Thursday, October 30, 2008

Actress/Writer Susan Coyne on “Slings & Arrows”


How did Slings & Arrows come about?

SUSAN COYNE: Well, I hadn't really set out to be a writer. But, I hit my late thirties, and I had two children and I couldn't travel across the country in the same way. And, famously, the parts thin out a bit as you get older. So I sort of hit my mid-life crisis and thought, "I'm just going to sit down and start writing," without really knowing where it was going to lead me. And then I got hooked up with somebody who said, "You know, I have a friend who works at Stratford and loves hearing your stories. Would you like to come up with a proposal for a TV series about Stratford?"

So I said, "Sure. I can do that." And then I came up with the premise for the series, basically, although at that time it was a half-hour comedy. We shopped it around and we got wonderful producers, Rhombus Media, involved and they put me together with Mark McKinney of Kids in the Hall, which was really kind of brilliant.

That was an interesting choice.

SUSAN COYNE: He was not the first person you'd think of pairing us with, but it was really great because Mark is so smart and really thinks outside the box constantly. He's worked a little bit in theater and so he knew something of this world as well. He said right away, "This isn't a half-hour, this is an hour, because there's too much good material here."

I think that was one of the most important things that happened, because we thought, “We're doing Shakespeare, we don't want this to be just punch lines and then cut to a commercial. We want to be brave about this and tackle what it's like to do these big plays.”

I'd never seen something like this done very well. I'd often seen actors made fun of, and it's easy. It's easy to satirize actors. I think we do it to a degree in the show. It's also easy to sentimentalize. But between those two extremes I've never seen anybody try to really show what it's like, and that in some ways it certainly matters to the people who do it and it might even mean something to those of us who watch. It might have some value, it might have some weight to it, it might not be a silly thing to do with your life. And that these people might have some passion that has some dignity to it.

Even as I say that I'm always cautious not to give it more weight than it's worth, but I think that when theater works well, everybody recognizes that there's something very powerful about it, transforming and ineffable and not silly at all. It's rare, but when you see it, there's nothing like it. You feel a little bit wrung out afterwards and your heart's beating faster and you feel chemically altered in some way.

It's that we wanted to get at: What is that thing that happens and how do people achieve that? We wanted to show people the kinds of conversations that go on in rehearsals as well as how terrifying it is and the ridiculous things we do to get ourselves where we have to be. All of that.

I always think that when there's a great deal of passion, then there's got to be some kind of dramatic or comic story. Or both.

How did Bob Martin get involved?

SUSAN COYNE: Bob was invited to join Mark and I after we had been wrestling with the series for a couple of years (in the midst of doing other projects- in my case, co-founding a theatre company and writing my first book). Neither Mark nor I had written a TV series before, but Bob had. His experience was the key to making us into a fully functioning writing team.

When you started the project, did you think it would only be for one season?

SUSAN COYNE: Exactly. Mark and I worked for a couple of years, because we were both doing other things. And it took a long time to figure out how this was going to go. We had six episodes in mind, we knew the play was Hamlet, we came up with the idea of the ghost and that our character was going to be a sort of Hamlet figure who was haunted almost in the same way that I was haunted by my theater school teachers. The ones who said those wonderful things and those terrible things, and you're always trying to prove something to them even if they're dead.

It turns out that three is a good number for a writing team, because we could always gang up on the other person and persuade them. The three-legged writing team is quite stable, actually. If you can't quite see something, one of the other two can explain it to you. And also Bob had real experience writing television in a way that Mark and I didn't. And he also has an amazing comic sensibility and a really delightful wit.

So when that came together the work started to go faster and we decided that six episodes would be really satisfying to tackle Hamlet. And that really was the plan until we finished it and watched it. The network said, would you like to go another year? And we looked at each other and I said, "Well, I think we should do a trilogy. If we're going to another one we should do three and we should do youth, middle-age and old age." That made sense to us and felt like it would be a satisfying arc.

We had the idea that, each season, we wanted to watch our characters through the filter of the play -- not in the way that you could draw straight lines between the stories and the play, but in a sort of general way being influenced by Shakespearean themes.

One of my favorite scenes in the series -- and one that really lays Shakespeare out and explains what's he's doing -- is the scene in the first season when the director, Geoffrey, explains to the actress playing Ophelia exactly what her "nonsense rhymes" actually mean. Did you find that there were scenes you created based on things you'd actually experienced?

SUSAN COYNE: There were. But some of them are so disguised that they take on a difference resonance. For example, Geoffrey reminds me of a director I worked with early on who directed me in The Glass Menagerie. He was a refugee from the Second World War, a Holocaust survivor. His family perished and he escaped to Winnipeg. He talked to me about how theater had saved his life, and it meant so much to me, the way he talked about it. It was a life force for him.

I guess there's an element where I've worked with really great directors for whom theater has saved their life. And that passion for its humanity -- for the idea of theater being a place where we can be very human with each other -- is something that I've retained and I always aspire to in the theater. The idea that it's about people communicating; there's no tricks, there's no cinema, it's just us. We're all in the same room breathing together, and if it all works out, we'll all end up having the same heart-rate at the end of the show.

Were you saddled with handling the female point of view on the show and the female characters or was that shared?

SUSAN COYNE: Oh it was definitely shared. Martha Burns, who plays Ellen, is one of my closest friends. We've known each other a long time, we grew up in Winnipeg together, so I loved coming up with storylines for her, like Ellen getting audited. But we all wrote the Ellen character and we all wrote the Anna character.

I loved aspects of Anna, but the boys, actually, I think loved Anna even more. They loved putting her in these terrible situations. The scene where she had to have sex, Mark wanted it to be really explicit and hardcore, and I finally said, "Look, guys, it's me playing the part. So let's just re-think this, shall we?"

And that's when Bob said, "Well, we could do it in the dark." I said "That sounds very good."

Do you have any special or favorite moments from the series?

SUSAN COYNE: I loved everything to do with Bill Hutt in the third season. I was in a production of King Lear with him, at Stratford in the young company, and he is a hero of mine. He's gone now, and his Lear was never filmed. So to get the little bit that we get of him, doing the great speeches, that I feel proudest of, actually.

That is the most important thing to me about the series: that we got him. We always wanted him; we wanted him in the second season and he wasn't available. But we got him in the third season. And then within 18 months he had died. So it was amazing. He was such a wonderful guy and he threw himself into it. I loved that.

Other than that, there was a tiny moment, backstage in the second season, between Geoffrey and Ellen, where they're watching Romeo and Juliet. And Ellen says, "I hate this play." I must say, watching Romeo and Juliet as a middle-aged person, you watch it and you think, "I hate this play." I mean, I love it of course, but you're in such a different headspace from the first time you played it, you can't help thinking, "What, are you nuts?"

What did you take away from the Slings & Arrows experience?

SUSAN COYNE: I learned a lot from working with two other people whose sensibilities were similar to mine, but who also pushed me ways into places I otherwise never would have gone. Although we fought a lot at the beginning, we got into a place where it was much easier to say, "Here's a sketch of the scene, but you should write it because you have that voice down better." It became very respectful -- and although there were still fights, they were good fights; not pulling in different directions, but creative fights -- where you just knew that the other person, it was just their thing and they could write it better. And you knew that when it came time to take over another scene, they would say, "You should have a go at that."

I think that's hard to replicate, when you have developed a working relationship like that with people.

As for the acting, that was more intimidating. Film is socially so different from theater. You don't have an audience; the only person who's actually watching your performance is the director, because everyone else is watching other things, like how your scarf is tied. So I found that a bit intimidating.

But there was a very collegial feeling, and we had so many theater actors coming onto the set, and so it felt much more about the work than it usually does. That was very freeing for me, because I've always felt that I'm very uptight on the set and never felt very free. And so to be with this wonderful team, on a series that you created yourself, playing this lovely character was wonderful. I adored playing Anna.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Carol Littleton on "The Big Chill"


I love this movie and I think the first reel of The Big Chill is one of the best first reels in movie history. Everything is set up so nicely.

CAROL LITTLETON: Right. All the characters are introduced.

Let me ask -- and this is just because I've always been curious about this -- William Hurt walks into the church in that reel just at the Minister is saying, ".... a man like Alex." Was that juxtaposition in the script or was it found in the editing?

CAROL LITTLETON: That was found in the editing. We could have had those entrances anywhere, in any order. Obviously he was the last one to arrive. We did cut the minister's speech down some, it was a little bit rambling. And it was just more salient to have the line over the Bill Hurt character, Nick, as he sits down.

Was that film similar to Body Heat, in that you found a lot of it in the editing room?

CAROL LITTLETON: It stayed closer to the script than Body Heat, because it was not a thriller. So we didn't have to deal with elements of timing that are alive on film but on the page are sometimes hard to judge.

But we had other things that were equally difficult, and that was how to integrate the music into the scenes and have it make sense. We discovered right away that we would not have a score, that it would be just the music from Motown stuff and things that were popular in 1968-69.

There were only two tunes that were in the script that we did to playback. For the rest of them, I cut the music and then cut the picture to the music. That was, essentially, doing it backwards. Those were not needle drops that we did after the picture was done and we just added it. It was all integrated as we were going.

I had probably 150 tunes that were in my editing room, on a rack. I would try a lot of different things until we found the right tempo and the right piece. Of course, Larry (Kasdan) is very knowledgeable about rock and roll and that era, because he was in college then.

So most of our editorial time went into the stylistic elements of making the film. Making the music choices seem seamless and making it flow from one song to the next, so that the lyrics and the tempo and the musicality of the scene matched. Like I said, they weren't needle drops; everything was cut to the tempo of the music and re-arranged in such a way that the lyrics fell at certain moments that were salient moments in the film.

So you're kind of doing it backwards; you're literally laying the track out and putting the picture to it, rather than cutting the picture and just dropping the music in. It makes a very big difference in the flow of the film, the musicality of the film, the style of it. The style of the picture is, in fact, very musical. So those were the challenges, editorially; it was really questions of style more than anything else.

Do you have a favorite moment, where it all came together?

CAROL LITTLETON: Yes, I think the episode that was very, very difficult was with the character of Meg (Mary Kay Place) who wants to have a baby. And when Glenn Close figures out that she could put her husband with her best friend, well, it's a little preposterous. This was before artificial insemination, so if you were going to have a baby, you actually had to have a partner. We knew that it was a little far-fetched and if the audience lost it in the movie it would probably be with that episode. The humor had to play a large part in allowing the audience to feel that it was appropriate and slightly goofy and also believable and tasteful.

So I think that whole section, with Aretha Franklin's "A Natural Woman," that whole section into the next morning, I felt really worked well for me. The night before, during the night and the next morning.

Let's talk about one of the most famous scenes in the movie -- the ending flashback, with Kevin Costner as Alex, that was shot but then cut from the movie. How did that come about?

CAROL LITTLETON: You could talk to five or six different people who worked on the movie and you'd get several different opinions. But being on the inside of that, the ending that Larry and Barbara Benedek wrote was to have a large flashback at the very end of how all these people were -- the roots of their personalities, the roots of who they were going to be -- were actually evident when they were students.

After I first read the script, we sat down and I said, "I feel very uneasy about this flashback. I just don't think you need it." And Larry with his nasal, West Virginia voice, said, "Carol, I can't believe you said that. You are so wrong. I can't believe it. You are so wrong." So I dropped it. When somebody says you're wrong, you drop it.

When we were shooting it I said, "This looks like a masquerade, with everybody in long hair and beads." And Larry said, "Carol, you are so wrong. The reason I wanted to write this script was because of this idea." And I said, "Yes, Larry, you're absolutely right. It's a wonderful idea. You may have needed that scene to write the script, but you don't need the scene for the movie. At all." "You are so wrong, if you mention this one more time!"

Well, in the editing, we put that flashback everywhere. We took it out of the ending, we put it up front, we put it in the middle, we put it in pieces, we spent a lot of time trying to get the flashback to work.

We showed it to the studio with the flashback and the suits came in -- Larry and I were the only people from our end -- and the guy who was in charge said, "This is not funny. Take it back, re-do it. I don't know what you guys are thinking, this is a comedy? This is bullshit. Start over again."

Well, we were devastated. Devastated. We knew it was funny, we knew it was engaging, we knew it was emotional.

And then he said, "While you're at it, that flashback is a stinko scene."

So we showed it to them the next time with an audience and the movie still did not work as well as it should. So I said, "Larry, why don't we devise an ending, drop the flashback, have two screenings -- one with the flashback and one without -- and let the audience tell us which one is more effective?"

Well, at the screenings, it was clear that the version without the flashback was better. And the next day, when Larry came into the cutting room, he said, "God dammit, Carol, I wanted you to take that thing out from the beginning! How many times do I have to tell you I'm right?"

That's how funny he is. He's wonderful.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nancy Morgan and Rance Howard on "Grand Theft Auto"


How did you first hear about Grand Theft Auto?

NANCY MORGAN: My agents were contacted by Ron! Can you imagine? The reason for that was when he was casting for this role he was for someone who, first and foremost, he didn't have to pay a lot. It couldn't be a star -- it had to be an unknown. At the time, one of my first movie that I'd ever acted in -- in fact, one of my first acting jobs ever, because I came to Hollywood untrained and unprepared -- was a movie called Fraternity Row, with Paul Newman's son, Scott Newman, in his first and only picture. And it was out in the theaters when Ron was casting and he liked my performance in it and found my agent.

What was the audition like?

NANCY MORGAN: Back then I used to say to myself, 'There are a lot of people here who know a lot about acting, but all I really know is that you just have to pretend that it's happening.' And so, during the audition process, I did as close to what I felt a human being would do under the circumstances, and that was to say the lines like I meant them, and then when Ron was talking to me, react to what he was saying. And that's all I knew -- that was about as much acting as I knew.

Ron later said to me, 'You know, I interviewed a couple hundred girls. Did you ever wonder why you got it?' And I said, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'Because you were the only one who, when you weren't speaking, was still listening.'

Because that was the only thing he told me, that was something that forever stuck with me as one of the things that was important and not everyone's top tool.

Did you handle any of the stunts yourself?

NANCY MORGAN: If you're a good driver, and you're a little bit fearless, you're going to do some of that stuff, because it makes it more exciting and real. So when those shots of us going, "Whoa!," I'm driving. When you see the car stop suddenly along the freeway, and fishtail along the edge, or start up really fast, it is me driving.

What I didn't do were any of the really long shots from the air -- those were all done where you can't see the people inside. The scenes where we're just talking were frequently towed. But I did a lot of driving.

Did you rehearse much?

NANCY MORGAN: The cars rehearsed. The stunts rehearsed. And the explosions rehearsed. We basically just had to know our lines and pretty much bring it to life. We would run through the scene once or twice, but really rarely for the acting of it. Ron knew what he was doing, so he didn't really need it. And every scene I was in was with Ron, so it was like, 'Could I do it? Did I know what I was doing or not?'

When you're hiring a young actress or actor and you know you're not going to have a lot of rehearsal time, you better do your best to get the person that you want to see, as opposed to the great actress who will be able to bring Paula to life. So, it's just me, saying the lines and trying to bring some life to them.

Looking at the script, there appeared to be a thousand interchangeable scenes of Ron and I in the car, talking about this and that. I understood enough about story to know that it had to build and climax and resolve. And so the first thing I did with my script was to break it down into an outline and had an understanding of where Ron and I were in our relationship, from the first scene to the last.

Ron, on several occasions -- since he was in charge of the whole picture, directing everything -- he realized that I had done this and that I was aware of where we were in the script at any given point in terms of his and my relationship. He would sometimes say, 'Where are we?' And I would say, 'Well, this has happened and this has happened and this has happened, but this hasn't happened yet, so we do know about this but we don't know about that.' And he's say, 'Okay. Got it thanks.'

My breaking it down was something that I could do that was helpful to him and that would orient him as to where we were in the scene, and then Ron just acts -- he doesn't even to have to worry.



RANCE HOWARD: Ron had acted in Eat My Dust, and it had been a huge success for Roger. He wanted to do another car chase/car crash film. Ron said, 'I will do another movie for you, with one additional job added.' And Roger said, 'What is that?' And Ron said, 'I want to direct. And Roger said, 'Well, Ron, you always looked like a director to me.'

Now the question becomes, what is the movie?

Who came up with the title?

RANCE HOWARD: Roger already had the title. He had tested it. It was going to be called Grand Theft Auto, and it was about young people on the run. He said, 'If you and your dad could come up with a story like that, we'd have a deal.'

So we sat down and put our heads together and started kicking ideas around. We did a treatment first; Roger read the treatment and loved it and we went right to script.

Why a Rolls Royce and the demolition derby?

RANCE HOWARD: We thought the Rolls Royce would be the perfect automobile for the girl's father to have, and then she would take his car because he had, in essence, taken her car. And then we'd put the car through all the punishment we could, in order to get back at her father, and then finally wreck it at the demolition derby.

I was fascinated with the demolition derby. At one time, Ron, Clint and I went to see a demolition derby, and it was just fascinating. At that time I had considered writing a script about a demolition derby. Then with Grand Theft Auto, it just seemed perfect for the car to end up in a demolition derby.

How was it for Ron working with his father and his brother on the movie? I'm guessing it's okay, as he's done it in just about every movie he's made since then.

I think any director likes to use people that he is familiar with and that he can trust and has confidence in. Both Clint and I fit nicely into those categories. And his mother, at that time, had been working quite a lot coordinating extras for other filmmakers. And so she coordinated a lot of the extras for that film, in particular the senior citizens on the bus.

Involving his mother, and his brother Clint -- an excellent actor, and who was at that time, almost as big a name as Ron -- in the film just made good sense.

We had been feeding the crew Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch every day, and they were getting close to a mutiny, because they didn't appreciate having Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch every day. And, of course, the reason we were doing it was the most reasonably-priced thing we could give them.

Ron's wife, Cheryl heard about our problem, and she said, 'Let me cook lunch. Give me the budget that you're spending for the Kentucky Fried Chicken, and I'll prepare a hot lunch for the crew.' And I said, 'Cheryl, you don't want to do that.' And she said, 'Yes, I do. I can do that.'

She enlisted the help of her grandmother, and they prepared lunches on that budget that -- if you run into any of the crew to this day -- they will comment on what great food Cheryl provided for that shoot.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the experience?

RANCE HOWARD: Stand up for what you believe in. For example, if we had allowed ourselves to be easily talked out of it being a comedy and cut it as a straight action picture.

You need to be tenacious; you need to stick to your guns, but at the same time, you have to be prepared to compromise and negotiate. That was really driven home to me, the importance of compromise. There are a lot of aspects of making a film where you can compromise. In some places, you can't. You need to know what compromises can be made and what compromises can't be made.

Coming to that realization is important: understanding that you're not going to get everything you want, you're going to get part of what you want.

Filmmaking is a team effort, it's really team work. We happened to have a great team.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Edie Falco on "Judy Berlin"


You've known the writer/director of Judy Berlin, Eric Mendelsohn, for a long time -- over 25 years. At what point did you become involved in the project?

EDIE FALCO: Usually he'll wait until a script is finished and then give it to me to read, which is what he did. After I read it and told him how much I loved it, he said 'I would love for you to play the part of Judy.' I was flabbergasted, because he had not said a word to me about it.

You didn't realize that he was thinking of you for the lead?

EDIE FALCO: I've read everything he's ever done and given my feedback, so I assumed that that's what this was.

What are the advantages of working with someone you know so well?

EDIE FALCO: A lot of the films I've done I've done with friends and family. The advantage is you go in there feeling no obligation to prove yourself. There's a camaraderie and a trust that is inherent in just all of you being there together. It makes all the difference in the world. It's like raising a child, I imagine. They become what is expected of them. I know they trust me and I trust them. It gets that all out of the way so we can get down to the work.

Eric took the interesting approach of keeping you and Barbara Barrie (who plays your mother) apart before your scene together. Did that help add to the awkwardness of the scene?

EDIE FALCO: It sure did. Although I thought it was just a matter of scheduling. I thought, 'All right, I won't meet her until the day we shoot.' That's the way these things are. I think in retrospect it did help.

She was a woman around whom I was unfamiliar. You hold your body differently, eye contact is different than with someone that you're comfortable around. I think physically the relationship that Judy and her mother had sort of mirrored that of strangers. In that regard, the subconscious stuff that was already taking place probably only fed what was happening in the script.

Is your preparation any different when you know you're going into a low budget project?

EDIE FALCO: No, not at all. Really nothing about my preparation or involvement is any different on anything I do. The only thing that varies is, if I read something and I like it, I'll do it. If I read something and I don't like it, I won't. Once I've decided I'm doing something, I approach everything exactly the same, whether it's a play or a movie or a low-budget movie or a big budget movie. It's irrelevant.

What's the hardest part of working on low-budget movies?

EDIE FALCO: You get a lot of directors who are nervous and they don't trust themselves or they don't trust the process. So, they might end up doing a lot more takes than they need, as if the actor is an infinite source of these things. Because at a certain point I know I'm not doing work that I'm proud of anymore, I'm just exhausted. And they are just too afraid to say, 'Okay, let's move on.' And so you'll do another four, five takes, and I start thinking, 'Oh, this is not what I meant to do, this is not the take I want.' So that's a little rough.

I wonder if I'd never done bigger budget stuff, perhaps I would never have noticed the difference. But once you start doing things where they put you in a nice trailer, and you've got people running around and taking care of you, when you all of a sudden have to change clothes in the back of a Chevy again, you think, 'You know, this does kind of stink, come to think of it. I would prefer to be in a trailer right now.'

So I don’t know if I've been a little bit spoiled by some of the bigger budget stuff. And you realize there's a reason you're taken care of, because you want to show up and do the best you can each time you're out there. It does help to be rested and warm and all that stuff.

What are the advantages of working on a low-budget project?

EDIE FALCO: There are so many advantages to working on a low-budget project. I feel a totally comfortable with the idea of trying something and having it not work. I feel a sense of freedom to just go for it, because money is not at the forefront of everything that goes on in these things. You don't have a producer standing over you saying, 'We gotta make the day!' Everybody's just flying by the seat of their pants and I feel a sense of freedom that I don't when money is being talked about. You feel the energy of these big-budget things.

Also, on a big-budget thing, there are a zillion people working on it. Oftentimes nobody knows who anybody else is and they don't necessarily care about their job, they're jus trying to get enough days so they can become an AD.

On these low-budget things, everybody's there because they want to be. They know the director, they love the work of the director, they're a friend and he needed a helping hand. You know you're not going to make money and you know it's going to be hard work and you're there because you love it. And that is infused in every moment you spend on the set of a low-budget movie. It's been my experience that nothing but good stuff will come out of that.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Joan Micklin Silver on "Hester Street"


How did you find Abraham Cahan’s novella (which was the basis for the screenplay) and what attracted you to it?


JOAN MICKLIN SILVER: One of the films that I made for the educational film company was on immigration. I read just about everything I could find on immigration and one of the things that I read was the novella by Abraham Cahan called
Yekl.



I was really floundering around and wanting very much to make my own films. My husband, Ray, who was a real estate developer, told me that if I could do a film that would not cost very much, that he would try to raise money from some of the investors that he'd been going to for real estate deals. And that was how we did it.



Frankly I didn't think I'd ever get to make another film. I was pretty discouraged about it all. My family were immigrants and I wanted to make a movie that would count for them.



Was the story in the public domain at that point?



JOAN MICKLIN SILVER: Yes. And that was one of its attractions.



What challenges did you face in the adaptation?



JOAN MICKLIN SILVER: Well, the story itself is more the husband's story. I think what grabbed me about it was what happened to the wife. So it was really just telling the story from the point of view that interested me. The challenge of it, of course, was to try to make it authentic.



I felt that because my father had told me so many stories about his life as an immigrant boy from Russia, I knew that language was a huge factor in getting along or not getting along. He told me stories of not quite knowing English and once leaving some money on a bus; he was a paperboy and he had made some collections and left the money by accident on the bus. He thinks people were trying to tell him and he didn't understand what they were saying. He got off the bus and then realized it -- things like that. Knowing the English language was extremely difficult.



And also both my parents were Yiddish speaking and I can remember dinners at our house with all sorts of relatives and wonderful stories being told and then punch lines coming out in Yiddish and my mother turning to us and saying, "You know, it doesn't quite translate." She would try to translate it, but never could quite do it. And I associated that language with something very rich and interesting and enjoyable.



Were you worried about breaking some of the cardinal rules of low-budget filmmaking: You don't do period pieces, you don't do something that's half in English and half in Yiddish?



JOAN MICKLIN SILVER: I didn't know enough to know that I was breaking cardinal rules and that's the truth. I had to tell this story and I had to do what I could to tell it.



Did the fact that you knew you wouldn't have much money to shoot this movie have any impact on you while you were writing the script?



JOAN MICKLIN SILVER: Constantly. I was constantly thinking, for example, about how I could do Ellis Island, things like that. It was one thing after another, just constantly trying to figure out how I could tell the story without having a budget that would have allowed me to tell the full story, where you could recreate the Lower East Side, like they did in Godfather II.



We used one street, Morton Street, and we could only shoot in one direction, because that direction faced Bleecker, where the streets formed a "T," so that you only had to create the look on Morton up toward Bleecker.



If we faced the other way, it was Seventh Avenue and obviously we couldn't close Seventh Avenue, we didn't have that ability. In Godfather II, they had street after street, traveling shots that were gorgeous. So we just did what we could and everything was written and organized with that in mind.



My own experience in writing low-budget films is that you often have to do a part of something; a part has to stand for something larger.