sam Mendes and David Fincher attached to direct six years ago (Fincher's budget was $80 million; Frank got less than a quarter of that) -- about his relationship with directors over the years (Soderbergh, Spielberg, Sonnenfeld, Branagh, etc.) and what motivated his decision to jump behind the camera himself.
"One thing I want to make clear is that I didn't direct because I felt some sense of frustration about how my movies came out," he said. "I love the films that I've worked on with other directors. I keep telling people I'm probably the least bitter screenwriter you'll ever meet. I have a good life. I directed because I simply wanted a different creative experience. And (with) each director I worked with, I learned about pace, rehearsal, camera angle -- everything. They all had their own thing that I gleaned from each of them from 20 years of being on the set with some interesting guys."
OK, sure. Like who?
Frank didn't miss a beat. "The great thing about Steven Spielberg is that he's a master of geography," he replied. "You always know where you are. He's a master of anything that has to do with production. His sets are unlike any other set you'll ever be on. The one thing in particular that always amazed me, especially in terms of how younger directors work -- when you watch an action scene directed by... I don't want to say any names, but say, Michael Bay? It's all close-up stuff. You have no idea what you're watching. It's just fast shots. Cameras randomly put in 16 different places, and then they find it in the editing room.
"Steven Spielberg knows what it looks like," Frank continued, "and that the editing room is to realize what he's got in his head. And so you always know every camera's in the right place. You know where everything is. You know where everybody is. You know the room, you know the place, the exterior -- what everything looks like -- because that leaves room to have little bits of business and extra tension within the action. To even have character within the action. You're not just conveying chaos and motion; you're conveying an actual cinematic sequence."
Gosh! What a fuddy-duddy. Seriously, Frank, if you don't get the carefully orchestrated nuance of this Transformers trailer (Two-thirds of dialogue: "MH-3 pilot! Power down now! Have your crew step out or we will kill you! Oh my God!"), then it's altogether possible that Michael Bay and the whole damned world may have just passed you by in one of his 10-cylinder retrofitted camera rigs. Get it together, already, for Christ's sake.
Posted at March 30, 2007 11:56 AM
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