Join SBIFF for an in-depth discussion in this video Creative liberties, part of 2011 SBIFF Producers' Panel: Movers and Shakers.
Patrick Goldstein: Now Mike, when I saw him backstage, he taunted me a little bit. He said, "You know, you have to ask me some tough questions." Mike De Luca: I didn't say "tough questions," I said, "Are you going to ask us questions that are different than the questions we've been asked for the last month." Patrick: Well. Mike: In his mind, it becomes taunting. Jamie Patricof: Let's remember only Mike asked you that question; no one else did. Mike: Patrick has known me since 1994, so I can taunt him a little bit. Darla K. Anderson: Uh oh. Patrick: Along the way, a lot of people, not just Mark Zuckerberg have-- Mike: I have to go to the restroom. (laughter) Patrick: --have questioned the accuracy of the film.
And I was recently--Mark Zuckerberg was on the cover of Time Magazine. He was their Person of the Year, and when I read their story, it kind of summed up, pretty nicely, the argument that many people in the media have made against the film. So I would like to, like Charlie Rose, I'd like to read you a little excerpt, then have you respond to it. "Zuckerberg's life at Harvard and afterward was the subject of a movie released called The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher.
The Social Network is a rich dramatic portrait of a furious, socially handicapped genius who spits corrosive monologues in a monotone to hide his inner pain. This character bears almost no resemblance to the actual Mark Zuckerberg; the reality is much more complicated." It also goes on to quote Zuckerberg, who did go to see the movie, brought a whole bunch of people from his company. "Afterwards, they all went out for appletinis, his signature drink in the movie.
He'd never had one before." He is quoted as saying, "I've found it funny what details they focused on getting right. I think I owned every single T-shirt they had me wearing, but the biggest theme, the biggest thing that thematically they missed is the concept that you would have to want to do something, date someone, or get into some final club in order to be motivated to do something like this. It's just, like, completely misses the actual motivation of what we're doing." Mike: And your question is? Patrick: Well, and I am going to broaden this.
We have some other movies here based on real characters, but-- Mike: I will say that I saw him on Saturday Night Live, and he did speak in a monotone. (laughter) Mike: I don't know if any of you caught that last night. Todd: What t-shirt was he wearing? Mike: He was delightful. Sweatshirt covering a t-shirt. But it was a little monotone. Patrick: Well, how close to reality is the movie. And by the way, and to broaden it, how close does a movie need to be to reality? Mike: I'll take the second question first. As a movie fan, which is the lowest ranking you could have to comment on this, I enjoy--I've enjoyed movies over the years that are based on real events and real people but that are almost like Truman Capote's ambition for In Cold Blood, the non-fiction novel.
I think it's okay to make dramatic movies that are metaphorical about real events. I think they have a high bar for integrity because you're dealing with real people, especially if it's about something happening today. But I've enjoyed those movies. I think those movies serve a purpose. I think they bring that story to a wider audience than documentaries. Documentaries and movies based on real events, they do two different things, and I would hate to see either of them not happen. So, I get a different thing as a moviegoer from movies based on real people, and I think it's okay to do that.
As far as your first question, again, I only know what was available in our research. I know what the depositions were in that lawsuit. There was stuff that we saw that isn't in the movie, in terms of some IMs and things that came from Mr. Zuckerberg that Aaron used as a jumping-off point to create what no one can know, which is what's in someone's heart and mind when they're in closed-door rooms talking to people with no witnesses. I feel comfortable that we've got a lot of it right.
But working off the available research, that's what I am basing kind of my comfort level on. Patrick: Aren't there things in the film that are invented, the most obvious being a big part of the presumed motivation in the film is that he's trying to first get a girl and then win back the girl. And he, in reality, had a girlfriend throughout almost this entire period. So what's--if you could try to explain.
So why wouldn't--why would you go against the reality there? Mike: I think Aaron was--I mean, I don't want to speak for Aaron, but I think he was dealing with a composite character for the character Rooney Mara played that represented things that were available in the research about Mark's frustrations up to the point where he got a long-term girlfriend. I think, for better or worse, I do think dramatic license is permissible in--when it's not going to be a documentary and you are going to do a film based on real events, there has to be, I just think, there has to be some invention.
I think that if, again, if the invention is done with integrity, the script was vetted within an inch of its life, it's sourced within an inch of its life, and you just try to honor the real people that you are kind of telling the story about. But you are telling a story, and I think since I like the subgenre that those films are in, I think it's okay. Patrick: Todd, obviously The Fighter is dealing with very real people who have been widely written about and Dicky's in the HBO documentary. So, I'm curious, just from the strategic standpoint, how many of them needed to sign off, or give you rights to their stories? And as a producer, how do you get that. In the case of The Social Network, Patrick: there was a book Todd Lieberman: Yeah.
Patrick: that they used. What about-- Todd: We had basically the exact opposite experience as Mike because as Mike's-- the subject matter for those guys weren't involved at all. By design, with us, they were so much involved that they were around all the time. And we got rights to pretty much all of them, and we got rights to Mickey, Dickey, Alice, George, the sisters, and then Charlene. Everybody. Patrick: The mom? Todd: The mom, yeah, Alice, and it was extremely important to us, and it was extremely important to David Russell and Wahlberg and everyone, to be as accurate as possible while telling this dramatic story, and during the course of developing the script and shooting the movie, there were a couple of fudges that we did.
But for the most part, we stayed pretty true to what actually happened. I mean, the timeline was a little truncated; Dickey was in prison for several years, as opposed to several months. The one thing that Mickey said after he saw the movie is, "That didn't happen. I didn't get knocked down in the Shea Neary fight," and that was something that we did just for kind of dramatic purposes. But basically, the characters and the only other real thing that we kind of fudged because it was very important to David to bring forward a love story, that the Charlene character, the Amy Adams character, played that role during that course of time wasn't exactly accurate to when it really happened in real life.
But other than that, I mean everything was fairly real. I mean, so much to the point that Mickey O'Keefe--this is well-documented-- Mickey O'Keefe who is the trainer and the local policeman there is playing himself in the movie. He's never acted before in his life, and it was important to Mark and us and everyone to get it right to hire an actor to be able to know how to train someone and know how to deal with the actual moves and the accents and the people, and we just said to him, "You are the guy." He said, "I am not an actor, I am a cop." "Well, you are an actor now. Come in the movie." He did an amazing job, and so it was extremely realistic.
Patrick: And the mom, who is portrayed pretty unsympathetically in the movie, I remember calling my mother and saying, "Mom! I am appreciating you more than ever after seeing the"--but did she have any-- when she finally saw the movie, was it hard for her? Did she have any doubts or second thoughts? Todd: Well, I think it's--look, it's when you--when you look at--if someone made a life about me, a) it would be boring as hell, but second of all, it would probably be very difficult for me to watch anything because you're analyzing things more specifically than maybe a general audience would.
I think each of them seeing the movie saw something in it that probably made them feel a little awkward, but at the end of the day, they all appreciate what it is. Even though Alice could be seen as an unsympathetic character, you know that at the end of the movie, the hope is you know she actually does love her kids and she really wants the best for them. She goes about it in kind of some strange ways. But look, every family has idiosyncrasies in them, and this one is certainly no different.
Darla: We were really true to Buzz and Woody, and they were with us every step of the way. Patrick: No, no, I was thinking as they were talking. I was thinking here going, "Oh thank God Buzz Lightyear doesn't talk unless Patrick: we want him to." Darla: Oh no he talks, and his agent's difficult to work with. Patrick: Iain, I thought your film was going to get a pass and cruise through this whole reality debate with smooth sailing, and then I read, of all people, Christopher Hitchens, the other day, who you know has great respect in journalistic community, writing a piece saying that The King's Speech is a gross falsification of history, particularly in the way that it makes the Royal Family look less enamored of Nazi Germany than they really were.
Did you fudge the historical record? Iain Canning: No, I don't think we did. I mean we had so many historians and researchers working on the film, and I think there is a compressing of time in the film. Their friendship lasted for longer, and his therapy sessions lasted for longer. But the actual aspects which I think were brought up in that article--Churchill, for example. I think there is a lot of focus on Churchill's relationships to the King and how in the film, it looks like he is a keen supporter of George the VI from the start.
Well, we have a whole sequence with Churchill supporting Edward VIII and talking about Edward VIII. So, they just didn't make the film because we were making a film, and so there will be a historian's version of the film on the DVD, but for maybe the general public, they didn't need that precise, accurate bit of information. Patrick: And by the way, part of this is-- it's usually journalists who are in the lead.
When The Hurricane, Denzel Washington played a great boxer-- Mike: Hurricane Carter. Patrick: Yeah, Hurricane Carter, and it was the boxing writers, the journalists who were the first to attack the movie in saying it was wrong and this was inaccurate and that was inaccurate. And journalists are trained to get the facts right, and filmmakers are trained to create drama and conflict. And so I think there's an inherent difference here, but I wanted to ask if anyone else on the panel had a strong opinion of where movies should draw the line between the truth and between dramatic storytelling? Mike: I would avoid anything outright derogatory or defamatory, libelous slander, like anything that's--you can't--you just can't sacrifice that kind of integrity on the altar of dramatic license or invention.
Patrick: What about with Boogie Nights? You know, when you were running New Line that--how careful were you in terms of that, creating that world without making--totally making everything up? Mike: We made everything up. I mean Paul was inspired a little bit by what happened at Wonderland Avenue and the Jon Holmes of it all, but, very-- like a very small portion of that served as inspiration. Everything else sprang out of his mind. It was as wholly invented. Iain: Just, I mean, I'm sounding like too much of a British subject.
The only person alive in our film is the Queen, so we did have to be incredibly careful, from a British filmmaking perspective, that we got as much right as possible, because the stakes are pretty high when it's the current Queen's father. Darla: You might get beheaded. Iain: Possibly. There's probably some clause. Patrick: You've worked in the documentary field a lot, and your filmmaker Derek Cianfrance has worked on documentaries as well, and so, not surprisingly, Blue Valentine sort of has a documentary feel to it.
Was that always the plan? Did you use multiple cameras and natural lighting? I mean, how documentary was the actually shoot? Jamie: Well, you know, it's interesting. Everything that happened in Blue Valentine was scripted to some extent. But Derek, as you said, got sort of cut his teeth out in the documentary world, and he said sort of there is this vision of a director sort of as a guy standing on some sort of high-up point with a megaphone in his mouth screaming direction, and Derek said in documentaries, he got to to turn that megaphone to his ear and listen.
I think that was really what the plan was in making the film was, okay, there's a scene on the bridge where you know Ryan has his--Michelle has a secret that she is trying to not tell Ryan, and Ryan wants get this secret out, and they had some dialog they had to do. But the idea was sort of document this, what's going to happen now? And you know Ryan's decision was to scale the Manhattan bridge and get close to jumping off it, which he probably would've done if Michelle hadn't told him. But that was--that was always his plan.
I mean it was a lot of improvisation, but it was always sort of there was calculated improvisation, and a lot of things he wanted to do we thought were completely ludicrous and didn't believe he was ever going to go through with it. There is an opening scene of the film where Ryan Gosling gets woken up by their daughter. Ryan Gosling has slept in the house overnight. Derek set up the camera the night before. Derek and the cinematographer slept in the house with them. Texted the AD send the daughter in. She came in and woke him up.
Patrick: I think Ryan Gosling has done that before. Patrick: I think he likes to sleep in the house. Jamie: Probably. Jamie: Well, Michelle did the same thing. So, but, so again, it was all those things, although some of them, he didn't know exactly what was going to happen, and we didn't know that. But in that documentary background, I think is what, again, made, at least for me--when I watch that and still--it sort of--it reaches inside in a place that's not--I haven't really experienced many times in watching the films, and I think part of that is because it does feel so real because he brought that documentary skill to it.
Moderated by Patrick Goldstein from the Los Angeles Times, these six producers cover many topics not often discussed in the entertainment press. The struggle to get a picture funded, ratings battles with Motion Picture Association of America, where the lines are drawn making a dramatic film based on a real life event, and working with a difficult director. They offer amazing stories of perseverance and triumph.
This panel includes Darla K. Anderson (Toy Story 3), Iain Canning (The King’s Speech), Alix Madigan (Winter’s Bone), Todd Lieberman (The Fighter), Mike Deluca (The Social Network), and Jamie Patricof (Blue Valentine).