Saturday, May 25, 2013

Woody Allen, Lassie

I mentioned this on here long ago.

Ron Howard discussed a three-part episode of Lassie he appeared in when he was fourteen. He described how it was filmed. Each scene was done in one shot. They would set up the camera. The actors would arrange themselves on set. The director would yell "Action". The actors would act out the scene. The director yelled "Cut!" and they rushed to the next scene. There were no retakes. There was no indication that the director cared anything about anything until the final shot.

Ronnie had to cry at the end. It's not that easy----you can't just break out crying at the drop of a hat. But the director shot a closeup of Ron standing with his hand on Lassie's shoulder. He yelled "Cut!" Ronnie was mortified. He knew it was going to look terrible.

The final shot was a close-up of Lassie. Ronnie decided he could salvage the scene with some hand acting. He began sort of clawing at Lassie's fur to show the depth of his emotion. The director yelled "Cut!" then rushed up to Ronnie and shouted, "Don't you EVER fuck with Lassie's close-up!"

Now I read an article about Woody Allen. He's like a laid-back version of the Lassie director. He almost never talks to the actors. He hangs around until it was time to shoot a scene, then they film the scene, usually in a single medium shot. If it's okay, he moves on to the next scene. He doesn't have to shoot coverage and he doesn't shoot unnecessary re-takes. He just goes on to the next scene.

I don't know how he was when he was younger, but Allen is 77 now. He likes to go home at 6 o'clock. He says that people like working with him because they're not there 18 hours a day and the actors don't have to do endless retakes from different camera angles.

But I have read actors like Mia Farrow complain that Allen doesn't rehearse actors and gives them little direction. I read that during the filming of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy his bit of direction to Jose Ferrer was telling him that his acting in one take was at a made-for-TV movie level. He must have changed since then.

Of course, Allen and the Lassie director had the advantage of working with professional actors. He's not like Peter Bogdanovich who gave major roles to models and non-actors and did extremely well. He made Cher a star.

Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino had a lot of Hmong cast and crew who had never been in a movie before. He said that he gave them basic pointers on acting then filmed at a fast pace, not giving them time to think too much about it. I heard most of it was filmed in one or two takes. It had a 35-day shooting schedule and was filmed in 33 days. I did hear some criticism of it, that not enough help was given to the young actors in it, but I didn't notice. I thought they were fine.

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