Thursday, April 2, 2015

Griffin Dunne on "Lisa Picard is Famous"


How did you prepare to shoot such a spontaneous project?

GRIFFIN DUNNE: With movies I'd done before, everything was about preparation, so that there would be absolutely no mistakes, because mistakes would cost so much time and so much money. So you plan everything, if you're really doing your job right, so you're not going to be felled by weather or any of the billions of things that can go wrong. You try to plug every hole before anything sets in.

With this movie, I approached it, before I started shooting, that it was the lack of preparation, the being open to accidents and disasters. It was so small that I thought this would be the fun thing to explore. So, if she's running to catch the train and she accidentally catches the train and I don't want her to catch the train, then we shoot her catching the train. If she doesn't catch the train, then we shoot that.

I found that when I was in the editing room, just like a documentary, they don't know how it's going to turn out. And neither did I. For example, with my character I had no idea when I started that I would be narrating the picture and playing such a role and taking their story of two desperate actors and making it all about me. I was very happy with that; it was a very organic shift and very accurate. We see many journalists make themselves more important than the story.

If there was a lot more money at stake and if there was amore oppressive financier, I might not have had the freedom to find the movie, let it reveal itself to me.

How did you get Kit Carson to appear in the film and re-crate his character of David Holtzman?

GRIFFIN DUNNE: I met Kit when I was about 13, through my aunt and uncle in Hollywood in the sixties. He was a very dashing and charismatic and hippie for lack of a better word.

I had never seen David Holtzman's Diary, but I'd heard the legend of David Holtzman's Diary.

About a month before shooting I ran into him and he said, 'What are you doing?" and I said 'I'm doing this movie and it's about …' and I described the story and the desperation of it and I said how much fun it was to make a documentary. And he said, 'You should see David Holtzman's Diary. You should have me in it, talking about David Holtzman's Diary.' I looked at him and said, 'That's exactly what I should do.'

So I told him to sit in a coffee shop and someone would get in touch with him. And then I approached him with a camera crew. And he was just totally prepared.

How was your experience editing the film on an early version of Final Cut Pro?

GRIFFIN DUNNE: At the time it seemed to be the only way possible to make the movie editorially the way I wanted to make it. It sounded exciting to take a chance on this. And we had a great assistant editor and he was really into it.

The disadvantages were that they weren't used to holding this much material. I also shot a lot of footage, I mean, a lot. Many many many hours, because I thought, 'well, hell, it's just tape, let's take advantage of the digital revolution here.' But, as with everything, there are pluses and minuses, because you have to download it and put it in a machine that can hold all this stuff.

So, because of all the footage I shot, it really was baptism by extreme fire.

Consequently, it crashed a lot. And it always seemed to crash right at a fix you were trying to make to see if it would work. It was very difficult and we lost a few days.

But it was a perfect trade, it was worth it in this case. The other way of saying it is, nothing is free.

Were you daunted by working with a small budget?

GRIFFIN DUNNE: I wasn't daunted by how little money I had; I decided to make that part of the style. However, I didn't have that First Feature pressure where I felt I had a lot riding on it. For me, it was always an experiment and to have a lot of fun and rope in friends and call in favors and go to work in the morning and see how the day turns out. I'd been under so much more pressure before that this was just much more enjoyable to me.

Also, because it was a smaller budget movie, I insisted and got without any problem, final cut. Which was something I'd never had, true final cut. So I had the luxury of being able to listen to people's notes, with an open mind and learning from them, taking in what I needed without having to also have a political agenda on top of it and deal with other people's politics.

A director's job is to be the most prepared, and this was an exercise in leaving a real part of your creative process to being unprepared and open to accidents. And I was able to keep those 'let's see what happens' balls in the air for most of the picture.

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