Making The Master
CIGARETTES & RED VINES is proud to present the very first installment of "Making The Master," our brand new series of in-depth interviews with some of the minds behind "The Master." Between now and February 26th (the day of the film's Blu-ray release), we'll be talking to many of the production's principal players and today we're kicking things off with an exclusive interview with the man himself, Paul Thomas Anderson. It's been quite some time since C&RV had the chance to virtually sit down with Paul for a Q&A (the last one was way back in November 2003) and as always, it was great catching up with him. As usual our interview was conducted via email and his answers are candid, completely stream-of-consciousness and have not been edited (though we've added links and images where applicable). Paul spoke about his influences for "The Master," whether he's ever thought about revisiting any of his characters and if he'd consider working in television among many other topics. Enjoy.
The film was first announced back in December of 2009 by Variety but things didn’t get moving again until February 2011. It was reported that during this time you kept ‘coming up against a wall’ so can you talk a little about 2010 and what was going on behind-the-scenes with the film creatively/financially/etc.?
My sewer dump of a memory cannot recall. In the vaguest terms, I just remember saying, "this isn't ready yet." Possible combination of elements at work: not enough research done, not enough writing or sitting with it done. The code hadn't been cracked on exactly how,when & where to do it. We were looking for a location that had water for a boat. A boat. A city. A desert. We looked at shooting in Philadelphia, New York....possibly all of them and then moving to Arizona, just following the movements in the film. None of these worked to our advantage. Things came together as they always do on films; as they're meant to be. We found Mare Island, the Potomac (boat), writing had been done, research felt researched. The emergence of Joaquin being available certainly brought momentum to the film.
You’ve talked about the doc “Let There Be Light” and book “At Ease: Navy Men Of WWII” as being great reference points but can you talk about any other books/films/art that inspired “The Master”?
It's always such a long list.....sometimes it's whatever was on TV that morning. Other times, it's something i'm really into. tons of old film noir's. Out of the Past, dark Corner, Mr. Arkadin, Lady from Shanghai, etc. Nightmare Alley! Val Lewton stuff like Seventh Victim and Ghost Ship. Dianetics in Limbo by Helen O'Brien. Helen Forrest/Kitty Kallen and anything by Jo Stafford music wise. also listened over and over to Stravinsky piece "Ebony Concerto." Duke Ellington - Peer Gynt Suite. list goes on.....oh! how about John O'Hara short stories. earlier drafts have a slight adaption of one of his stories, "Bucket of Blood" I think. great short story.
The opening of the film is very funny. The first words of spoken dialogue in the film are Freddie talking about his pubes and then he fucks the sand woman and masturbates into the ocean. The last line of the film is him telling Winn to put him back in during sex (right after the last scripted lines about the “next life”). Was this a conscious decision to kinda take the piss out of expectations that this film was going to be something “very, very serious”?
HA! sure. i guess. probably not very conscious -- except we were always looking for laughs. lots of serious laughs making this film. The "put it back in" was just one of many dirty little things Freddie said to end the scene....always nice to open a scene up in ways you never could have imagined sitting alone in a room. "stick it back in it fell out," belongs to Joaquin. it's a very nice line I owe him for.
You’ve talked about how your filmmaking process has evolved since “Punch-Drunk Love.” Is it daunting to be making a film when you’re not quite sure what that film is going to be yet? Or is it more exciting to you now than working in the more structured style of your 90’s films?
They're all daunting. They're all exciting. They all, at the end of it all, turn out how you want it -- it's just hilarious the hoops I put myself and others through to get there. One of these days, we'll just start without all the floundering around........my 90s films? what is this? that has a funny ring to it. glad it's not my 80s films.
From all the footage in the teasers that wasn’t in the film, it looks like you had a ton of material to work with. How much did the film change in the editing room? Were there earlier cuts of the film that were drastically different? (For instance, did you know when you released the first teaser that the Joaquin interview footage would not be in the film?)
We have some good stuff that'll come out with the BluRay. NOthing massively shifted in the editing room. No large structural shift or anything like that....it was more asking questions about what's in and what's out....playing with versions of the film that elminated scenes to see it's effect on the whole thing -- The interview with Freddie was one of three that we shot. Questions arise, like: how many more interviews are we going to see with him and a VA Doctor.......zzzzzzzz.......this leads to a cut.
There seems to be some confusion over certain scenes in “The Master.” Several critics totally missed that the naked dancing sequence is imagined and that the phone call in the movie theatre is a dream. How do decide on how much is enough information for an audience and how much keeping certain things a little fuzzy can be helpful for the film?
Flip a coin?
Sometimes removing a scene can change the way the characters/story is perceived (example: Becky now has a happy ending in “Boogie Nights” because the scenes of her marriage’s violent turns were excised.) Do you think that by removing these scenes from “The Master” should mean those events “don’t happen” in the universe of the characters or should we think of these extra bits as “the further adventures” of the characters that simply aren’t glimpsed in the film?
hmmmmmm. Now we're talking philosophy! Best not to think too much about stuff that isn't there - the film must stand on it's own.
The earlier draft of the script took some different turns (Freddie visiting cousin Bob, meeting Ellen in the Burlesque club, Freddie daydreaming about cutting off The Master’s head, waking up in the hospital). Were any of these scenes filmed and cut out? And will any of these (or other sequences from the trailers) will appear in longer form on the Blu/DVD?
COUSIN BOB!!!! I hadn't thought of him in a while till I saw this question. Oh that stuff was long ago. I still hope Cousin Bob will show up in a story I write someday. All that stuff with Alligators in sewers was stolen from Pynchon's V. We looked around some sewers in upstate New York...... eventually decided to ditch the whole story line in writing before spending money and time on something unnecessary to the Main Event. Freddie daydreaming about cutting Master's head was an OK idea....not worth pursuing. the kind of thing you get excited about for a while, then leave. never to be shot. and that's fine by me.
We know it was always a semi-regular sing along at the old Largo but how did “Slow Boat To China” come to you as the climax of the film?
Can't remember the moment of decision for sure....but i think i was influenced by a tapestry on a bathroom wall i saw at a house i was staying at in Gloucster, Mass. great fishing/sailing town and the tapestry was about Sailors and Lighthouses lighting up the night...it was a little poem with a lighthouse on it....reminded me of Slow Boat to China the way it rhymed......that's probably the connection. kept going back to that bathroom while writing and then presto -chango - you've got Master's serenade.
If you could plan a perfect triple-feature with “The Master” headlining, which films would you pair it with and why?
Destination Tokyo, Best Years of Our Lives, Men Without Women - other war films and post war films. or maybe a double bill with I'm Still Here. I love the film and joaquin's performance. be nice to see it play with something totally different too, like The Master and then it's porno-version, if they have one....
At what point during “The Master” did you start adapting “Inherent Vice” and how far along are you now in that process? Was there ever a point when you considered making that film first?
It was talked about making Inherent Vice first, but it was just talk.....really glad we decided to see through what we started. I started work on Inherent Vice sometime shortly after the book came out. It's been something to go to while clearing out my head on Master.
Have there been any characters from your films that you’ve continued to think about from time to time? Not necessarily for a sequel per se but just someone who you’ve thought of images/scenes or further adventures for?
Not really, no. I like looking forward more than reflecting.
Television has had a creative renaissance in the last decade with a lot of other filmmakers of your generation working in the medium. Do you have any favorite TV shows? And do you have any interest in working in other formats (television or mini-series perhaps)?
I've day-dreamed a lot about making something long form, sure. It would be a thrill and challenge to tackle something so spread out. It's usually at some point in writing when you think, "what if i just didn't try and contain this story and really let it loose....." thoughts drift to mini-series, long form HBO stuff, etc.......but it's usually followed by a brain-freeze and "naaaah." Maybe someday. TV shows? old Larry Sanders, Curb Your Enthusiasm. anything on TCM. I miss Twin Peaks. I still need to watch The Wire, which (i know, i know) everyone says is the greatest thing ever.
You recently said that you’re working on the “Punch-Drunk Love” Blu-ray this year. Any plans for “Hard Eight” to follow (or precede) it and is there any chance of a Criterion release for either title?
We are trying to track down lots of elements regarding Hard Eight/Sydney. It would be ideal to get a tune up/re-transfer, etc on that sooner than later. Be great if Criterion would put it out but they haven't said anything to me about it.
After the learning curve you went through on this film, do you see yourself working in 70mm again? Do you think you’ll always want to have it as part of your arsenal even if you don’t shoot in it quite as extensively next time?
I would love to shoot 70mm again. There's still much more we could do with it. Be nice to try and shoot it's intended aspect ratio as well. it would have to be the right story. that's the deciding factor for sure. I really hope we see more and more of it in use. Not just using it's original negative -- but 70mm prints being made and projected -- this may be a fantasy -- but it's a lovely fantasy to have in my head.
I can't thank you all enough for your support and attention to the details of what we do. It's a thrill to make films and share them and having people care for them once they're out in the world is a perk I'd never imagined.
Happy New Year.
WELCOME to the second installment of "Making The Master," our series of in-depth interviews with some of the minds behind "The Master." We've been talking to many of the production's principal players (including writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson) that helped bring the film to life and today we have an interview with the PTA's longtime producer JoAnne Sellar. Even though she's currently pulling double-duty opening "The Master" in countries around the world and gearing up for "Inherent Vice," she was kind enough to carve out some time to for this conversation. JoAnne spoke to us about the origins of "The Master," how the film changed in the editing room and why the collapse of the mini-majors almost sunk the film. Enjoy.
Cigarettes & Red Vines: So I know you’ve been working with Paul for a really long time. Can you just tell us how you first got started with him?
JoAnne Sellar: I kinda got to know him when he was making “Sydney” or “Hard Eight” because my husband Daniel Lupi was a Line Producer on that. So I got to know Paul through Daniel and he gave me a copy of the “Boogie Nights” [screenplay] which I kinda flipped out about. And at that time they were looking for someone to produce it with John Lyons who produced “Sydney,” so I came on board. So we kinda ended up becoming partners together and I went onto [produce] all his other films.
Producer can mean lots of different things on a film production. So for anyone who hasn’t seen you right by Paul's side in the “Magnolia” doc “That Moment,” can you talk a little bit about what your role is on Paul’s films?
I mainly do just work with Paul. While he’s thinking of the project, formulating his next project, he’ll talk to me about what he’s thinking about doing and we’ll talk it through, [then] we begin researching. He begins writing and he’ll show me scenes or pages as he goes along. We’ll discuss actors and locations and all those kinds of things as we’re getting a project together. And then my job is to find the money to make the film along with his agent. Daniel Lupi, who’s another producer of Paul’s, will prepare a budget and we'll go out to get the financing, [eventually] hire the crew and start preproduction. My job is really to facilitate, putting Paul’s vision onscreen and trying to get him everything he needs in order to do that while also being responsible to whoever’s financing the movie by trying to keep on budget and schedule.
So really everything.
I’ll also see a project through the whole editing stage and then be part of the whole marketing stage until the film gets released in the cinema and beyond, really. Because now, for example, I’m still dealing with “The Master” because its being released all over the world. So for each release, Paul does press or I’ll do a bit of press. Luckily, Paul is in a position where he can oversee all the marketing materials in each of the different countries around the world so if someone wants to do a new poster or something like that, they have to get his approval and input.
And that’s not usual for most directors to have that level of input on the marketing is it?
No, I guess for auteur directors at Paul’s level it is but [they're] few and far between, really.
Of all of Paul’s films, which was the most difficult one to actually get into production?
Both “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master” equally.
What do you think it was about those projects that made them so difficult to get financed? A little bit bigger budget than Paul’s previous films or the period setting or...
No, because the budget for “There Will Be Blood” was pretty slim. I think it was [because it was] an epic kind of production and it’s not an automatic for a studio. It fell between being a small independent and a studio picture, so for a studio it was kind of a risky project because it doesn’t read naturally on the page like it was going to be a big blockbuster. And it was too rich for an independent film.
But then it ended up doing so well so I’m surprised “The Master” had as hard of a time as it did finding financing. "There Will Be Blood" did pretty well at the box office, it was a big Oscar player, it was a cultural touchstone.
Yeah, it made like $40 million and it was so well received critically, it got 8 [Academy Award] nominations which I think is fantastic. Then we set out to make “The Master” and at that time when we were making it, Paul was originally writing the film for Universal on spec. So by the time he’d finished writing it, the industry seemed to have changed a lot during that time. The mini-major [studios] were kind of falling apart like Paramount Vantage and Miramax...
And Warner Independent...
And what was happening was that a lot of these private equity funds, like billionaires, had their own companies that had started up. We were originally going to make the film the first time around a year before we actually made it. And it was gonna be set [and filmed] on the east coast at that time. But we were racing against the clock because we had an end date on Philip Seymour Hoffman. He had to go [by a certain date] because he had a play commitment in Australia that he had to honor. So we did manage to cobble together the financing from five different financing entities. But it was hard because a lot of the places you used to go for that kind of film weren’t available anymore and also the market at that time was really difficult. But basically Paul didn’t feel the script was ready in the time slot that we had, so we decided to postpone [the film]. At that point we went back to the people that were going to be financing and said we were going to postpone and start again next year.
And in the interim time that’s when I met [Annapurna Pictures founder] Megan Ellison, she was a huge Paul fan and she loved the script and just was our guardian angel. She was like, “No, I’ll come in and finance it all,” which was music to our ears! And she was a fantastic partner and we went ahead and made it with her. It was a great experience, she’s very filmmaker friendly and just super supportive and great.
I’m a huge fan of Annapurna and pretty much every film they’re producing right now. It seems like Megan went to all of my favorite filmmakers and said, “What's your dream project? Alright, let’s do this.”
Yeah she’s gotten great praise because she’s such a champion of these directors. And you have these projects that aren’t mini-budgets but they’re not studio pictures, so they fall in between because there’s no one really out there financing these [types of films] except for Megan and Indian Paintbrush and a few others.
So when did Paul first come to you with The Master and what was your initial reaction to it?
He doesn’t really come to me with anything [fully formed]. While we were working on “There Will Be Blood,” he started to talk to me about how he always wanted to do something based on the Freddie character and he wanted to do something set post-WWII. Separately to that, he was very interested in the start up of Dianetics and kinda fascinated with the very early days of persons like L. Ron Hubbard, but obviously not wanting to make a whole statement on Scientology, that wasn’t the purpose at all. And he kinda melded the two together. He had read somewhere that the perfect time for these philosophical groups to start up is that time [just] after the war when you have all these lost souls looking for something to cling onto. And during that time, these groups start to [spring up]. So he used those two things and formed it into what became “The Master.” But it was a long process of talking it through and getting to that point.
And the whole thing where it was labeled a Scientology Movie happened because the script had gotten leaked on the internet and basically became known as the “Paul Thomas Anderson Scientology Movie” which was really frustrating because it clearly isn’t that. And Paul just said, "We’ll let it speak for itself when it gets released." And it did. As soon as it came out, all that kind of talk stopped. It was just a little bit infuriating beforehand [because the Scientology talk] wasn’t founded, really. To me, that’s really the subtext of the text. The same way the pornography is the background to “Boogie Nights” but it’s not about pornography.
How much of all that hoopla affected production? Did you have to shield Paul from any of that stuff?
No, not really. Some reporters tried to talk to me about it but I didn’t really entertain it, I was just trying to get the film made. And it didn’t affect the shooting in any way, it wasn’t like we were being hounded by the Church Of Scientology or something like that. [laughs] Those were all just rumors.
It was nice when the film came out and the conversation immediately changed.
Yeah, it was a relief to move on from that and talk about what the film is actually about.
As Paul’s process has gotten more a little more instinctual over the years, how has that changed your role on the film? It seems like he doesn’t stick quite as rigidly to his script, how does allowing him the space to find the film affect the production?
He kind of changed [his process] around the time of “Punch-Drunk Love.” When I [first worked with Paul on] “Boogie Nights,” it was his second film and he’d had the film in his head for years. He had made the short [“The Dirk Diggler Story”] and [during filming] he was super, super precise to the script. He had everything completely mapped out in pre-production, even down to a shot list of what he was going to be doing every day, which is I would say, over prepared in some ways. [laughs] But it’s great for a producer because you know exactly what to expect. And he was pretty much the same on “Magnolia.” But on ‘Punch-Drunk’ he approached it in a more free form manner where he had the script but there was quite a lot of improvisation.
It was the year of the [proposed] actors strike and we knew we had to let Adam [Sandler] go and then we were going to come back and shoot some more footage with him because he had to finish up something on another film. That’s how we had planned it but the actor’s strike didn’t happen so we were able to actually shoot more. So it gave Paul this wonderful position where he had shot most of the film and he was able to go away and edit it. Then he was able to go back and shoot more stuff that he felt he needed. But it would be very hard to repeat that situation because it would be very costly to shoot like that to have to [break and then] bring the whole crew back.
But we hadn’t planned it like that, [it was all] because of the actor’s strike, so it was kind of a fluke. [By this point in his career] he’d become more confident as a director as well and I think he liked this more organic approach to shooting, [he was being] less rigid on himself. But for me and Daniel [Lupi] it’s, in a way, harder because you have to allow that that’s going to happen but you don’t quite know what’s going to happen. So you have to prepare that he may want to reshoot stuff as he goes along, which he does, and he may need this or that. So it’s much more freefall but not crazily so. We still have a structure and a schedule [that we stick to] but because we know him so well, we just allow for that when we budget it.
And it still seems like it’s done responsibly so that it’s all accounted for beforehand and just allowing that little bit of room to play around.
Yes, totally. And he also takes a long time in post-production but he really finds the film in post.
The way Paul works is very counter to how most movies are made as far as publicity goes. Not a single picture of anyone in the cast came out until that first teaser was released nearly a year after shooting. What was it like working on a production that was so secretive?
Well, most of his films have been that way. He’s always liked a very closed set. We haven’t had press on set, we don’t do EPK’s, so I’m just so used to working in that way. And Paul very much likes to control how the film is presented to the world in terms of when the first stuff goes out and how it’s going to be marketed. He did all those early teasers himself and they were the first things that went out there about the film. Then he started doing those 70mm screenings and stuff. It’s all very planned. It’s just something that we deal with when we’re in post rather than in production.
The teasers were a huge deal when they came out and received a lot of attention. They’re so different from most of the standard movie marketing you see out there.
Yeah and I think the fact that you hadn’t been saturated with stuff along the way made it even more special.
From the teasers to the secret screenings to the festival appearances were all very planned. What was it like working with the Weinstein Co. on actually getting the film out there?
It was a positive experience. They knew how Paul worked and we were all obviously very up front. We had a lot of meetings with them in post-production about what Paul wanted to do and they were supportive of that so we worked together. Paul did the teasers on his own and he cut a trailer and then they had their input and it went backwards and forwards with Paul finishing it up. With the poster, Paul always works with [designer] Dustin Stanton and Dustin came up with some stuff. He did the teaser poster and [Weinstein Co.] came up with some ideas for the main poster and Paul liked that idea. So it was actually a pretty collaborative process.
I imagine you saw many cuts all through post-production but do you remember when you saw the finished film for the first time? What was your reaction to it?
Hard to say because I was literally seeing cuts every week. To me there wasn’t really a final cut, I was in so deep at that point. I’d seen so much as we went along and I’d seen it grow into what it became. There was a point where we’d taken some earlier stuff out, we’d shortened the beginning and taken some stuff out of Freddie’s back story. The film wasn’t working, it was off balance but because we were all in deep at that point, we couldn’t exactly work out what it was. It was clear you needed to have as much back story as we did [so we reinstated some of that stuff]. Times like that [are exciting], where you go, “Oh that works now!” But there wasn’t one ‘Aha!’ moment because I was seeing so much stuff as it went along.
The script on the FYC site is pretty substantially different from the finished film. There are entire sequences in the script that aren’t in the film and vice versa, the stuff where he goes off to see cousin Bob, etc. Was any of that in the final shooting script when production started?
No! Cousin Bob wasn’t in the shooting script. I don’t know what they put up on their website.
Must’ve been an older version.
No, cousin Bob was a while back from there. [laughs] It did change quite a lot from the shooting script to what we shot but not to the degree you’re talking about. There were flashbacks, stuff you see in the teasers like Freddie jumping off the ship and that type of thing, scenes that were part of Freddie’s story while he was at war. But when Paul put the cut the film together, he realized he didn’t need all that and it wasn’t important to telling the story, which was really hard because we had such fantastic footage. But I thought it was pretty interesting how he used it because it’s quite unusual to use shots that you don’t use in the final cut in the teasers and trailers.
One of the most interesting things about watching the film for the first time is seeing that some of the most iconic moments from those trailers -- like the “Tell me something that’s true!” from the jail sequence -- are not in the film! But you kinda feel like they're still there.
You’re like, “Well, was that in the trailer or was that in the movie?” I thought that was very clever of him, yeah.
Did he know when he was cutting those teasers if any of that footage was still possibly going to be in the movie? Or did he know it was all cut stuff?
I think at that point it was already cut stuff.
It seems like “Inherent Vice” is getting started up sooner than later. I’m super excited that we won’t have to wait another 5 years for his next movie.
I know! So am I.
Can you talk about where you guys are at now with that project?
We're just putting the financing together and the plan is to start shooting in late April. That’s the plan.
Fantastic. So casting probably very soon?
Yes. Everything should be very soon in order to start shooting then: late April/early May kinda thing. I’m sure you’ll be hearing some stuff very soon.
Feel free to drop us a line anytime with that kind of stuff. We will always be receptive to that kind of thing.
Last question: what’s the biggest difference in working with 26 year old Paul vs 42 year old Paul?
He’s definitely more mellow. It might be the fact of aging but he’s also got 3 kids now. I also think that as he’s become more confident as a director, he’s a bit more relaxed about the process... although he’s still as much a control freak about everything as much as when he was 26. [laughs] So that didn’t change, which I’m sure is the thing that makes his movies so great because he’s so precise and knows exactly what he wants and fights tooth and nail to get it. He doesn’t have to fight so much anymore because he’s proven himself.
Welcome to the third installment of "Making The Master," our series of in-depth interviews with some of the minds behind "The Master." We've spoken to many of the production's principal players (including writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and producer JoAnne Sellar) that helped bring the film to life and today we have an interview with the PTA's longtime costume designer Mark Bridges. Mark is an Oscar-winning costume designer that has worked on every one of Paul's features going all the way back to "Hard Eight" and including their next collaboration "Inherent Vice." Mark spoke to us about his 18 year working relationship with PTA, Freddie's incredibly high pants and what film he's looking at for "Inherent Vice" inspiration. Enjoy.
Cigarettes & Red Vines: How did you come to work with PTA?
Mark Bridges: He had started to do “Sydney” and it went down. In the meantime, he lost his costume designer so when it got back together and they were actually going to shoot it, someone recommended me to Paul. And I just pursued it. It was probably December ‘94 and I was really wanting to do my own projects. So I met him. We met for breakfast at Chez Nous on Riverside and we liked each other. I took him a couple days later to see a screening of a small film I’d done and he liked the way I did the clothes in that so he hired me for “Sydney” which turned out to be “Hard Eight.” We went to Reno and here we are, almost 20 years later.
You've been working together for nearly 20 years now. Has your working relationship with him changed much over the years?
I think the basic things that I really enjoy with him are the same, his methods may have changed a little bit. But basically he has an incredible intuition and sense of what is going to work dramatically and he’s really visual. The more I work with him over the years, at least once on each project he surprises me with how much he really knows about what colors say in emotion. But I think when he was 25, he took a lot more advice from his producers and now that he knows the business and he knows what he can do, he’s a little more creative on the spot.
Producers always want you to be very scheduled and complete a day and shoot this many pages in a day and everything. And I think over the years Paul has become a little more organic with shooting. If we’re in a real great groove with Phil and Joaquin, let’s stay on that. Let’s get everything on camera and have that moment on film. And not, “We’ll make it up tomorrow,” or something. I think he’s a little bit more free flowing in his creativity and look at the results we get from that.
I know there was some more on the fly shooting on “The Master.” When there are scenes that come up that may not be on the page, how do you stay nimble and keep up with those kinds of changes?
More and more I just try to be prepared for everything. When I do a fitting with an actor, I try to do his whole arc and sketch in the whole arc during the film. So really, if I need to go from change number 2 to change number 18, I already have a plan. So I just try to be as flexible as he might need me to be. Sometimes its impossible if something is being made or something and it just wasn’t supposed to come up for another 3 weeks. That’s a problem and we’ll go away from that. The same way if a set isn’t built, we’ll go away from that. I just tried to sketch in as much as possible in the couple of fittings I have with actors so we can be flexible. But more and more films in general are being made this way. So I’m getting used to it.
As a director, Paul is really known for his strong visuals and that definitely extends to costuming. There are certain pieces that really stick out in your mind like Barry Egan's blue suit in "Punch-Drunk Love" or The Master's red robe. You mentioned Paul understanding the emotion of what certain clothing choices mean, so I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on that?
I was watching “Boogie Nights” the other night and I remembered that we were shooting the scene with the pool party where Dirk meets all of his friends. And in the finished product, Dirk is wearing a bright orange bathing suit but the day of the shoot I had picked out something much more subtle and brownish something. And Paul asked if we had anything else brighter? And by the grace of the costume Gods, we had a bright orange one, and I probably just took it in a little bit, but it made all the difference in the world. And in “Magnolia” the backdrop of the [“What Do Kids Know?”] game show, the first one that we had was a period gold color of velour. And we walked in that day to start the game show and he said, “You know, this color isn’t going to work. Do we have anything maroon?” And so that whole background changed color and I think for the better.
And in “The Master” we had shot all of them getting off the yacht in New York and Ambyr [Childers] who played LD’s daughter had a fur jacket and a brown dress on. And we went into the interiors a couple of weeks later back in LA and he was like, “Do we have another dress for her? Everything’s so brown in here.” So I said, “Yeah, I have a red dress for her.” [So we reshot it] and it just livened it up. I look at the finished product and think, “It really needed that.” Luckily I had something in every one of these cases, I was ready for him. But he just has a sense so that when I look at the finished product now, it’s always better. I trust his color sense, I trust what he’s seeing through that camera and again and again, he’s proven it right. So I don’t take it lightly when he asks for things because it doesn’t happen that often and when he does, I know it’s important.
You’ve worked with some other strong directors like David O. Russell and Michel Hazanavicius, how is working with Paul different from working with some of these other filmmakers?
I think the familiarity. There’s nothing that can substitute for 18 years of having collaborated on 6 very different films. I truly feel like that whole crew and Paul, everyone who comes back again and again on those projects, we’re all very much a family. At least one time during the holidays we’ll all get together and it’s really great. You understand each other’s ups and downs the way you understand your own families ups and downs. And as long as there’s an open dialogue and respect of other people’s wishes and needs, it stays on a really even keel.
Paul’s very much like the optimal director. He gives you the script and wants to see what you can bring to the table and then we’ll tweak it. There’s a nice latitude and Michel is like that and for the most part David is like that too. So I enjoy working with them all where they’ll allow me to contribute. I think the directors that aren’t as satisfying are the ones that make arbitrary decisions because they can. I think Paul realizes the way he has the big picture of his film, I have a big picture in my mind of throughlines for clothes and the characters. But it’s not to say that there’s any question about who’s running the show. It’s just that there’s a lot of mutual respect, so it’s always a joy.
When did you first hear about “The Master”? How early did you get involved?
It’s really interesting because of the kind of long term relationship that we’ve had. I’m in on it very early, I think we had a table read early on by the time he has a first draft of the script that he feels is tight. He gets to the point where he wants to have a table read, so he gets a half dozen of us together: me, the producers, a couple of the actors and we’ll sit around and I’ll play, you know, Oil Worker number 3 or something and just read the part. Really early on, I’ll know what he’s working on. I probably had about 7 versions of the script for “There Will Be Blood.”
But very early on, I know what he’s working on so my breezing into or touching on research, I can look at images and think of things for a couple of years before we start to shoot. We had scads and scads of research for “There Will Be Blood” and I just always try to present evocative period images in the rhythm of the story. So I can say, “This is how we’re going to do the yacht, this is the color palette I thought we’d use for New York and Philadelphia, here’s some images of the army hospital,” and whatever else is in that movie...
“Let There Be Light”?
There’s that. There’s also the group meetings, we found a lot of early, early, early pictures of L. Ron Hubbard in Arizona so we were greatly informed of the followers by the faces and clothing of the followers in that. And that’s like 1950 Arizona. So it’s just very different. Paul was always interested in the early days of Scientology when it was all done in people’s living rooms and very much the way it’s portrayed in the film. People had mimeographed letters that they would type at home, newsletters and photographs of people who came to the last meeting. It was a very homegrown, grassroots movement and that was what spurred Paul on to continue with the idea of it. Initially it was very innocent, not at all what it turned into as a global entity. So that was really fun to see that. Who knew?
The Scientology aspect is something that really captured people's attention and the parallels are definitely interesting. Were there any other sources of inspiration either films or just anything else you looked at as far as the costumes go?
The fact that it was 1950 and from a clothing standpoint it was really a transitional time between 40s and 50s, so capturing that was my goal. I’m always trying to be as specific as possible to time, place, weather, economic status, and of course, color palettes and things. So those are the things I lean on to make choices. What will fit? What’s available? What we need to get made for Philip, you know? The first time we see him it’s ever so brief, in longshot but there are more shots indoors on the yacht where he wears this green suit. He wears it later at the dinner scene in Philadelphia too. But questions like: how do you make a person compelling or interesting, capturing someone’s imagination?
Originally, you saw Freddie first seeing The Master from afar when he was a stowaway. So to put LD in a green suit is very right for the period but it also makes him stand away from the crowd makes him sort of interesting. And the red pajamas he wears in the next scene, again, it’s how that man feels about himself as far as being powerful and sexy. But it’s also, ‘How does Freddie see him?’ in these glowing red pajamas, which, by the way, we totally made from scratch. We even dyed that fabric, we made those pajamas, and I love the checkered pattern on there which is kind of like a maze pattern. Which I think says a lot three levels down: the maze of his mind and the way he speaks... And I think that was kind of accidental, I just liked it and a lot of things feel right to me and I can’t put my finger on it at the time. But ultimately it works out.
I know there are a lot of people who are fans of Joaquin's pants in the movie which are just, amazingly high cut on him. [laughs] How did those come about for his character?
It’s something that I love. We copied real pants from the period. It’s what really makes it look period because there’s nothing like that today. And I look at some of these movies that were made in the late 30s and 40s and it is unbelievable how high [these pants are], the space between the armpit and the top of the waist is like 6 inches. [laughs] And I actually think at the time it was for modesty’s sake, because the higher the pants, the more they drape away from your body at the genital area and with pleats and everything it just makes it really full there. So you would never see any outline of anyone’s genitals.
So it’s perfect for a guy like him, the pants being up that high and all those pleats can conceal the erections that he may have during any given time, that little horndog! And Joaquin worked that stuff too, he felt those pants high and that’s where he bent and that’s how he took his stances. The way he worked with jackets and things. With an actor like Joaquin, my goal is to make him be able to live in those clothes. So it’s always very gratifying when those clothes somehow make them somebody else.
And you can see that the way he’s wearing his clothes is informing how he’s carrying himself. It’s amazing that Freddie the character really looks nothing like Joaquin Phoenix, his face and body, it’s really an incredible transformation.
I think so too. I think he did an amazing, amazing job. And he was a pleasure to work with, absolutely.
Were there any unexpected challenges making this film? Anything that you hadn’t anticipated?
Let me go into the dim recesses of my mind, luckily you repress all those and forget about them. [laughs] You know, it was what it was. We shot a lot up at Mare Island up in Vallejo and I think one of the challenges was reality vs. what we’re trying to put on screen. It’s supposed to be a yacht going from San Francisco through the Panama Canal to New York. And so I dress it like we’re in the tropics but the reality is we’re shooting in San Francisco harbor in June, which as Mark Twain famously said, the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. [laughs] So while the clothes were trying to say one thing, the reality is that everybody had long underwear on under their resort clothes. So that’s why you see them in blankets and things during the wedding. So that was the biggest challenge, trying to make it believable that they’re going through the Panama Canal but dealing with the oh-so-breezy San Francisco body of water.
I know that “Inherent Vice” is gearing up now. Is that something you're already starting to think about?
Oh yes. Yes I am starting to think about it. So much of my work is who’s going to play the role, so I would probably prep differently for “There Will Be Blood” if Daniel Plainview was played by somebody other than Daniel Day Lewis, you know? So right now I’m just waiting for casting to be finalized but certainly trying to take in as much as I can of that late 60s Los Angeles.
You guys have already done 3 different period pieces together so I'm really curious how you’re planning to interpret the late 60s...
We really haven’t had any meetings yet, I want to sit down with him. I think it’s an unusual piece. I think it’ll still be Paul Thomas Anderson and probably try to feel very real but I don’t think we’ve really settled on what this movie’s going to be yet. I really don’t. So it could go a couple of different ways at this point. But it’s funny, I’ve been researching and looking at a lot of films at the end of the 60s. There’s a film called “Candy” [a 1968 satire starring Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Walter Matthau, John Huston, James Coburn, Ringo Starr and Charles Aznavour] -- as well as other films that I’ve been looking at -- that are satires but they’re broad and they have very iconic people in them. So I’m playing with that idea in my mind, whether that’s something that Paul’s going to want to latch onto, [I’m not sure].
Welcome to the fourth installment of "Making The Master," our series of in-depth interviews with some of the minds behind "The Master." We've spoken to many of the production's principal players (including writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, producer JoAnne Sellar and costume designer Mark Bridges) that helped bring the film to life and today we have an interview with production designers Jack Fisk & David Crank. Responsible for creating the world that the characters inhabit, Jack & David previously worked together on "There Will Be Blood" and have also collaborated on a trio of Terrence Malick films ("The Tree Of Life," "The New World" and "To The Wonder") among other projects. The pair spoke to us about watching the film come to life, the differences in working with David Lynch, Terrence Malick and PTA and also shed some light on an unfilmed sequences set in outer space. Enjoy.
Cigarettes & Red Vines: How did you each first come to work with PTA?
Jack Fisk: I started to work with Paul because I got a phone call from [Producer] Daniel Lupi. I was in England finishing up “The New World” and he said that Paul wanted me to work on this film “There Will Be Blood.” So I got really excited and watched all of Paul’s films. My wife [Sissy Spacek] was doing a film in Romania so I went there for a couple weeks and about a month later I first met Paul. When we went to scout locations for “There Will Be Blood,” we had an instant rapport. I liked him instantly, he’s a funny guy and we had a great time looking for locations. Although we didn’t shoot the film until a year later, the locations we found on that first trip actually were the ones we ended up using, at a ranch in Marfa [Texas].
David Crank: And I met him because Jack met him. [laughs]
JF: David and I were working together on “The New World.”
DC: You went and scouted all that [for “There Will Be Blood”] and then I guess when it went down that first time I went off and did “John Adams” and you went off and did “The Visiting” [later retitled “The Invasion”].
JF: The film with Oliver Hirschbiegel. Daniel Day Lewis wanted to shoot in the summer so his kids could come from Ireland and we couldn’t get ready that quickly so we decided to meet here in a year. Paul did the same thing with “The Master.” We were going to go with “The Master” and then there was some slow down and he says, “Well, we’ll meet in a year.”
Wow, that is patience!
JF: But well worth the wait.
After you got along really well on “There Will Be Blood,” was there any expectation that you were going to be working together again on the next one? When did Paul first come to you with The Master?
JF: I was counting on it. [laughs]
DC: You’re always counting on it.
JF: Paul called me over at one point and invited me over to read 20 pages of the story in his studio. I read it and I didn’t really understand it. I didn’t even know it was about Scientology when I went there. But then he started sharing all of his research and trying to get me up to speed. David also got involved around the same time. As it turned out, luckily I was committed to doing another film a year later and I thought it was going to go during the middle of Paul’s shoot. So David and I shared responsibilities as a production designer because that way if I had to leave, everything was in good shape for Paul. Working with Crank is so much fun that I wanted to stay there.
DC: Well it was interesting because when you went and looked with him the first time, I was involved with a film but then that went down the same time that "The Master" went down. I can’t remember what we did together then, we did another thing together. It kind of worked out that we were available again the next time.
JF: I think we did “To The Wonder,” the Terrence Malick film.
DC: Ah, that’s right.
Do you remember what was in those first 20 pages you read around the time he showed them to you?
JF: It was a lot of stuff about the life of Dodd, the Master character. I don’t really remember the pages. I have a hard time reading if someone is sitting and watching me. It’s my least favorite way to read a script. But Paul only had pages. He didn’t really have a script yet but Paul gets so excited, he just wants everybody to read it, to come onboard and be involved. I love Paul’s passion and he’s so generous. He shares everything with you, he never holds back.
DC: He’s never closed off, that’s for sure.
JF: You really feel like a part of a close-knit team. He works with the same people a lot.
So cut to a year or so later and now you’re reading the finished script, what are your first impressions of that compared to what you had seen before?
JF: You know it went from those 20 pages and he may have sent a script. Then we met in Baltimore. We looked at locations in Baltimore and Philadelphia because part of the script was written for Philadelphia and we needed a boat. Paul heard about 1896 Navy boat up in the docks in Philadelphia. We looked at that and he fell in love with the interior but then the production shut down for a year. During that year he kept piddling around with Daniel Lupi, trying to figure out where we could shoot with the budget. I know during that time he checked out New York.
Then when he called and said they were ready to go, which was about 6 months later. We decided to go and look at this boat in Philadelphia he’d found by accident. He went to look at a fireman’s boat up there and he found The Potomac, which was FDR’s old ship, docked right next to it. He looked at that and thought that it might work. So David and Paul and I went up and looked at that first thing and I thought it was great. Then that led to us investigating all around San Francisco and what we could shoot there. There were just so many possibilities. We ended up going out to Mare Island which is an old submarine base where they used to work on all the submarines and the ships. We found so many buildings there and other ships that were right for the period and houses. We even found a house that would work for Philadelphia.
DC: You were asking about the initial reaction to reading it -- and I don’t know about you Jack -- but it’s like you read it, and then you jump into it so quickly that there’s almost no time to sit and ruminate. You’re all of a sudden going into specifics but I do remember when I first saw it when it was put together. There were so many parts that were nothing like I thought they were going to be when I read it. There were scenes that just flew by in the movie that felt like 18 pages long when you’re reading it. To me, I remember more of my reaction when I saw the finished product. Not that it was better than the script, but it was just so much more than you could’ve imagined, in a way.
JF: If you could imagine that processing scene on the boat between The Master and Freddie, it was 20 pages long. Just them sitting at the desk. But when they got in there and performed it, it was pretty amazing.
DC: That was the scene that I remember when I read it it was hard to imagine because it’s so repetitive but when you saw it, it went to another level. It was pretty magical.
JF: And Paul is so into character and into the actors that it’s really exciting.
DC: It’s interesting because the script -- mostly when you first read them -- it doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense. You can see Paul thinking constantly while you’re working on it. To me, it’s like you’re all figuring out a big problem and that magic happens somewhere in between there and when it comes out and it’s like, “Oh my God!” [laughs] Jack, you said it earlier that you didn’t really understand it all but it really took on a life.
JF: [The processing scene] was 20 pages of script and we built a room for the scene to play on a stage so they would have no distractions. They shot 20 pages in one day and it came out great. Normally films are shooting 3-4 pages a day, max. But they just got into it and worked nonstop.
I think anybody who saw that scene in particular just knew it was going on an all-time acting reel.
JF: The other scene that was pretty remarkable and it was almost in one take was the cell scene, when Joaquin broke the toilet banging. We just sorta get the set ready and get out of the way.
Nobody expected that to come out, did they?
JF: You don’t know what to expect but I know with Paul we always try to give him as much set as possible. I don’t even think Paul knows sometimes how well it’s going to work or not with the actors. He’s giving them some free reign and he loves it when they get excited and take something to new heights. I think that’s one of the things that makes it fun working with Paul on one of his films. It’s because of his relationship with the actors and how he gives everybody in the crew [that freedom], I feel like we have free reign in a way to contribute, he’s just open to so many ideas. He’s able to keep them contained so that everything works well together. It’s just an ideal working situation.
DC: When he was doing the [window-to-the-wall] processing scene in the house and Joaquin broke that panel, I remember getting the phone call saying “Joaquin’s accidentally broken that piece of paneling.” But then it was followed by, “Can he do it again?” [laughs]
JF: The toilet was actually a museum piece in San Pedro so it wasn’t rigged to break or anything. It was a real toilet, kinda irreplaceable.
Can you describe your working relationship with Paul? How you get to work? Do you read the script and come back with some ideas? Do you talk to him for a while and develop a dialogue?
JF: I think we do all of that stuff. We all have ideas and we talk. Paul goes with us a lot looking at locations. He loves that process, I think it helps him thinking about the scenes. Then we design stuff and show it to him. He just sorta trusts that it’s going to be there and be right. That’s the way I feel about him, he’s never really questioned very much.
DC: We don’t have meetings where we sit down and say, “OK, there’s going to be three doors to the left, 1 door to the right and five pieces of furniture. Those kinds of conversations don’t ever happen. You kinda sit and go and talk about a lot of things and somehow this comes out in the end in the wash. Sometimes he’s specific but those kinds of nitpicky things don’t tend to happen so much.
JF: Like the department store, did he come the night before? No I don’t think he did. He was out in the desert and he was going to come but he was so exhausted from shooting the motorcycle scene, he just came the next morning.
DC: He kinda wanders around it and kinda finds it and then shoots it.
JF: I think he had an idea of what it was going to be but he’d never physically been on the set until that morning.
DC: I don’t think there was any shot set before we did it. It was kind of a general idea.
JF: We gave him much more set than he ended up needing.
So did that long take develop on the day? That wasn’t something that had been planned out beforehand?
JF: I think it came in the day. Paul loves long takes so he’s always looking for those. I remember the first time that Freddie goes to the boat, we had about 400 feet of dolly track there. He was walking at night and we must have shot the scene about 25 times. He played the music [“Get Thee Behind Me Satan”] at night and we were out there and he knew exactly what he wanted. And I’m thinking to myself, “This is a very long take, I can’t imagine he’ll leave the whole thing in the film,” but he put the whole thing in! And it was great. Paul does that a lot, he’ll play music during dailies, he’s one of the few directors that still watches dailies on film. He plays music at dailies, he’ll play music in rehearsal, he always has his little iPod full of tunes that he’s gotten either from the composer or things that he’s collected that he likes for the period. He’s always reminding all of us what the sense of the music is going to be.
DC: I remember that morning in the department store, he just kinda wandered around for a long time and found that whole thing. He went through all the different departments so I think he knew where things were going to be but I think he really developed it that morning.
How would you describe Paul’s ethos for production design?
DC: I just remember him telling us at one time, looking at the two of us and saying, “I don’t know what it is but one of you always tells me ‘It’s going to be okay’ and one of you says ‘I’m going to like it.’” [laughs] So we said, “Well it’s true!”
JF: Paul seems so relaxed about it that he trusts us and he also has a picture of it in his mind of what it might be from writing. Because when you write stuff you always visualize it. I think he hopes it’s going to be as good as he imagines it. If it’s different, sometimes it excites new ideas in him. You know? He’s not bored. I worked with Brian DePalma way back in the 70s [on “Phantom Of The Paradise”] and he had every shot planned. He’d show up on set and it would seem oh so boring waiting for everybody to do his shot. Paul’s not like that, he’s much more organic and things are growing by the moment. He’s reacting to what the actors are doing, to the lights, to the environment, to music, everything. It’s like a balancing act where you’re continually readjusting to take advantage of all the elements of the day. It’s an exciting way to work. David and I have done that a lot with Terry Malick and Paul.
DC: Paul wants it to be real. If you had to say, “What does he want?” He wants it to feel like a real thing.
Well it’s interesting because earlier in Paul’s career he made movies more like Brian DePalma did where they were much more structured but I think since “Punch-Drunk Love” he’s allowed himself more room to find the film as he’s making it. It’s been great to see him evolve that way.
JF: A funny thing, when I was in Hawaii getting stuff ready there, David was in LA with Paul and they were shooting that last scene in the film where he meets that girl at the bar. When he first described it to us he just needed a table and a piece of wall? It ended up on the day being a 4 wall set with mirrors reflecting back. He walked in that morning and started thinking about the shot and he wanted more and he wanted more set. So David was taking parts from other sets and building a new set.
DC: We had another shot like that too, that close up of the liquor, he needed an extreme closeup of liquor being poured into a pitcher on the boat. We had the tabletop and all of a sudden I went onto the set and the camera was pulled back and we didn’t have all the other parts!
JF: This was an insert for a shot we had done earlier in the filming.
DC: Somebody said, “Well that ladder’s missing that had writing up the side.” Paul looked at me and I said, “Well I thought it was supposed to be an extreme closeup of the pitcher.” And he said, “Well, it was until I started to improvise.” [laughs] So I said, “Give me 20 minutes and I’ll have the ladder.”
JF: I think Paul really appreciates being able to perform almost like a jazz musician, to be able to change things a little bit. For us if we can do it, we’re going to do it.
DC: I read a thing about an English director and he said when he was young he did Shakespeare at the Royal Shakespeare Company and he said, “I had planned the whole thing the night before. The first scene, I had the blocking, I had a paper for who was where and where they were going, this that and the other. I gave everybody their instructions and the first time I said go I had 30 bodies coming at me that all walked at different speeds and I threw everything out.” Because he said he couldn't do it. You have to pay attention to all that stuff that is in front of you and I think that’s what Paul does now. I think he comes in paying attention to the way people walk and that’s what you have to incorporate.
JF: One of the most difficult scenes to shoot was a short scene in an elevator after they have the conflict in the rich woman's house in New York. They were leaving and Joaquin and the whole family are in the elevator. He wanted somebody to fart and I don’t know if you know Paul but he loves fart jokes. We had to keep shooting it because every time the sound effects would make the fart sound, Paul would start laughing! [laughs] And everybody in the elevator, which was just a 3 walled set, would start laughing. We shot that thing for like an hour and a half and it’s one shot in the film. He’s like a kid sometimes.
In the script during the processing scene he had written that when Lancaster asks Freddie if he’s unpredictable, Freddie is supposed to scream at that point. But it was Joaquin who said that he didn’t feel that was right for the character and asked if he could fart there instead. So it’s funny that this fart wasn’t Paul’s idea in that case but at least one of them made it into the movie.
DC: I’ll bet he loved it. The elevator scene was in there but the fart isn’t.
JF: I’m not sure if they were able to get it without everyone laughing.
Every location in the film is so striking, exteriors like the desert and the ship, interiors like the department store and Mildred Drummond's house. How did you go about creating some of these environments and how much of the movie was shot on sets versus locations that you had to dress?
JF: Most of it was locations.
DC: The hotel suite in New York was a set. But then we built in existing places.
JF: Sometimes we would build sets in existing places. Sometimes we wouldn't get everything shot there so we would recreate it, it wasn’t actually a stage, we had a warehouse where we were building everything back there. We shot for a couple of days, we shot the recording studio [where Freddie tapes his radio commercial], we shot the English girls’ apartment, we shot a little piece of the Philadelphia house, a little bit of the hospital and the pub. The hotel was a big thing, it had 100 foot hallway and the elevator but that only made it to the trailer.
DC: We also did a changing room shooting for Mildred Drummond’s apartment. We shot another whole apartment but it didn’t work so we found another place and dressed it very quickly.
JF: It was funny, David and I had found a location that we liked but Paul just didn’t see it. Then we found another location which he liked so we shot at the location that he preferred. He didn’t like the way the scene turned out so we get a call at night going, “Paul wants to reshoot that scene somewhere else.” So the next morning I go in and say, “Paul, what about that place that David and I liked that you didn’t like?” And he goes, “That’d be great.” [laughs] So we go running back to the location and the woman is in Paris so we say, “We’d love to use your house.” And we shot it 2 days later so we painted it and dressed it, got it ready. So Paul shows up and the woman says to Paul, “I thought you didn’t like my house?” And he points over at me and said, “He didn’t.” [laughs] He was blaming us for not choosing it. But the woman was gracious and loved us being there and the scene turned out well.
I know in “There Will Be Blood” we shot things several times during scenes, it was like we were making a prototype, it’d never been done before. But he keeps on schedule. “There Will Be Blood” he switched actors after 6 weeks and kept on schedule. We had to reshoot everything they’d shot with the first preacher. He works well under pressure.
How long was the shoot for “The Master”?
JF: I think it was about 45 days.
DC: 45 or 52 days, something like that.
Was there additional shooting later on or had everything been shot during that time?
JF: We were going to do additional shooting. He had a scene that took place in outer space and he had a couple dream sequences that the followers of The Master were visualizing. But he ended up realizing he didn’t need them so we never shot them. So we were on the mark ready to go and do some additional photography but after he put the film together he realized he didn’t need it. He pretty much gets anything he needs or wants to do a film. Working with JoAnne and Daniel Lupi, they find a way to give him what he needs if it’s shooting days or locations. When we shot in Marfa, nobody wanted to shoot there because Texas doesn’t give any rebates, and they said “No, let’s shoot in Mexico!” But Paul said, “No, we like Marfa.”
What was the outer space scene about?
JF: That was one of the guys that was going into past lives. He was an astronaut and he got disconnected from his spaceship and flew out into space. We were trying to figure out how to do it because it had to be from a 50s sensibility. It was before we really had people in space so you couldn’t really use that as a reference even if he was making it up in his subconscious, it had to relate to stuff he knew from the period. It was a fun shot to plan but he ultimately didn’t need it.
I read an earlier draft of the screenplay that had a few other dream sequences in it, like Freddie cutting off The Master’s head while he’s giving the speech in Arizona, but I’m not sure if they survived to the final shooting script or not.
JF: Cutting off his head? I never even saw that one.
DC: I don’t remember that scene. There was a scene in Ireland that we didn’t do, another one of the flashback scenes. It was a woman being killed by soldiers in a barn. But that was back in the 1740’s.
JF: It was a barnyard in Ireland.
DC: Those were going to be the two main ones I remember: Ireland and the spaceship.
JF: I think what happened was that the chemistry between Joaquin and Philip Seymour Hoffman was so great that Paul just wanted to stay with them and it minimized the other members of the organization.
He’s said that he realized it was more of a love story after he’d shot it but I was wondering if you could feel that change in direction while it was happening?
JF: I think when you work on a film, everybody goes in knowing what the film is going to be. Then they start seeing dailies and they see a completely different film because it has everyone’s contributions to it. Then when you see an edited version it’s a third film, different from the one you saw in dailies and different from what you were reading. So I think David and myself, we’ve gotten used to this evolution so you don’t really expect the films to look anything like your ideas from reading the script.
DC: What it was actually turning into, unless you’re standing there at the camera, [you don't really know]. The fact that Paul was seeing it as more of a love story, I wouldn’t have seen it.
JF: Joaquin was so unknown to me. I didn’t know what to expect and Paul probably didn’t know exactly either and that was what excited him so much about Joaquin playing Freddie. A lot of times the unknown is more exciting than the known. If you can predict exactly what it’s going to be... [it gets boring]. And Paul’s films are completely unpredictable.
I know “Let There Be Light” and that WWII book about soldiers on leave were big references for Paul. Was there anything else you guys looked at for inspiration in designing the film?
JF: I’d been through a lot of that on “The Thin Red Line” so I was pretty familiar with WWII. “Let There Be Light” was interesting, but boring. [laughs] But I like looking at documentaries. The book was very strange, it was a lot of beautiful sailors and stuff but it’s a very famous book. Paul gave us copies of all that stuff and we were getting stuff on our own too. Everybody is looking at research, Joaquin is looking at research, Paul is looking at research, we’re looking at research and a lot of times it’s the same research. So when stuff comes together it’s not as foreign as you would think. Everybody is pretty familiar with the imagery.
Speaking of working with Terrence Malick, I know you’ve both worked on a few of his films and Jack you’ve worked with David Lynch as well. How is working with Paul different from working with some of these other auteurs? Or what things would people be surprised to find that they have in common?
JF: David’s a completely different animal than either of them because David’s more like a painter. David has the film in his head and he creates his own world. When you work with him you simulate David Lynch, you’re not bringing a lot of your own self to it. You’re trying to help David create the stuff he wants. With Paul, he’s almost like a jazz musician. He’s so musically tuned, he’s so passionate and so unpredictable. Terry is unpredictable in a different way. Terry’s a philosopher and he has something he wants to say. I always think that with Terry it doesn’t even matter which character says it, as long as it gets said.
Terry works with visual poetry and Paul is much stronger with character. With Paul it’s about character and it’s easy to work that way because everybody starts thinking about the character. I don’t know if you’re talking to Mark [Bridges], Paul’s longtime costume designer but it’s amazing how in sync how all our stuff is without conscious dialogue. We spend time together and the stuff really seems to be in sync. I have so much respect for Mark as a costume designer and he has a great relationship with Paul.
From “There Will Be Blood” to “The Master” did the process of working with Paul change at all? Were there different challenges on this one that you hadn’t anticipated?
JF: It seemed like a continuation to me. I think we worked pretty much the same way. We built pretty much everything on “There Will Be Blood” and in this we mostly dressed locations. We built replicas of locations. But the process of working with Paul was the same.
DC: I thought the process of looking for places was very much the same as it was on “There Will Be Blood” even though we only needed one place on that film.
JF: David, remember the Philadelphia house? There were about five houses to choose from and Paul liked one that we didn’t really like and we liked one that he was really unsure of. That’s when David told him, “You’ll love it.”
DC: He wanted one with a lot of red carpet in it and we were like “ehhh.”
JF: Paul grew up in California and we grew up on the east coast so we were more familiar with Philadelphia than he was, so he deferred to us. Plus we outnumbered him. [laughs]
DC: Plus, we’re taller. [laughs]
Did you end up picking up any shots on the east coast or was it all in the Bay Area?
JF: It was all in San Francisco and LA. We shot Massachusetts in Crockett, California, where the C&H Sugar plant is. That’s where Freddie’s girlfriend is when he went back to her house. We found a great little town there.
And London was also California?
DC: Yep, Berkeley.
JF: A great trick that Paul had for that school was that huge window behind The Master was to put a white sheet up there basically so you didn’t see any of Berkeley or California. It was just stylized with light. But I thought it really worked well for the scene so I didn’t really question it when I saw it. I thought if you’d seen that [backdrop] with trees and things it would’ve taken you out of the scene, but it seems sort of surreal just having white out the windows.
It seems almost like stained glass, very church-like.
JF: The scale was so great. We struggled to find a location from that school and we were 2 days away from leaving San Francisco there when we found it. We knew instantly that it would work.
DC: It had to work, we didn’t have any choice! [laughs] So we said, “You’re going to love it, Paul.” [everybody laughs]
JF: And he responded instantly.
“Inherent Vice” seems like it’s gearing up now. Is that something you guys are already starting to think about?
JF: I’m involved with a film that my wife [Sissy Spacek] is directing so I think David is going to take on “Inherent Vice.”
DC: Yes, I’m starting.
It’ll be great to see Paul take on the 60s which is a decade he hasn’t touched yet. Just curious to see if you have anything you’re looking at stylistically for what that might be?
DC: I’d have to kill you if I told you. [laughs] No, I don’t really have any yet.
JF: The year of the story is the year I moved to California so it’s hard for me to think of it as a period film.
Was that 1968?
JF: 69/70. It really takes place in March/April of 1970.
[editors note: Jack followed up with a text the next evening to clarify his thoughts on how to describe the work of 3 very different filmmakers.]
“David is a painter that creates his unique world in films. Terry is a philosopher that visualizes thoughts, and Paul is a jazz musician that plays characters.”
Welcome to the fifth installment of "Making The Master," our series of in-depth interviews with some of the minds behind "The Master." We've spoken to many of the production's principal players (including writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, producer JoAnne Sellar, costume designer Mark Bridges and production designers Jack Fisk & David Crank) that helped bring the film to life and today we have an interview with actress Madisen Beaty. At just 16 years old, Madisen joined the cast as Freddie Quell's long lost love Doris Solstad, a spectre of purity who haunts Freddie throughout the film. She spoke to us about what makes the set of a PTA movie special, what it was like going head-to-head with Joaquin and also reveals the original title for the film. Enjoy.
Cigarettes & Red Vines: How did you first come to be aware of the film? Had you seen any of Paul’s previous films at that point?
Madisen Beaty: Yeah, I had actually seen part of “Magnolia” and I had seen “There Will Be Blood” and was a huge fan of it. I got an audition, just like any other audition, but it was actually for Amy Adams’ daughter [Elizabeth]. They gave me my sides and I went over them and went in and auditioned with Cassandra [Kulukundis, casting director], and I was in the middle of doing the scene when she stopped me. She was like, “You’re way too young for this.” There was a scene when she’s supposed to drop her robe and she’s like, “You’re 16. You’re not doing that.” And I was so bummed! But before I could even protest that she said, “There’s another role that I think you’d be perfect for so I’m going to give you the sides and you go over them for a sec and then I want to see you do them.” So she gave me the sides and I read them and did them for her. And then I went home and got a call that they wanted me to come and meet with Paul.
So I went back in and when I got there, they gave me new sides and in these news sides, I’m singing and kissing someone. And they told me that there would be an actor there to read with me. Then they left to go get Paul and Joaquin. So I’m sitting there freaking out, going “Oh my gosh.” I know that’s Joaquin and I’ve seen all his stuff online and I’m supposed to kiss him and I’m singing? What is this! So they came in and Paul introduced himself and then Joaquin introduced himself. And we did these new scenes and I was freaking out. Then I didn’t hear anything for like 2 weeks and then I heard that I got it. I remember later I was talking to Joaquin on set and was like, “Those were the longest two weeks of my life, you don’t understand!” And he goes, “Yeah, I kept asking Paul, ‘Did you tell her that she got the role?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll get to it.’” [laughs] He’s just very relaxed in his whole process.
So it was just those two auditions that got you the role?
Yeah. Something interesting is [during the second audition] when we got to the scene where I’m supposed to sing “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)” by The Andrews Sisters. And I didn’t know the song at the time so when I got there, I told them, “I can go learn it and come back or I can sing something else for you. I don’t sing professionally, but I can sing okay.” And Paul was like, “Yeah, we’ll just skip that.” As we were filming I kept asking him, “Do you want to hear me sing?” And he was like, “No, we’ll get to it Madisen. It’s okay.” So fast-forward, it’s the day of filming the scene and I’m not joking, no one had heard me sing.
I’ve been working on it and practicing and even my parents hadn’t heard me. So we started rolling and I started singing and my dad described it, it was just shock on the set because no one knew that I could sing. So we did two or three takes but Paul wasn’t coming up to me. So finally I walked up to him like, “Paul, you gotta tell me. Is it good? I’m just singing! You didn’t give me anything.” And he goes, “Madisen, I figured either Doris would sing and it’d be kind funny and cute because she thinks she can sing but she can’t and she’s just letting Freddie in on her world. Or she’d sing like you did. And you should keep going.” I still can’t believe it to this day.
That must have been incredibly nervewracking.
I was pretty nervous but Paul’s set -- you hear people talk about it -- but it’s really just a different experience.
Did you have any idea that it would make it onto the soundtrack?
No, never in a million years. I was driving to an audition one day and my mom called me and said, “You might want to go online,” so I pulled up my phone and saw that I was on the soundtrack. It was very weird for me.
Did you get the entire script at some point or just the pages of scenes that you were in?
I just had the pages I was going to be in. I was bugging Paul and kept asking him, “Can I read the script? I’ll give it right back.” He said, “I just want you to know what Doris knows and I want to keep it that way.” And I thought that was just a Paul thing where he just lets you see what your part of the script is but now I know that Doris wasn’t even in the first couple drafts.
So did you not know what was going on in the rest of the film until you saw it for the first time?
I had no idea. All I knew was Doris. It’s interesting because she’s haunting Freddie throughout the entire film and the way they set it up to film, we did the screen test -- the screen test was me and Joaquin -- and the first week and a half of filming was me and Joaquin. Then that was a wrap for me so I left but I think Paul set that up so that the whole time, Joaquin could be pulling from that [experience]. Then they called me back about 2 months later and said that they added some scenes and wanted me to come back. This time I filmed in LA instead of San Francisco and when I came back it was so weird because Joaquin was different. The chemistry was a little off and I think it was because he’s such a method actor and he hadn’t seen me during that time.
So what was the scene you came back to film?
It’s hard to tell in the movie, you might get to see some more when the DVD comes out which is supposed to have some deleted scenes. But anything in the movie theatre, I just went and filmed in this gorgeous movie theatre downtown LA. The scene is when we’re sitting on the steps and it’s actually when I’m singing. Paul had me sing again and cut the first time I sing. We kinda redid a little bit of everything and talked about some more things. Then a lot of the scenes that we did in San Fran didn’t make the cut. But Paul’s so gracious that in the trailer [teaser #3], you see some of those deleted scenes.
How did you and Paul develop the character of Doris? In an earlier draft of the script, she’s referred to but has no scenes but clearly he had something else in mind in fleshing out the character.
We stuck to the sides at first and then when we actually got on set it was very free flowing and everything came out organically where we started going off script. I knew enough about Doris and Joaquin knew about Freddie and we would go way, way off script. Paul was so open to that. One morning we were filming a scene where Joaquin had just come back from the war and we’re sitting on the park bench. We were very flirty and we kissed and all that. Then we went to lunch and when we came back -- this was a scene that didn’t make the cut -- but we were fighting because I’m too young for him. Between takes Joaquin was cussing and kicking things and walking around and yelling at me and I was so confused.
While he’s doing that, Paul was like, “This is great! This is so great.” [laughs] And my 16 year old mind is just freaking out, I was so confused until finally I was like, “Paul, I’m so confused. You know I trust you but Joaquin’s over there and you’re over here.” And he goes, “Madisen, that’s Freddie. You’re Doris. You are down here and he’s bringing you down and you need to be bringing him up.” And all of a sudden it clicked where he’s not going to go and tell Joaquin to stop. So I walked back and was like, “Freddie, it’s okay.” And I started talking about how everything was going to be fine and the scene was completely different. Just having that control to be able to make the scene whatever I wanted to make it, I’ve never experienced that before and I don’t think I will for a long, long time. And it’s all Paul.
That kind of freedom must be great for an actor.
Oh, it’s wonderful. When you put him and Joaquin together, they’re both just so focused and there’s no limits for either of them. I think that’s what makes it so brilliant because there are no limits and when you don’t limit yourself, brilliant things come out.
All of your scenes in the film were with Joaquin, did you have any scenes with any of the other actors that didn’t make the cut?
There was definitely more with my mom [Mrs. Solstad played by Lena Endre]. There was a scene where I’m asking her to go out and they taught me how to say something in Norwegian that didn’t make it into the final film. But for the most part everything was focused on Joaquin. Something that never came out in the film, everyone always wonders how Freddie and Doris know each other. My character’s older brother was his friend growing up and they both went to war together. My older brother died in the war so Freddie was coming back to pay respects slash bring out this unspoken love because I’d been writing him these letters.
Were there any other Doris scenes that didn’t make it into the film?
Just the scene where we were fighting because of the age difference and how it wouldn’t work even though I wanted to make it work. When I first saw the cut I was so disappointed that it didn’t make it into the film but now looking back I’m really glad that it didn’t because when you watch it now, it’s like we’re not together because he couldn’t handle Doris’ love. Which I think is a better story than the age difference and it definitely makes it a different story.
You’ve already talked a bit about it but can you just describe what it was like as a young actress working with Joaquin who is just a force of nature in the film?
There’s really no limits for him. He’ll go off script and he’ll do his own thing. If he’s mad, he’s going to be really, really angry like, kicking the park bench. I think he even pulled it out of its root and kicked the park bench off the thing. [laughs] There’s just no limits, he’ll do anything. The scene where he comes and wakes me up when I’m sleeping...
When he tears the window screen out.
Yes. That was one of my favorite days of filming because both him and Paul were playing tricks on me. It’s was like 3am when I got to set and I’m awake as ever. Paul told me, “You are just way too awake,” as we were leaving the hotel. I was like, “Hi Paul! How are you? It’s 3am!” But I’m 16 so I don’t know what you would expect. So he said, “I want you to get to set. Don’t even go to makeup. Get in costume but don’t do anything else and I’ll meet you there.” So I got in costume and went to set and he walked me through the house and took me back to what was Doris’ room. And he said, “I know you don’t believe me but we’re not going to be filming for like an hour and I want you to just lay down and go to sleep. I’ll come wake you up before we film.” I was like, “Are you sure you’re going to wake me up?” He said, “Yeah, just go to sleep.”
My mom told me that as I forced myself to go to sleep, they closed the door and Paul told the crew to be quiet because I was sleeping. I’m just thinking about what the crew must be thinking of me working and I’m sleeping on the job! Then I woke up to this knocking and sat up and thought it was the door. Then I realized that Joaquin was at the window and thought, “Oh, I must’ve not heard them waking me up.” So I just went with it and did the scene. He was just supposed to kiss me but then he pulled off the screen and it became what you see. I’m pretty sure the take that you see is that first take when I had just woken up because of the way that I say the lines. I was so confused because I had just woken up.
So it did work!
[laughs] Yeah. As we went on filming and did a couple other takes, they had to take screens from around the house to keep going because he kept ripping the screens off. But that’s just Joaquin, he doesn’t care. He does what feels right and I followed that and I did what felt right. I think it’s the best way to bring a character to life because there’s no limits. That’s what you do in real life so when you see that onscreen, there’s something that’s so different about it that’s organic. That’s what’s so beautiful about Paul’s films because every single one of his films has that natural energy that is whatever you want it to be.
So what makes the set of a PTA movie different from any other set that you’ve been on?
There are sets that you go on where the crew just doesn’t work together, it’s like a puzzle where the energy is thrown off because these people don’t know each other and they’ve never worked together and different people don’t always mix well. One of the best things about Paul’s set is that he brings together everyone who he’s worked with before. Of course, there are some new people but most of them are people that he’s worked with for years. To see the crew work together and work so effortlessly and so naturally is great.
I remember coming back to the hotel from filming and there was a group of his crew hanging out in the lobby drinking wine together. They were like, “Madisen! Come on over here, bring your mom. Let’s talk!” We sat in the lobby with some of his crew and just shared stories. They’re so wonderful and they don’t get the recognition they deserve. Paul is so direct and he knows what he wants but he says it in a way where you have control. When Joaquin was angry and he pulled me aside, he didn’t go up to Joaquin and give him direction. He let me go up to him and kinda tweak it just a little bit so that the scene was different. Having that control is so empowering and him letting everyone do their own job and bring it together so effortlessly is what makes his sets so amazing.
Can you think of any other moments that stand out as being memorable or any stories you’d want to share?
Aside from filming, the experience I had afterwards [was definitely memorable]. I hoped I would get to go to the premiere but you never know how these things work. I was fortunate enough to be invited to Venice and after that to go to TIFF and after that to the New York premiere. That whole experience was absolutely amazing. Me and my mom and my manager went to Venice. It was a girls weekend and I’d barely been out of the country before! I’d seen the movie in LA with my dad before and I honestly didn’t like it at first. But it’s one of those films where you have to let it sit. Seeing it a second time, I fell in love with it.
I think part of it was sitting there [in Venice] with this audience that was reacting to everything, next to Joaquin and Phil [Seymour Hoffman] and Paul and Harvey [Weinstein] and JoAnne [Sellar] and Megan [Ellison]. Sitting there and watching the film with these people, it was this weird moment where it was like, “I don’t belong here. But I do.” Afterwards there was a standing ovation where me, Phil and Joaquin were standing and the whole theatre is turned to us and clapping. It was this weird moment because this is their film. I am a part of it definitely, but this is their film and they’re the ones who created it. So I kinda stepped to the side and Phil came over to me and grabbed my hand and pulled me back up and said, “You belong with us now, darling.”
That moment for me, was amazing. I might not have created this film but I’m a part of it and that goes back to the family that Paul creates with his crew. The way he makes everyone feel like they belong and it’s just a family that just is in it together. That’s really hard to do. I’ve been on so many sets where it’s not even comparable, none of them are comparable to Paul’s sets.
I know that the film didn’t land on a title until pretty late in the process. Were there any working titles along the way?
It was originally called “The Cause” but we weren’t supposed to say that obviously because it was [supposed to be kept] really quiet. When we were filming in San Francisco, wherever we went they were calling it the “Untitled Western” so no one knew who we were. But to everyone else it was known as “The Cause.” Whoever was aboard at the beginning of filming even got a shirt and a flask in the mail saying “Thank you for joining the production.” The flask said “The Cause” and the shirt had this little logo that said “The Cause.” I thought, “Oh, how cool. I’m going to get to wear this when it comes out.” Then they changed the name! But I like “The Master” better because I feel like it evolved and just from what scenes made it [into the film]. Paul had a story in his head and it definitely evolved as we filmed but I think what came out was better than what we had in the beginning.
Can you talk a little bit more about your first reaction to the movie, since you’d only really known about your piece of it, it must have been pretty crazy to finally see the whole thing.
I had 5 or 6 scenes and we filmed all of them but I didn’t know what would make it or how he would edit it. I originally sang in San Francisco on the front steps of my house but when you see the movie, I’m singing in the movie theatre [in LA]. So for me it was confusing because I wasn’t sure how it was going to translate to the film. My dad was guessing that maybe he’s just haunted and he’s imagining me in the movie theatre there with him. We knew that he got drunk because I had accidentally seen some other sides. [laughs] So when I finally saw it though I was able to follow it, it was still very confusing.
I don’t think it’s a film that you can watch once because there’s so much going on and so many underlying themes. So I wasn’t really sure if I was happy with what had been used, as far as my scenes go but then when I saw it the second time, I was able to watch it as an audience member instead of as an actor. Now I’ve seen it probably 5 or 6 times and still catch these little things. I’m really happy with what came out of my role now and think it’s best for the story. Paul was so nice to include some of the deleted scenes in the trailers he put out and I hear there’s going to be more on the DVD.
Did you have conversations with Paul about what the film was about or would he only really discuss what your piece of it was?
He was very conscious that I would only be focused on Doris and Freddie. Like I said, the first two weeks of filming and the screen test was Freddie and Doris. It was very focused on their relationship and how innocent and beautiful that it was. When I came back to set [2 months later] the energy was completely different. I know they had been doing some harder scenes and accidentally saw some sides of when he’s in the theatre drunk and The Master calls him. In the sides that I saw, The Master said, “Did she get to you Freddie? Did she get to you?” So I thought, “Oh it’s Doris. Maybe my character is haunting him the entire time and maybe that’s one of the themes of the movie.” But I really had no idea.
I kept asking Paul --I was probably the most annoying kid because I just kept asking him, -- “Am I the inciting incident? Am I the lock in?” if we’re talking script terms and he would not tell me. All he said was, “You are what Freddie wants and that’s what you need to remember. You are what’s pure to him and you are what keeps him anchored. You are the only one that has the control to have such a spell on him.” And to see what Joaquin did with that character once I got on set, it’s obviously Joaquin Phoenix but working with him is something completely different. And you have Phil and Amy and in person they’re all so wonderful. For me, as a young actor, it was an incredible experience and I was able to grow so much.
You’ve already worked with another especially notable director, David Fincher on “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button,” so I was just wondering if there were any similarities or differences in their approach with actors?
I love them both and they’re very different! [laughs] David is very focused on the little details -- it’s like the most miniscule things -- and he’s very set on the sides being the way they’re written. As you know he has a reputation for doing things 50 times over but I asked him about it and he said he does that so that we forget what we’re saying and focus more on the emotion. With Paul you start with the emotions and then the lines come instead of forgetting that they’re lines. They’re very different in the way that they work but they’re both so brilliant. A similarity is that you can see when they’re studying the monitor, they both have this love and they’re such perfectionists about it. But they’re so different in the way that they film and the way that their sets are run.
Are there any other directors on your wish list now that you’ve crossed these two off your list?
I remember wrapping ‘Benjamin Button’ and talking to my mom asking, “Well, what do I do now?” After that I went on auditions for smaller projects and for me it was an adjustment because I kinda got a big head working on that film. [laughs] It was like, “I’m gonna have this awesome career,” and then you go and do some other things. I did a Lifetime movie and there was the writers strike and then “The Master” came. And well, we thought we couldn’t do better but look, we’re still going. I don’t want to say too much but I definitely would love to work with obviously, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson and more recently, David O. Russell. I love the directors that have their own language. With David and Paul, they both have their own language. And “Django [Unchained]” has got to be one of my favorite movies now. To see that, that is why I act: it’s the art of telling stories. When you meet artists who tell the stories in their own language, there’s something so beautiful about that. That’s what I love about it and that’s who I want to work with.
Welcome to the sixth installment of "Making The Master," our series of in-depth interviews with some of the minds behind "The Master." We've spoken to many of the production's principal players (including writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, producer JoAnne Sellar, costume designer Mark Bridges, production designers Jack Fisk & David Crank and actress Madisen Beaty) that helped bring the film to life and today we have an interview with editor Leslie Jones. As she had also done with "Punch-Drunk Love" a decade earlier, Leslie came aboard the film after principal photography had been completed and worked with PTA to help find the shape for the film. (She shares a credit with editor Peter McNulty who worked on the film through production). Leslie spoke to us about the original 3rd act for "Punch-Drunk Love," the scene in "The Master" that was the most challenging to get right and the origin of the teaser trailers. Enjoy.
Cigarettes & Red Vines: I know you first collaborated on “Punch-Drunk Love” about a decade ago, but how did you and Paul first come to work together?
Leslie Jones: We met at the Sundance Director’s Lab in 1998 and we were both advisors there. I was going to screen a copy of “The Thin Red Line” which I had just worked on, and he offered to be the moderator for the Q&A afterwards. He was very excited about the movie and had so many questions and we just really connected through that movie. We just really hit it off with that film and the experience we had at Sundance with a great group of people, we got to work together there at the lab. I don’t know where the time went but a few years later, he was just starting “Punch-Drunk Love” and the editor he had during production didn’t work out. So he remembered meeting me at Sundance and called and said, “I’m doing this movie. I’m pretty much finished shooting for now. Do you want to come on and help me out?”
It was a very unique experience because he had to finish shooting prior to completion because of an impending actor’s strike. So he shut down and decided he was going to work with what he had until he had to go back and pickup scenes but never got to. So we had one of the most luxurious opportunities and experiences filmmakers get to have on a movie because we got to sit with the film and work on it and talk about it for a long time. It was a good 6 or 9 months and we didn’t have an end, the last 20 or 30 minutes of the film hadn’t been shot. So we got to really, really think about what the movie should be and where it was going to go. He had so many ideas, so many different ideas, than what we ended up with. He was originally going to shoot a very different movie at the end. We sat around and talked and talked and talked and talked for a long time and at the end of it, came up with something completely different. So he shot the end of the movie and we had a lot more time to work on that and screen it.
Do you remember what some of those earlier ideas for the end of the film were going to be?
Adam Sandler’s character was collecting these coupons for airline miles from the pudding and he was going to use those miles to travel for this contest where you would hit all these major cities around the world using these miles. Adam was going to fly to South America and all these different places and we were going to follow him through that journey. I forget now how that was going to affect his connection with the Emily Watson character so I think in the end the reason that wasn’t shot is because Paul wanted to stay with the love story and create more of a tension with the Phil Seymour Hoffman character. So he did ultimately stay with the love story because that was the most engaging aspect of the film.
Looking back, “Punch-Drunk Love” was really a turning point in PTA’s career. At what point did get the call for “The Master”?
Coincidentally I had the same sort of experience as “Punch-Drunk Love” where I got a call right after he finished production and he needed help. Peter McNulty did the first cut on "The Master" [while the film was in production] and he did a fantastic job. So I got to see the movie and then Paul and I started work on it. It was a similar experience in that the whole movie was shot, still very fluid situation. He was still trying to figure out what the movie was really about, whose story he really wanted to tell and what the focus was going to be. It was just a different experience when you don’t start in production, which is very pressured and quick and very stressful. There’s a lot of film coming in and scenes get cut very quickly and then they get put aside and there’s no real continuity.
So they were editing while the film was in production?
You’re always cutting in production but it’s fractured and stressful. It’s kind of nice to come on after that happens and you’re not burdened with the stress of what might’ve happened on the set, lab issues, 70mm complications, stuff like that which will always intrude into the process. So I love coming in later and getting to see the whole movie which is already there, cut and getting to collaborate with Paul when he’s in a more focused frame of mind. He’s not shooting, he’s there, present, in the cutting room and we get to just talk about what’s there. We sit in front of a continuity board which has flashcard pictures of every scene and they’re in order, so we just move the cards around all the time and think about different structures and hours would go by of just sitting and staring at this board and talking and moving things around and eventually trying things in the edit. But a lot of our work was just conversations, pondering and thinking. Then we would go through phases where we would look at things more under a microscope and take scenes apart, put them back together again.
You weren't cutting on film were you?
No, we cut on the Avid but we printed film. Dailies were printed, we saw film dailies and then a work picture was created based on our Avid cut list so we had film screenings.
What is that actual editing process like? Are you and Paul side-by-side the entire time, do you talk about something and then you go off and put a scene together and come back with something to show him?
For a lot of it, we would talk about changes and he would go away, I’d do the notes and he’d come back and we would do more work together. Most time was spent where he was in the room reading, writing emails, just there present but not focused on what I was doing until I said, “Hey, look at this!”
“The Master” and “Punch-Drunk Love” both seem to be PTA’s loosest films structurally. There’s a much more straightforward version of this story where The Master is much more of a villain or manipulator and this is obviously much more complex film than that. How do you get to the core of what the film is about?
The focus of the story wasn’t obvious in the beginning. There was a lot of a lot of story and there was a lot of backstory for Joaquin, there was a lot of backstory for Phil and the beginnings of The Cause, how he started the movement and also his relationship to some of his followers. It’s all good in its own right, in isolation it’s great. But you put it all together and it meandered in places. So we had to choose what was the most important and what was the most engaging and in the end it was Phil and Joaquin’s characters’ relationship with each other. All the other stuff that got in the way of that really needed to not be there. But still, it’s really hard to know how far to go with cutting stuff. You never know for sure.
We’d screen it over and over again, sometimes it was obvious and sometimes it wasn’t. But Paul is fiercely loyal to his own instincts and if there is something he loves and it’s clearly maybe not acceptable to other people, that’s okay for him. He really trusts himself and the film and that’s what I think is so special to Paul as a filmmaker. He really trusts his actors and his performances and you see that in the way he shoots the film and the way he holds on shots and edits. Where there may be a lot more manipulation happening in other films with a lot more cutting and using different takes, Paul doesn’t do that. He’ll find a performance, he sticks with it, he trusts it, he’ll stay in one shot. Sometimes it’s a little scary wondering, “Does this hold up?” But in the end, it really all does come together. I’m amazed sometimes at how he can see that. He can visualize how it’s all going to work together.
It must be difficult to know what to cut because the film really isn’t driven by plot, it’s driven by theme and character. So how do you know what you can tear away and what has to be there?
It’s just a feeling, I can’t explain it. I can’t explain why I cut something all the time, it’s just a feeling. And if it feels emotional, if it feels authentic, if it feels lyrical, then it feels right. I think he and I are on the same page that way, there are a lot of lyrical moments we fell in love with and when that works with the music, you know you really got something special and you kinda know it. The film became very hypnotic in a way because of those moments.
Is it tough to lose some of that great footage?
Yes, it’s very hard. But when it doesn’t drive the story along and you realize, “Oh, this is what’s getting in the way,” you know that the thing before and the thing after are going to be so much better when you take this middle thing out. Even though it’s funny or it’s this or that, it becomes a no brainer. Then you’ve made great progress and you get invigorated again with the movie. Then you have great material for a teaser! It was really fun using all those outtakes for the teasers. But honestly, most of that footage was out of the movie pretty early on. There were some alternate takes that were great but as a whole didn’t stand up, but we were able to take little pieces out like that piece in the jail, “Tell me something that’s true!” That take didn’t really hold up in its entirety so we didn’t use it but it’s great for the teaser.
I feel like that become one of the most iconic lines in the trailer but I remember my surprise during my first viewing because its not even in the film! But as many times as I’ve watched those teasers it still feels like its there in a way even though it’s not in the actual film.
So much of that footage we used in the teasers was voiceover padding, which allows us to use dialogue that will sum up a story in 2 or 3 minutes. It also gives you a sense of time and place and the feeling of the movie. So like the shot of Joaquin walking outside the Phoenix conference just after he’s beaten up the guy.
Yep, he’s walking in front of the white wall.
Yeah and he’s walking and walking and walking and walking. You just don’t have time for shots like that in a movie, well, sometimes, but not all the time. So there’s a lot of that stuff that comes out very early on in the process. But they’re just gold for teasers. Not trailers, not commercial trailers, but the teasers we made. It’s fun to be able to play with some dialogue or music and hold over a shot like that.
I’m going to come back to the teasers but I want to go back to the film for a second. Do you remember how long the editing process was?
I came onboard in the Fall of 2011 and we finished up around June of 2012. So about 8 months.
Was there any pressure to make a Fall 2012 release date or did it feel like you had the time to find it however long it took?
We had a really good amount of time. We didn’t really have the pressure of a release date but we knew there was one around September. Our only pressure was to allow enough time to complete the 70mm printing process which was, for us, kind of an unknown. We were making 2 different movies essentially: a 70mm version and a 35mm version. That was a very time consuming process because we were color timing photochemically and cutting negatives and doing that with two formats is just a little complicated. And nobody had really done it that way before. That was our only pressure to finish the film around June to get the prints ready in time for September.
Can you talk about how the movie found its shape over the course of that 8 months? Was there any invaluable feedback from one of those screenings or any ‘A-ha’ moment that made things click into place?
It was a very gradual process. We screened it quite a bit for Paul’s close friends and filmmaker friends of his. I would say the ‘A-ha’ moment came when we got music from Jonny [Greenwood]. There was a long period of time where it felt like he got to a point in the edit where he was really happy with it but couldn’t really go on until we got some more music. Those outstanding pieces of score were really going to tie some things together and inform some of the sequences and how they were cut and whether they belonged. Jonny’s music was coming in throughout the whole process but it was a situation where the cut would inform a direction that Jonny would take and then Jonny’s music would inform a direction we would take with the edit. So it was sort of a give and take. But towards the end when we got a lot of the final music it was like, “Wow, it feels cohesive now.” The music felt cohesive therefore the story does and it was very gratifying to realize that. But it was a pretty gradual movement of how we cut the movie and how it took shape. Though it was in pretty great shape when I first saw it, early on, just long and needed to be focused just like most movies do.
Was there a particular scene that was most difficult to find the rhythm of or anything you would say was the biggest challenge in editing the film?
The hardest sequence was the scene we called the ‘touch the wall’ scene, the processing sequence where Freddie goes back and forth touching the wall. That was the hardest scene, we had a lot of footage, a lot of different sorts of exercises that Freddie was going through and we really weren’t sure how those pieces fit together. It was a big puzzle and we weren’t sure what Freddie’s journey was going to be through this process and where he was going to end up, what arc he was going to take, so that took the longest amount of time to get.
It was clear every screening we would go into thinking, “Oh, we got it. We made some progress,” and then we’d watch it and think, “Oh God, we’ve got to go back and start over.” There were some pieces in that sequence that were really strong and we knew that those belonged but how do we fill in the space in between? Eventually we did and we got something great. That was a great day. We found a rhythm and when we screened it we knew, “Thank God, we got it.” That was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders because it was one of the most nagging issues that we had.
I know there were some films that were more touchstones for the writing and tone but were there any films you looked at for inspiration as far as the editing?
No. Paul had some references that he used with his production people and if he has something I’m happy to look at it. But you don’t want to rip anybody off and you don’t want to be distracted by something else you’ve seen. You want to approach the material with a fresh perspective and a unique approach and not be influenced by anything else. The footage you have is unique and you can only cut it in a way that works for that movie. Nothing else can really inform how you do it.
To go back to the teasers for a minute, how did those come about?
We started talking about it in the Spring of 2012. We did a lot of these little short pieces for “Punch-Drunk Love” where he was remembering things, we used a lot of the Jeremy Blake artwork to cut these little teasers. They were smaller than teasers.
Yes, the Scopitones! So he was reflecting on those and wanting to do something similar. We also had all this great music too that Jonny had done that hadn’t ended up in the final movie so he planned to do a series that he would release on his own and they were posted by our assistant editor through the cutting room. It was very exciting because we felt like we were so much on our own without the studio telling us what to do and how to do it and when to do it. We knew that The Weinstein Co. had their own campaign they were getting ready for and we were onboard with that too but Paul really wanted to do something out of the box as well. So we just started cutting these teasers and we started with one that featured Joaquin and then we did one that was more about Phil. I think we did one for Amy but I don’t think we ever released that one.
I don’t think so either.
Then we did one that we called the 'Love Teaser,' I’m sure it’s called something else now ["She Wrote Me A Letter"] but it was more about Doris and it was much more abstract and mysterious. I cut them pretty close to each other and they would just sit in a bin and we would have it and wait for Paul to be interested in them again. He would come in and say, “Let’s go look at a teaser again,” and we would get excited about it and we’d recut it. He would be very impulsive about it and just decide, “OK, it looks great. Let’s post it!” It was like, “Are you sure? Are you really ready?” It was so empowering that we could just put it out there ourselves and it would go out to the world. It was very exciting.
How close did you guys follow the response to them? Especially that first one when no one had even seen a frame of film to all of a sudden getting this two minutes of footage must have been incredibly exciting to watch the reactions coming back.
It was great. It was very exciting, very inspiring. It gave us a huge boost and made us want to do more. But you’d have to show some restraint, you couldn’t do too much at once. Paul and I had also cut a long trailer for Cannes which had gone before the teaser I believe.
The teaser actually came out the day before the Cannes footage, which I thought was a really cool way of leveling the field.
Oh okay, you’re right. I think we half-expected the Cannes trailer to get leaked out somehow but it didn’t. Then we were able to take that Cannes version and extend it and put a lot more in there.
That was the last one, the “Thank You” teaser.
Then there was a 20 minute version which is going on the DVD. A lot of that stuff we just tried to fit together and cut it a different way.
Are there any scenes that were filmed and cut together that didn’t make it into that 20 minutes?
There’s a few. [laughs]
Anything of interest?
I’m sure any of this stuff would be interesting to fans of Paul’s but it was stuff that didn't have a visual feeling to it, it didn’t tell a story, it wasn’t interesting visually. There was a little bit of that. Some scenes that Paul just knew he didn't get on the day -- that were just visually not interesting, not working -- and he knows it. He’s amazing and he’s so lucky to have producers that plan for that kind of thing where he’s going to have a bad day and [say], “Let’s reshoot it, we’re prepared. Tomorrow we’ll redo it.” He did that a number of times, it’s quite a bit of footage that was reshot.
But no major sequences or anything?
No, not really.
You worked with another revered auteur, Terrence Malick on “The Thin Red Line,” so can you just talk about any similarities or differences you noticed working with these two filmmakers?
Well, they’re both just brilliant at what they do and incredibly intuitive and trusting of their actors. But I think it’s clear they both have a unique style, maybe there’s a little bit of crossover now and then. I think Paul’s much more of an actor’s director who develops a really great connection with his actors and there’s a trust there that is invaluable. I think Terry’s inclination is less about the actor and performance and more about just a feeling, a glimpse in time. There’s so much movement and everything feels like its sort of flowing through space. Paul’s performances and characters feel a lot more grounded to me. So I think there are a lot of differences.
Paul goes into the editing process feeling like he knows exactly what he wants, and there ends up to be a lot of experimentation as there usually is with his process. But I think Terry walks in thinking, “I don’t know what I have,” -- this is for “The Thin Red Line” anyway -- “The script I wrote isn’t really the movie I want to make, so let’s go and see what we can do. Let’s mix up all these pieces, take out the dialogue and take out anything that’s linear, throw it up in the air and see what happens.” Paul’s approach is much different.
After working with Paul twice in the last 10 years, did the process change at all? Is he the same director he was a decade ago?
We both have had families. He’s got 3 kids now and that’s a huge difference. That can dramatically affect your work habits. I’ve also had one child since then. So it was really nice for us to get together again and have that connection and have more boundaries in our work habits and know that you need to stop at a certain time every night and go home to our families. That was a big difference but a very positive one.
Any plans for a future collaboration?
I hope so!
Are you getting on the “Inherent Vice” train?
I hope so. [laughs]
Welcome to the seventh installment of "Making The Master," our series of in-depth interviews with some of the minds behind "The Master." We've spoken to many of the production's principal players (including writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, producer JoAnne Sellar, costume designer Mark Bridges, production designers Jack Fisk & David Crank, actress Madisen Beaty and editor Leslie Jones) that helped bring the film to life and today we have an interview with poster artist Dustin Stanton. Dustin is a graphic designer and creative director who has been working with PTA for the past 14 years designing nearly every poster, DVD, soundtrack, newspaper or FYC ad for his films going all the way back to "Magnolia." Dustin spoke to us over email about creating artwork for each of Paul's films for the last decade, what their collaboration is like and the balance of creating beautiful art that also functions as a commercial tool. Enjoy.
Cigarettes & Red Vines: Dustin, tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started designing movie posters?
Dustin Stanton: It's really a mailroom - style beginning. It was just a job while still in high school as a driver slash production artist at one of the large entertainment advertising companies in town. I was an art major and just pulling plans together to maybe go to an art school. This opportunity had fallen in my lap and I thought it might be a good way to make a little money. I really love movies and this agency was one of a small handful that were in Los Angeles that were designing posters for film. In the hallways at the agency, all the posters that they had designed were hanging and I was a bit struck by it all, thinking...'Wow, I could do that, too!" I've had the incredible fortune of working with some very talented, creative and inspirational people over the years. As time went by, I migrated between agencies. I learned a lot and was given opportunities to grow as an art director. I sincerely, owe a great deal to the many mentors and friends that I have in the business.
At what point did you decide to break out on your own?
Late 2009. It really wasn't my idea, but I'm really glad it happened. I left an agency called Concept Arts. Really nice, family-owned company. Things ran their course and I found myself with the decision of either going to another agency or striking out on my own. I really got used to the idea of making my own hours and working with clients I really liked. Never looked back.
How did you first come to work with Paul?
I met Paul in post-production on Magnolia. I was working at BLT. We had the New Line account and he wanted to meet with the design team that would be working on his film. So after the screening, we had a really good meeting. Believe it or not that's pretty rare that a filmmaker will do that. It became apparent right away to me that this was no ordinary filmmaker, someone that I would enjoy working with. I became the point person on Magnolia and that's really when we began collaborating.
I'd like to talk a bit about that first collaboration. Was this for the teaser falling frogs poster or the final flower image? What was Paul looking for and can you talk about some of the iterations that the design went through before arriving at the final image?
The 'frog teaser' had already been done. I think Paul handled that before coming to BLT. Our job was to come up with the one-sheet poster. The only one clear direction was that we weren't to use Tom on the poster. It wasn't a 'Tom Cruise movie'. Everyone agreed the strength of the film was the cast as a whole.
We had a small team of art directors working on it. There were a few designs that were being considered for the poster and one that really stood out was that of a magnolia with a subtle frog pattern in the center of the flower with the cast worked into the petals. That design was done by another art director on the team. The flower used in that early design was a grainy and blurry production still. I suggested that we take a beautiful photograph of a magnolia flower and use it instead. It was just pure luck that all the magnolia trees were in full bloom at that time of year. We went to Home Depot, bought a fruit picker and headed down to Melrose Avenue where there were tons of magnolia trees. We shot that flower with a 4x5 film camera. Going that extra mile really helped the poster come to life.
There were several really good designs that the team came up with. I had a poster design in which a frog was falling and making a tear in the poster, revealing blue sky. We also had a 'basket weave' design that had the cast literally weaving through each other's lives. Those pieces were eventually used in the DVD packaging. That is one thing I've come to appreciate with working with Paul. If he likes something, it'll stay in the back of his mind. Rather than throwing it out and letting it die, we'll find a place that it will really work well.
Magnolia turned out to be a pretty big project. After the poster was finished, I took on newspaper ads, Golden Globe and Academy ads, dvd, vhs, and soundtrack packages and Paul was very involved in each one.
So take us to "Punch-Drunk Love" now. At this point were you still working at BLT? Or had you struck out on your own? What were the first things you heard about this film before starting work on the poster?
I was at another agency in Burbank. We started working on PDL early - during preproduction. He gave me very little to work with - in a good way. I just knew that Adam Sandler was in it and it wasn't going to be as heavy as Magnolia. Paul was really into Godard and French new wave as a point of departure. I watched a couple of those films. 'Aliens, love & violence' were some early words of direction. I felt inspired to do a painting which had an explosion of red coming from around a heart. That eventually worked its way into some things (back of special edition PDL dvd). We screened the movie together and right after, Paul was like 'Well, what do you think the poster image is?'. Almost simultaneously we both said that it has to be the moment when Barry and Lena meet in the lobby of the hotel in Hawaii. It's just such a gorgeous moment. It really defines them coming together from these two different directions so well. We explored some other options but nothing really worked as well. Paul had been working with an artist, Jeremy Blake, on the transition animations for the film and his artwork became vital to everything I was doing from that point on.
So by this point Paul was pretty committed to working with you. "Punch-Drunk Love" is pretty interesting because there was really only that single image used for just about the entire campaign. It works as both a teaser poster and final one-sheet. Do you remember any resistance from the studio at the time or desire to make a more traditional looking Adam Sandler poster?
I can remember being only a little surprised being contacted again by Paul. It seemed natural. One thing I've come to learn is that he is incredibly loyal. If you connect and do good work, you'll do it again. And again. Who wouldn't be like that? I'm like that too. The image was simple enough for a teaser and yet, I think, satisfying enough for a one-sheet. I really don't remember any resistance from the studio. The film was quite a bit different from the movies that Adam was doing around that time. The studio knew that. Revolution knew that. They let us play and come up with the stuff that felt right for the film. Bless them for that. There's no point in trying to sell the film in another way. I don't think that would've worked.
So, tell us about the "There Will Be Blood" teaser. It looks like there a bunch of alternate designs on your site for that film so you definitely went through some different iterations. When did you get involved in that one? And what direction helped you arrive at the final image?
Paul got me involved with TWBB much later than PDL. He invited me to screen the movie. We talked after. I was blown away by the film. One of my memories of his direction was that he saw Daniel Plainview as Nosferatu. A vampire - sucks lifeblood out of people, the land, eventually consumes himself. I was so excited to try a bunch of stuff. Things that were influenced by book covers and title pages. Things that felt like pulp covers, or novel covers from days gone by. Also, older movie posters. I wanted to try different styles of execution. I even tried a portrait in dirty oil ala Vik Muniz. (chocolate looks like dirty oil) Paul liked a lot of the stuff I showed early on but we weren't sure they were giving enough. Maybe holding back a little too much. We had many teaser type images so we began focusing on the poster. He really wanted to get a great shot of Daniel from the film- a portrait of this man, unfettered and straight ahead. We tried a bunch of different faces before picking the one that is the poster now. We got word from [producer] Scott Rudin that he really liked a lot of the earlier pieces and suggested that we use the book cover idea for a teaser. Since I don't have to be asked twice to make two posters for a film, I went to work finishing the teaser first.
At what point in the process does he come to you with “The Master”?
The film was mostly done. They were still adjusting some things in the picture and sound edits. I saw a cut at the office.
What's your first impression of the film?
I'm not that different from many who've seen the film. As I watched these characters and their story roll out in front of me, I knew something really profound was happening. These are artists, everyone: Joaquin, Phil, Amy, Paul are at the top of their game here. I thought the performances and camera work were delicious. The sets, wardrobe, make-up, all of it, put me there in post-war america. The story is so simple and sweet but still has a few twists that hold you fast to the screen. I got the opportunity to watch it several times, even in 70mm. Some films just reward the viewer with multiple viewings. It took a couple times to truly understand and appreciate some of the things that were happening. Not because of confusion, but because there are things happening in The Master that challenge your emotions and intellect. Dana Stevens from Slate.com wrote a great article that we featured in the The Cause Footpath about that very thing. As did A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis from the New York Times. But to be honest, what I was really think about was 'How can I represent this film in a poster?' 'What can I do that would do justice to this incredible work?'
At this point, does PTA give you some direction about what he's looking for? Do you discuss themes or imagery? Or do you come back with some ideas?
He's mentioned before that he sees it as a love story. I agree. For a moment in time, Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd share a symbiotic relationship. Each filling a space in one another's life. We began with ways of showing that inter connectivity. The eyes were an early idea that eventually made their way home in our 70mm tour poster, French and UK ads. I went away and did some exploration with some other images and type designs. We played around a small handful of designs for a little while before landing solidly on our teaser poster.
Can you talk about your creative process a little bit? How did you arrive at the final bottle teaser?
I really just wanted to create a simple announcement teaser poster. I had been working on typography that was conjuring Navy call letters and liquor bottle labels. At one point, kinda felt stuck. Like it was almost there but wasn't 'talking to me'. I took some time away from it for a couple days and thought to myself "What could I do that would hang comfortably on the wall next to the There Will Be Blood teaser poster." I then started thinking that I wanted to bring the type to life by putting it in a situation and photographing it. One of the major elements in The Master is the ocean and this toxic liquid and this sense of drowning or failing OR healing and getting better. The water line through the title is kinda that divide that creates sink or swim, that point of tension.
And how did you actually create the teaser?
It's one photograph. The only thing I needed to do in Photoshop was a date correction and a little touch up.
What's the balance like between creating a beautiful piece of artwork that communicates the feeling of the film and making something that also functions as a commercial tool for selling the film?
That really is the crux of it. Many times that is hard to achieve - that balance of art and commerce. It's kinda like the equivalent of achieving inner peace, to commercial artists and their clients. I think at the core of that balance is trust and integrity. Let the people that are involved do what they do best. No one way is the right way. At every step there needs to be an evaluation whether or not the piece is working for the project. Sometimes it needs to be beautiful, sometimes it just needs to function. At times artists get precious about things that aren't working towards the overall message. Likewise, sometimes marketers ignore esthetics to communicate a message. Can't we all just get along?
Did you set out exploring any directions for the final poster? Or was it already settled that the Weinstein's were going to be handling that one?
We had a few designs that were put on the table - left over from the teaser exploration. I knew that [the designer] Fabrice was working on stuff along side what I was doing. Thank goodness he was. I really had my hands full with the teaser and 70mm tour poster.
What are the different challenges of creating teaser poster vs. the final poster? Do you think about them as completely separate assignments or do you not differentiate?
Oh yes, separate assignments for sure. Teasers have an entirely different job to do than the final poster. When you get a wedding invite in the mail, you don't want to know what they're serving for dinner or exactly what the bride's dress looks like... you just want to know that you're invited to this great party.
Can you talk about working on "The Master" DVD/Blu packaging? What kind of stuff can we look forward to on there?
We designed the Bluray / DVD packages and menus together. The teasers and trailers from TheMasterFilm.com site are on there. There is also a 'behind the scenes' short. On the Bluray, we were able to fit on John Huston's 'Let There Be Light', a really great film on returning WWII vets.
I also loved "The Cause Footpath," that little newspaper you guys put together. Can you talk about where that idea came from?
Mike Kaplan, a marketing guru, vintage poster collector and all around awesome guy mentioned we might try something like what he did with A Clockwork Orange. He published a mini newspaper called ORANGE TIMES that discussed the film, performances and production notes. It also featured a controversial article about the film. A copy of ORANGE TIMES is currently on display at the Academy's Kubrick exhibit, "The Ultimate Trip," in their Grand Lobby Gallery through April.
The Cause Footpath was the result of that inspiration. We hoped it could be something that would be available at the theaters or tipped into newspapers -something that would keep the public conversation about the The Master going. It features an article by Dana Stevens of Slate.com in which she makes a convincing argument for more than one viewing of the film. We had a lot of fun putting it together. It actually turned into a labor of love.
Can you describe what your working relationship with PTA is like now? How has it evolved over time?
Its good. I think over time we've developed a working language and an understanding. A short hand that gets to the point. But it really doesn't seem like a 'working relationship'. Yes, its work yet it doesn't seem like it most of the time. He's a friend and I am honored to be part of the fun. He challenges me to be better and do better. As an artist, that's important to have around you - other artists that make you sit back and say "Is that the best I can do? Is that expected, lazy or trite?"
Do you ever hit a dead-end creatively (land on something lazy/trite)? How do you get around those obstacles?
Of course. I just try to take a moment and just rethink it on different levels and re-ask the questions: What am I trying to communicate, What should the feeling or tone be? Also, either go online and do research or open up some art and design books just to stir the creative stew a little.
Last Question: I know it's early days yet but have you started thinking at all about "Inherent Vice," reading the book, soaking up the late 60's aesthetics?
Yes, actually. Just begun reading it. This could be a lot of fun. Stay tuned!