Thursday, January 15, 2009

Henry Jaglom on "Someone To Love"

What was your inspiration for making Someone To Love?

HENRY JAGLOM: I was alone, and I didn't understand why I was alone. And I looked around at my friends and I realized that I was part of a whole generation of people that were alone and that it wasn't just a generation but that it was a function of something that was happening at that period in the 80s and the 90s where people who always assumed that they would be married and have families found themselves somehow in the middle of their lives on their own.

So I thought I would try to make a movie about it, but what I would do is go through my phone book and actually pick out people I knew who were alone and put them together in some central location.

You had an idea, right, but not really a script for the movie.

HENRY JAGLOM: I had a plan, a super structure, but I left it up to the individuals as to what they would say and depending on that was what I would say. I knew what I wanted to talk about in terms of loneliness and relationships, but I was actually seeking the movie as I was in the movie.

I decided I would just do it that way and then when I got back to my editing room I would look at what I got and what everybody gave me and find a way to put it together into a narrative.

What did the people in the movie -- your friends -- know about what they were getting into?

HENRY JAGLOM: No one knew anything. I just told them I wanted them to be in a movie, and I wanted to be able to deal freely with the facts about their own single situation in their romantic life at this moment. I confirmed with some of them that they were in fact still single, that they weren't involved, that I didn't miss anything, and that's all I asked then to do.

And only one person ended up leaving. Kathryn Harrold left, she didn't realize it would be that personal. The truth was, she was uncomfortable, and I thought more people would be uncomfortable, but actually everybody likes to talk about themselves.

How much did you find that movie in the editing?

HENRY JAGLOM: One hundred percent. Actually, fifty percent in the shooting and fifty percent in the editing. But nothing in preparation. It's the kind of movie where you absolutely cannot prepare, because you don't know what people are going to say.

Several of my movies have a mixture of a storyline -- which is a narrative, which is created by me -- and an interview structure, which is spontaneous and real and comes from the people. So I can prepare one half of that, but I can't possibly prepare the interviews without interfering with the reality of it.

But in the case of Someone to Love, because the entire thing was about somebody making a film, there could be no preparation. It would be absolutely wrong for me, from my point of view, to have anybody know anything in advance of what anybody was going to say.

The narrative is created in the editing rather than written beforehand, and that's true of many of my movies. Orson Welles said to me once, 'Everybody else makes movies, but first they decide what the narrative is, and out of the narrative they try to find their theme. The difference with you, Henry, is that you choose your theme first, and then you try to discover, out of your theme, the narrative.' And that's very true of my process.

You're known for not rehearsing before you shoot. What's the benefit of working that way?

HENRY JAGLOM: The magic of reality. The honest surprise of what happens the first time when somebody thinks of something or you see them thinking and discovering it and saying it.

The most truthful moments, it seems to me, are the moments that just happen and even surprise the person themselves as they're saying something, because they don't know they're going to be saying it. If you rehearse, no matter how good you are, you know you're going to be saying it. And unless you've got a Brando or a Meryl Streep or the handful of actors who are better each time, you've got human behavior which is better and truest the first time.

God, I would die if I rehearsed and someone in rehearsal gave me a great moment, because a great moment is what you look for in film. It's all about the moment.

I was complaining about not having more time, not having more money to do something I wanted to do, and Orson said this line that I now have over my editing machine. He said, 'The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.'

That was just about the most important thing that has ever been said to me, because if you don't have limitations you start throwing technology or money at a problem.

But if you have a limitation, you have to find a creative solution, and therefore you create art.

For me the most valuable lesson from Orson, and it happened during that movie, was make whatever happens work. It's good to have limitations, because you have to find an artistic or creative way to surmount them. And it's more fun.

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