Shooting the Movie of Infidelity: On the Set
(This is Part II. Read Part I here)
The most important effect on my career was what I learned from the process. The next was the WOW factor.
On the set in New Orleans, I recognized many of the actors from movies and TV programs and watched them switch to their roles of my family and me. Actors remembered exactly where they were positioned, the directions their eyes gazed, the tilt of their bodies when the director said, “cut.” Then, in a flash, they resumed that arrangement when the shooting restarted. Even if it were the next day.
Art directors created illusions, blacking out the windows so it could be night, or a storm. All of this was new to me and exciting.
Each of the contributors to the movie was committed to use the best of their talent, and concentration. They thought deeply about the characters and related it to their own experience. The frivolity with which movie personnel are treated (the red carpet, gossip, prurient interest in their lives) doesn’t capture the passion, serious concentration, and dedication they bring to their work.
While there, I was asked to rewrite a few scenes, especially therapy scenes that the director and actors thought needed tweaked. Writing screenplay lines entailed a switch from book dialogue. In a script, the action is told above the dialogue; the speaker’s name has a colon next to the line and there’re no quotation marks.
Some of the actors, extras, and wardrobe personnel were also musicians. During breaks, they gathered around an upright piano. Their music added atmosphere and a welcome spark of energy.
A craft table laden with healthy, full meals, junk food of all sorts, coffee was available all day and into the night. Scenes were shot from early morning until late night. One actor stayed in her trailer, having her assistants bring her meals. She carried her stiletto shoes, slipping into them when necessary for scenes, but usually wearing furry slippers.
One scene in the script was exactly as I had written a vivid memory from my childhood. The little girl who was to play that scene, along with her mom, waited in the bedroom upstairs. She was thrilled to meet me, the woman her character would become when grown. And the author of the book.
But the character she played in the movie would grow up to become the opposite of me. A strange dislocation of fiction and reality.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch the little girl act. A family dinner scene had to be redone. When I saw the movie, the child’s scene had been cut. I imagined her disappointment.
The family dinner scene, which I spent a day and a half watching at the shoot, lasted five minutes in the movie.
The exhilaration, the energy so palpable on the set between the actors, had shrunk. But I had learned from my previous TV appearances, the film doesn’t look as exciting, and rich as the actual experience.
Three take aways:
1. The WOW factor that a movie had been made from my book has followed my career and perhaps engendered a more considered look at new projects. Agents, editors, publishers, fans are impressed. The movie is evidence that I wrote something that was bought, produced and turned into another project, creating jobs, fun, and income. A movie pushes sales of your book.
It’s hard to tease out which factors help push your writing forward. Infidelity was also nominated for very significant awards.
2. We writers usually work in isolation, but there’s a special joy to collaboration. A movie, like a play or an orchestra, engenders a temporary working group and, because of the long hours, new location, heightened emotions, and stress becomes a temporary family. The focus is on giving everything you have to make new art. The author has the unique opportunity to experience being involved with group creation. I learned more about partnership and became impressed with what goes into making a movie and the artistry of the people involved. There’s dedicated communal work and the joy of being part of a team.
3. It’s great fun to see actors reading lines I wrote, both the ones I did on the set and those that were verbatim from my book.
A career in the arts is the ultimate roller coaster ride. One year you’re selling movie rights, the next year you can’t place a novel. One year a book is heading for auction and the figure grows beyond your fantasy; a few years later you’re looking for a new agent.
There are never any guarantees… nothing assures that your next book will be published. You can’t coast on past success. You’re always brand new with each project. You learn as you go along and have successes. Regardless of the market, joy and a sense of meaning is present with each creation. Enjoy the ride.
This blog first appeared in Women Writers, Women’s Books. Thank you so much, Barbara Bos.