Thursday, June 9, 2011

Billy Clift on “Baby Jane?”

What was your filmmaking background before making Baby Jane?

BILLY: I was a hair and make-up man in the industry, working on Music videos, commercials, runway and print for 20 years..

Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like?

BILLY: I saw a stage play called Christmas with The Crawfords. A silly little farce about Joan Crawford’s radio show on Christmas eve. Matthew Martin was playing the maid as Baby Jane Hudson. I was in awe at his ability to play it real “so to speak” and not over the top. I was sitting in the front row and watching every little nuance he made and quipped to myself, “He should be caught on film”

After a feature film that I had been shopping around Hollywood fell through, I said to myself, “What could I do at a very low budget and have a lot of fun and really get my feet wet with my first feature?”

Writing it came very easy to me. I knew I wanted to make this a very different parody, a dark moody twisted parody. Growing up with directors like Ken Russell and David Lynch as my idols, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these two twisted sisters.

Did you look into getting the rights to the original, or do you feel protected under the parody/satire protection of the copyright laws?

BILLY: No I didn't, I did a lot of research on the parody law and stayed true to that.

What kind of camera did you use ... and what did you love about it and hate about it?

BILLY: We used an Canon Xl-2. It’s what we had available for no money… and my DP John Lore said its not the camera, it’s how you light it and work with it that makes the film. And so we went forth.

On a related note, how did you achieve the black and white look and what were the difficulties (if any) that made it a hard look to achieve?

BILLY: It was easy. We lit for black and white and our on-set monitor was in black and white; in post I was able to easily punch up the blacks and make it feel a little like a cross between an old black and white TV show and the original.

How did you get your music score for the movie?

BILLY: The music was all loops that our music guy had. They’re used on such shows as South Park and so many others. He put them together brilliantly to set the tone of the period.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

BILLY: The smartest thing I did was get some really good actors. This to me is crucial... (don’t use friends… lol). You can only do so much in editing ...lol. They may have all been mostly stage actors but it was amazing on how they showed up, lines memorized and enthusiastic.

The dumbest was just taking on too much… and being such a perfectionist that I always wanted to get my hands into everything. I don’t know really if it was that dumb because on my second feature (I Want To Get Married), I did the same thing.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

BILLY: I found that I learned more and more to trust my instincts... It always turned out to be the one that really worked. On my second feature I really honed that and really made stuff up on the fly. When I could tell what I had storyboarded or shot listed wasn’t going to work with this actor or I could feel it needed to go a different direction. To take chances. Don’t always be safe.

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