Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another set report

I'm not too sure what to make of this one. A user who calls themselves anonymousactor posted what they claim to be a "set report" on the IMDB boards. Normally I take this "set reports" with a large grain of salt but since we are desperate for any news I thought I should post this post. It's a little long but enjoyable (if true!).
I'm an actor who was used in one of the retake scenes done recently in L.A., and since Mr. Fincher's fans here seemed to really like the reports given about the Southgate shooting discussed in another thread, I'll post some odds and ends about my experience with ZODIAC/CHRONICLES. I'll be vague about some of it, because apparently there's some secrecy about this film and I'd like to work for this director again and not be branded for leaking vital information.
First of all, let me say that I hate it when people who don't know a particular celebrity personally go ahead and refer to them by their first name, as if they were buddies or something. It's more trouble to type out "Mr. Fincher" than "David" (or worse, "Dave") but isn't that who he is to us? Uggh. When I met him, I didn't say, "Hiya, Dave!" and I won't refer to him that way here.
That's probably not the type of tidbit you're looking for, though. So...
I was told Mr. Fincher likes to use unknown or unrecognized, up-and-coming actors in smaller roles, because he genuinely likes to see what unknown people can do. Although I had a speaking role, it was cast just days before filming, and the whole casting process consisted of being put on videotape in one session with the casting director (no callback)which I suppose was then shown to him. I was really shocked by this, because often auditioning for films and TV shows, even with smaller roles, is this endless, drawn-out process of meeting multiple people in different sessions and then waiting forever to hear if you've been hired. But this happened very fast.
I was surprised by how involved Mr. Fincher was with shaping these smaller performances. At the wardrobe fitting, I was photographed in quite a few outfits (all variations on the same look) and the designer then brought the Polaroids to the set so the director could pick exactly what he wanted. As I'm sure his fans here know, Mr. Fincher is extremely visual, and whether an outfit is maroon or silver or reflective or matte or long or short or whatever is important to him.
When I shot the actual scene the next day, the crew was very effecient and in good spirits. Talking with the designers while being made up and costumed, etc., I was told they considered themselves very lucky to have all ended up with a good, harmonious team, and they all enjoyed working with Mr. Fincher because he's an artist who's actually CREATING a cohesive thing and appreciates their contribution. There were all kinds of research binders in the hair and makeup trailers, containing tear sheets from 1970's magazines, etc., that could be referred to in building the film's look.
(Hmmmm...this is not as exciting or revelatory as I'd thought
it might be. Sorry!)
OKAY, I'll CUT TO THE GOOD PART: Although I just had a few lines with one other actor (one of the stars of the film), we spent what felt like hours on my scene. We did about 10 takes with minor variations, then Mr. Fincher paused to watch the scenes on playback, then we did 10 more takes and he broke for a long time to watch again. Then we did 10 more takes. Then we broke and went through the whole multiple process again with the other actor after changing the lighting around and moving to another wall of the set for their background. During the first break, the actor said to me, "Don't worry.
It's not that you're not getting it right, this is just how he works. He likes
to have lots of choices." Mr. Fincher gave some initial direction face to face when we began, then called out his direction from across the room (not really that far away) where he was watching the playback. When I had a specific question about what he wanted and asked him to paraphrase a line so I could tell what it was he wanted it to mean, he came back to where we were across the room and answered me in depth himself.
I thought this was extremely courteous, and it helped me to relax, as I couldn't completely put out of my mind that I'd just found out practically hours before that I was in a MAJOR MOTION PICTURE for DAVID FINCHER, acting with ______ ______...which hardly happens to me every day. So we did this scene again and again, and it wasn't tiring or frustrating, it was actually very stimulating, artistically, because Mr. Fincher was calling out little adjustments in the lines and the blocking and the character's motivation between each take, and it was technically challenging because I had to sense what was working for him and keep those bits in -- and try to keep them consistent -- while still trying to stay open and in the moment, to leave room to be spontaneous. I also liked that the other actor and I weren't stopped when we began to improvise a tiny bit. This made it feel more free, like we weren't locked into doing the scene a certain way in some Pass or Fail competition. Another thing that built intimacy was that the set was VERY DARK outside our acting area. It was on a huge, well chilled sound stage with lots of little fragments of sets grouped apart from each other that would be used throughout the day in other scenes. Mr. Fincher and the cinematographer both wore white shirts so the cast and crew could find them in the dark. There was also a second, smaller film crew wandering around shooting stuff for what I imagine will be a "Making Of" documentary or featurette. I tried to block them out, as concentrating on working with one film crew was enough. (Actually, they weren't terribly interested in me, anyway. So sad.)
Another thing that helped me was that although the scene was shot from two angles -- first featuring me, then the star -- this actor stuck by
me the whole time. While the crew was initially doing my lighting, they even stood in for themselves off camera where they would eventually be talking from, even though they weren't in this first shot. (Tweaking lighting is a tedious experience that can take as long, if not longer, than the actual shooting of a scene.) Some stars have the script girl cue you with their lines from off camera while they're relaxing in their trailer, but this one didn't, and even got me some water during one of the breaks. I don't know if this actor is just naturally kind, or they realized that the more at ease I was the better I would be (and subsequently, the better the scene and they themselves would be) but at any rate, I was very appreciative and quite impressed. This process actually began at the beginning of the day, when the Assistant Director made sure to
introduce me to the director and the stars right when I arrived on the lot. This kept me from then sitting around in my trailer for hours, wondering what they would all be like and if we'd get along. So by the time I was called to the set, there were no surprises and it felt more familiar.
I do have to say Mr. Fincher is the best director I've worked with in film, in that he was not only very articulate and clearly had an imaginative and specific point of view, but he was also very accessible. (Maggie Smith said that the most vital thing a director can give her is trust, because it opens the door to emotion.) Mr. Fincher seemed like he had a good sense of humor. I also appreciated him taking SO MUCH TIME with my short scene and really exploring it in a variety of ways, because usually when you play a small part like that, as long as you're in focus and get the lines right (or basically right), it's like, "Okay! We're moving on!" Usually you leave working a day on a set like that thinking, "I wish I'd done it funnier or tried playing it sexier, or maybe I should have seemed more angry," but this felt very complete because we did it just about every way.
So, that was that....and now I just hope I'm not cut out!


Anonymous Iggy Romero said...

So, is the newest Finch going to be the one to finally land him the golden man?

12:43 PM  

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