Join SBIFF for an in-depth discussion in this video Silent filmmaking, part of 2012 SBIFF Directors' Panel: Directors on Directing.
Peter Bart: So on the subject of just courage, once again, Michel, I--when you--I've been with different guild groups, just when you are about to make an appearance, and it is as though Orson Welles was going to appear. I mean, people in Hollywood are so astonished that you did what you did, that I find people really would say to me, do you know Michel Hazanavicius? And I'd say, yeah, I do. Now, once you get past explaining how you raised the money, which is all anyone wants to talk about in Hollywood, what do you find are the most common questions asked you when you go to the Writers Guild, the Directors Guild, the cinematographers? What do they ask you? Michel Hazanavicius: You want to know the question that I don't want to answer anymore.
Peter Bart: Exactly, yes. So you will answer, you will make the answer? Where does that AG come from in the age of 3D and CGI in the 20th century? Peter Bart: In what? Michel Hazanavicius: In the 21st Century. That's the-- Peter Bart: Yeah. Well, the dumbest question I ever asked Michel, that we got into an argument and I said, "Tell me you didn't use one dog; you must have had twenty dogs? He said, "I had one (bleep) dog." (laughter) We got over that tension. (laughter) But do you sense though that you did have sort of a pop-culture impact on Hollywood? I mean, people really are shocked by what you did. Tres bien! Michel Hazanavicius: Thank you! Peter Bart: Would you ever do it again? Would you ever make another picture that had the same conceit? Michel Hazanavicius: I don't think so.
I would love to, but I think it's--I don't know, it's a very special movie. It's a unique movie, and I won't even try to redo the same kind of movie. I mean, you can surprise like this twice I guess. I am going to try to make something very--I am going to make something very, very different. I don't want to make a movie that could be compared to this one. Peter Bart: You made sort of tongue-in-cheek thriller in the past.
Is that a genre that you would like to revisit, a tongue-in-cheek thriller? Michel Hazanavicius: I don't know what it is, but I made that. Did I make that? Peter Bart: Well, it doesn't translate. (laughter) Michel Hazanavicius: It's going to be hard to run through that question. But if I made it-- You mean comedies? Peter Bart: Your previous picture was sort of a rather comedic thriller and a charming picture.
Michel Hazanavicius: Yeah, like spoof spy movies, comedies, with Jean. And then actually there is something in common with The Artist. They were period movies, and I did the same thing in The Artist that I did in the previous one. For a period movie usually you recreate what you're shooting; the costume, the haircuts, the location, and everything, but what I did is I recreate the shooting process, the way to cover, to kind of frame the light, and then I tried to respect the grammar of the period.
So that makes something special, and that's what I did for The Artist. And that something, it looks like it's an old movie, but actually I made it this year, so it's not an old movie, it's a modern movie, except that it's used-- it's a period movie, and I respect the shooting device of the period. Gore Verbinski: That's like the hardest thing to do, what he did in that movie. I don't think a lot of people don't take it--they take it for granted because they feel like, oh, they sort of go--I think when-- as a director when I look at Michel's movie, I'm amazed at how exacting that part of the filmmaking is, and I don't think Gore Verbinski: people realize how difficult it is. Beautiful! Michel Hazanavicius: Thank you! Peter Bart: Pirates is a magic act too, trust me.
There's no way I think that that billions of dollars could have emanated from Johnny skulking about as charmingly as he did. But Paul, people think of Hollywood as being sort of a group of people working individually on their projects, but it seems to me there is a fraternity of people in comedy, and that everyone really helps and competes. Peter Bart: Is this a correct illusion? Paul Feig: Yeah, it is.
I mean, there is--the industry just tends to kind of float certain funny people up to a certain level. It's very odd, but we just kind of mix and match, like we will always do a table read early on and invite kind of all the other people in comedy that we know, and it is this group. Because we all love comedy, and we all want to do good comedies, and there is not a ton of competition. I mean, I know it always bubbles under the surface, hope someone's movie is going to bomb or something, which is terrible.
But you really--I don't know, I think we just kind of--we love fine-tuning and we get very excited about comedy. And we kind of like -- when you see somebody doing something that's new and different-- it was so exciting to see Michel's movie because you are like, wow! I remember in film school going, I wish I could make a silent movie, because we love them, but to have the nerve to do it and to figure it out so well, that gets us very excited in the group. And it's fun to help kind of help each other out, because also we know we are going to be calling on each other for help when the other project comes up.
So it's really--it's just a way to kind of, hopefully, ensure the better stuff gets done. But yeah, we just have fun. We love to laugh together. Peter Bart: But you are different, it seems to me, from most people at comedy, because Peter Bart: people in comedy tend to be very downbeat dour people. Paul Feig: I can be. Peter Bart: You'll look at Judd Apatow and he'll look at you and he won't say hello. He will say, "I know, my movie is too (bleep) long." Everybody is carrying this burden. So how do you get away with being chiff? Paul Feig: Well, I was a standup comedian for years, and you talk about the most dour people in the world, like standup comedians offstage generally tend to be like, you'd would--everybody thinks it's going to be really fun to be in a room with comedians, and then it's like the most bitter room you've ever been in your life, which is why I got out of standup though, because I actually--I do have kind of a positive outlook on the world.
You get ground down, but most of my comedy tends to come from--I like the cringy comedy, because, for me, it's always been about--I've always expected everything is going to be great, so there's nowhere to go but down every single time. But that's funny because I think we all, most of us, tend to face the world kind of optimistically, and so that's why I enjoy the comedy of like somebody just falling apart, of things going poorly. And that's why--I am jumping all over the place, I am sorry, but like in Bridesmaids, as much as people remember the famous bathroom scenes and all that, the only reason that movie works is because it's a pretty serious story at its core about this woman just really on a downward spiral and almost going through a nervous breakdown, and that's what you latch onto.
And I always feel bad that as funny as Melissa is--and nobody is funnier than Melissa--that Kristen isn't getting her due for what she did in that film, because that is one of the hardest roles to pull off, to be that funny, but to be that engaging and serious and to not put off an audience with all the terrible things she does. But part of the math for us is a character has to be redeemable. If her character, we came into that movie and she was just a loser her whole life, I don't think we would have put up with her busting up her friend's shower. But the two most important scenes in that film are is seeing her make that cupcake and also seeing her, that picture of her in front of her business before it went out of business, she looks strong and proud.
Because you go like, oh, she was together, and so then you're going to go through the fire going like, oh, I want her to be who she was before. So you just need that redeemability. Say, like a lot of times when I am pitching a new project people go, it doesn't sound very funny. And it's like, don't worry about the funny. We're going to get funny people and we're going to get a funny cast, It will be funny, but it has to be, again, the emotion. Peter Bart: But the biggest moment of truth in a movie, at some point, when a picture is finished, at some mysterious point you realize, oh (bleep) this is going to be a hit. Roughly, when did that occur with you, at the first screening or a premiere or when? Paul Feig: Well, I mean, we had no idea it was going to be a hit. We knew it was going to work, because after the very first test screening--at the very first test screening, it really went well, so there was no like, usually you end one of those going, oh crap, we've got to figure out a new ending or we've got this and that, so that was kind of good.
But then, you never know, because literally the--it's all that tracking, all the stuff that the studios make you crazy with. You go, yea, we made a good movie, and then it's like, oh, you're not tracking well, and this, and awareness is down. So like the week we opened, we went from the beginning of the week, like things are looking really good, to two days before, tracking is going down, tracking is going down, to, they made a decision, it was kind of weird to do, like midnight screenings on Thursday night, which we are not Star Wars. You're not going to rush out of your house to see women (bleep) in a sink at midnight. (laughter) Terry George: I don't know, I might.
Paul Feig: I know, some people do, actually. So that didn't do well. I mean, we didn't get good numbers, so then it was all just gloom and doom the Friday we opened. And literally my agents and the studio and everybody calling up and saying, like get ready, it's not going to do well. And so it was slow throughout the day of like, it's doing better, it's doing better. It wasn't until Melissa and her husband Ben, who plays the air marshal, came over to our house, because they live in the neighborhood and we were having dinner, when the calls started coming in of like, it's doing well, it's doing well.
And we're all half drunk, except for one designated driver of course, jumped in the car and drove off to the ArcLight, to stand in the back of the theater to see that it was full and hear people laughing. And that was the moment we go like, okay, I think we're going to be okay. It was nice! Thank you!
Moderated by Peter Bart (vice president and editorial director from Variety) the Directors on Directing panel features a who's who of Oscar®-nominated directors on their way to the Kodak Theatre on February 26, 2012. With a dynamic range of films, from feature animation to comedy to silent films, this panel offers a diverse group of opinions and stories from the set. Gore Verbinski (Rango) was shocked that voice actors were recorded one at time, so he arranged for his ensemble cast to be recorded at the same time to take full advantage of the actors' comedic interactions. Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) talks about the challenge of getting a black-and-white silent film made in the 21st century. Terry George (The Shore) tells how he found humor in the serious subject of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Chris Miller (Puss in Boots) leaves room for improvisation in his script with his three main characters, two cats and an egg. Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2) shares her darker moments during production, assuring a nervous studio (a year into production) that everything will work out—despite having nothing to show them. Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), discovering the brilliant performance of actress Melissa McCarthy in rehearsals, rewrote parts of the script to take better advantage of her comedic genius.
All of the directors speak candidly about the importance of great casting, a strong story, and the ability to listen to their audience through prerelease testing.