Paul Hills’ weekly post production blog

Week 6. Saturday December 15th

On a train heading out of London again. I’m suffering from food poisoning and was throwing up from 2am till 8am this morning so I’m in quite a state. Grace just called me on the phone and I was so ill I couldn’t talk properly!

It will be another weekend I’ll spend working rather than resting. Soon it will be Christmas, though, and thus I will get a good chance to rest properly – and read Finigan’s Wake, the book I have been looking forward to reading for a year since re-reading Ullyses last Christmas!

Last night I finally saw Williams. The first time for 5 and a half weeks. He wasn’t very apologetic. He told me he has been very ill basically and hasn’t been able to get in contact. The relationship between him and Jonnie is now unrepairably broken. Completely.

Incredibly he arrived without all the invoices paid. Yet more delays to the VAT being reclaimed and everyone being paid. Of course, Williams, like Jonnie and myself is also owed money and a lot more than some people who are now irate at being owed £18! Ridiculous!

Firstly we are paying off budgeted items then expenses then telephone bills. We are also paying them in reverse order, i.e. runners first, heads of department last etc. This seems the fairest way but I’m sure some people won’t agree!

Apart from many texts and e mails of support on my recent weekly blogs I got a letter from Iain Dodds early week saying my blog was unprofessional and that it wasn’t just his fault about the backpack. I dispute the former but the latter as I told him on the telephone while in France has some basis in fact. Seanne is also partly responsible for the backpack not arriving. She didn’t check anything that was being sent to France, nor was on top of it all. Neither did she follow my instructions to the letter when it was clear that it was not on the van. BUT when a prop doesn’t turn up and costs a days shooting do you punish the Designer or the Props person?

Iain Dodds also asked that he not be included in the making of documentary. We had to inform him that it was up to Pete Stevenson who has final cut on the documentary. It will be totally his call, no matter what he wants to show and do!

The past week has lead me to think of film-making in general. On the bus. On the tube. In the office. Maybe it’s the volume of films I have seen recently or maybe the fact I am in post on a film or maybe it’s the fact I am reading a book of Lars Von Trier’s interviews. Von Trier is a film-maker I have admired since first seeing “Europa”. “Breaking the waves” in my view is a masterpiece also. The first interview he gives after his first film includes the answer “Tarkovsky is, of course, the master of them all” so theres something agreed between us for sure.

The main things I have been thinking about are technique and the balance between cinematography (style maybe) and acting (content maybe). Bresson’s actors are famously models while Von Trier’s actors complain frequently of being just ‘puppets’. It’s a strange dance anyway. What Bresson really means is they should ‘become’ rather than ‘pretend’ which is ultimately a theatrical artifice. In that I agree but beyond I don’t quite.

Roger many times says of me that I am “good with actors.” Which is a complement anyway. Some directors are afraid of them. Indeed I was. On my first short film I was terrified of them! Now though, I am not. My problem is, is that good enough?

Acting is always in some ways artificial like film-making is ultimately so to make it as real or, even better, as truthful as possible is certainly, in my opinion, wholly worthwhile. Great performances have been given by non-actors as well as professionals. So what makes a good performance? In my opinion truthfulness. Thus the great skill as an actor is to enable oneself to expose themself and to ‘feel it’ truthfully, believe it utterly! Not technique, although that seeps in subconsciously in relation to the camera. A non-actor can expose themselves one way. A great actor can do that a number of ways. A poor actor can never do it – unless tricked into it by the director!

Some times on DEP I found myself apologising when I did shots that were artificial. Why? Because I was asking the actors to do something that only made sense cinematically. There is an adage that I like which is “film is a lie that tells the truth.” I couldn’t agree more with that. Although somehow I still battle this conundrum in my head, walk it’s line.

Trier when shooting “The Kingdom” liked using a hand held camera because it “made the actors play to each other rather than the camera”. When I did BKO one of the principals was not to tell the actors what the shot was, whether it was close or long etc and to almost hide the camera. That way I hoped, I was capturing the truth not forcing it. An almost neo-realist standpoint. In TP I did almost the opposite. I told them exactly. The game plan on that film was to make something more stylised – although I still created space for them, did rehearsals and of course, talked frequently about character and motivation etc.

To be a good director, I feel, you need to be able to be on top of the acting and the mis en scene (cinematography, art direction etc.) I hope one day Roger will also say I am good at that!

During this last week I’ve found myself evaluating the film I’ve shot. Many of the film’s I’ve made I’ve seen years after and been amazed or indeed horrified at the choices I made. For instance, one close up in The Frontline, shot 15 years ago, still springs to mind. That shot I feel was taken from the wrong angle! It’s a gross imperfection! A mistake!

After wrapping DEP, without design, I found myself starting to edit the film in my head. Now I find myself questioning certain things, choices made. Not that I am sure any were wrong. Far from it. I will only probably know that years from now. Just that in retrospect I am more conscious of their implication than while I was in the moment, working on intuition…

Many choices I have made are in the realm of how subtle something should be. One thing I know now is that subtlety is harder to get acclaim for. Showy direction like in “Delicatessen” gets acclaim. Subtle direction like from Rohmer and Ken Loach are exceptions as normally it goes unnoticed. For instance the brilliantly subtle director Roger Michel is most famous for his least good film, “Notting Hill”!

Anyway, we will see, one day I might will make a film far more stylised…

Caroline has synced up to slate 338 now. She has been busy on other stuff. 6 weeks since we wrapped and still not all done. No matter what I will visit her next week.

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