Thursday, January 29, 2009
Lesli Linka Glatter on "Twin Peaks"
What did you learn from directing on Twin Peaks?
LESLI: I directed four episodes and that was a huge turning point for me.
There was a scene in the pilot for the show in which Michael Ontkean is talking to Kyle MacLachlan. It's in a bank, in a room where you look at your safety deposit box. In the middle of the scene, on this table, is this moose head. They play the whole scene in this room and no one ever refers to the moose head. The scene is incredible.
So, when I got to know David, I went up to him and said, "How did you ever get the idea to put the moose head on the table?" He looked at me like I was kind of crazy, and he said, "It was there." And I said, "What do you mean it was there?" He said, "The set decorator was going to hang it on the wall," and David said to the decorator, "Leave the moose head."
Something just cracked open in my brain: "Be sure you're open to the moment. Be sure you see the moose head on the table. Don't try to control things so much that you're not open to what's happening in the moment."
That was a great lesson and a huge turning point for me.
From Steven (Spielberg) I learned, "Do your homework and never pretend you know what you don't, because someone is going to be there who knows and you're going to get caught." Which was all about planning and control.
And from David I learned, "Yes, do all of that, but be sure you're open to the moment."
This may be an ignorant question, but how do you get a TV show to the exact length required by the network?
LESLI: It's a bloody drag. A lot of the times, the scripts are too long. And if you have a story that's really great, some things are just going to have to go. I think it's horrible, but that's how it is. They're not going to change the time because of you, so you have to conform to what it has to be. It's really unfortunate.
At what point can you tell that you're going to be in trouble, length-wise?
LESLI: I can tell now by reading the script. I can read it and go, "Ah, this is way too long. We're going to be ten minutes over." Also, you don't have that much time to shoot.
One of the good things about directing TV is that you learn very clearly what the dollar scene is and what the five-cent scene is. You have to know what your important scene of the day is; if you're going to divide the day up, that's where you're going to want to spend the bulk of your time. And the scenes that aren't important you need to move through quickly. So you have to find a way to shoot them that's going to tell the story. But if you have a very emotional scene that's the turning point of your story, that's where you want to be spending your time. It's not all equal. Directing TV really teaches you how to do that. Because you have to.
What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about pursuing a directing career?
LESLI: Be sure you really want to do this. Follow your dreams. And listen -- but don't listen -- to how difficult it is.