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imageTelevision has become a haven for women because, Anjelica Huston said, the best film roles are still written for men and for male audiences.

Yet Huston.. talked without bitterness or resignation about the lot of aging women in Hollywood.

"It's boring to say, 'I'm not getting offered this or that.' One has to forge a solution rather than complaining."

Her solution is to explore new territories. "My early life as a director is like my early career as an actress: I like to try things out," she said.

So far, Huston has directed three TV dramas aimed largely at women: "Bastard Out of Carolina" (1996), "Agnes Browne" (1999) and the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "Riding the Bus With My Sister," which airs tonight [May 1] on CBS.

> from article "One has to adjust" by Lynn Smith, LA Times May 1, 2005 [photo: Bryan Chan / LAT]

> related pages:...acting.....directing


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How did Resurrection Blvd. star Elizabeth Pena finally get a shot at directing an episode? 

"I guilted them into it," she laughs. "It began with asking, then with begging, then pleading, and then going, 'If I were a man, I would have already directed one!"'

She had a point. After all, two of her male costars, Michael DeLorenzo and Tony Plana, had already directed episodes of the critically acclaimed Showtime series about a Latino family in Los Angeles.

And.. Pena, who has worked with such respected filmmakers as Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Mazursky and John Sayles, and has wanted to break into directing for years, was ready.

Before the new season began, she took a crash course in the basics at the Los Angeles Film School and discovered that not just working with actors, but managing the tiniest production details came surprisingly easily.

"People kept telling me, 'You're going to be so exhausted, you're going to be so tense, you need answers for everything.' But because I'm a control freak at heart, I was actually very relaxed."

Elizabeth Pena

from Emmy magazine - 
posted on her official site

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I think to tell a story about somebody, you have to look at all the people he's crossing in his life. 

We are what we are because of the others. We are the others at some point. 

And I really like that. I feel we are so connected, I like how we affect each other. Sometimes we're not conscious of it. 

That gives me the opportunity to have a bigger vision. I can explore more things, more emotions. It's a little bit ambitious. ...

I hope that ["21 Grams"] is more emotionally than intellectually [involving]. That was one challenge: how can we be more emotional than intellectual? 

I hate intellectual films. I hate cold art.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Told in a non-linear fashion, "21 Grams" presents the stories of three very different strangers -- a dying college professor (Sean Penn), a born-again ex-convict (Benicio Del Toro), and a grieving mother (Naomi Watts) -- as their lives collide following a tragic car accident.

from article: Keeping the Innocence With "21 Grams"; Alejandro González 
Inarritu Discusses His Sophomore Opus by Wendy Mitchell, indiewire.com

Photo by Jim Sheldon or Merrick Morton - © 2003 Focus Films 
[copied from imdb.com]

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Although her father fosters a familial atmosphere on most of his sets, he, like most directors, has a god complex. 

Sofia Coppola is much less dictatorial: soft-spoken, a listener, an encourager of those around her. Which is not to say that she does not get exactly what she wants. 

''Don't let Sofia's littleness and quietness confuse you,'' Bill Murray told me recently. ''Sofia is made of steel. She's tough, but she doesn't pretend to be a man. She has a way of getting her way..."

Sofia Coppola would not argue with Murray's assessment of her working style. ''I'm used to people not expecting much from me... 

"But then as soon as I start working, that drops away. I don't yell. I'm petite. I don't turn into a tyrant. Being underestimated is, in a way, a kind of advantage, because people are usually pleasantly surprised by the result.''

Coppola was standing on a sound stage in the West Village about to direct a music video for the neo-garage-rock duo the White Stripes. ... 

A few weeks earlier, Sofia had pitched.. her idea for the video... ''I said, 'I don't know -- how about Kate Moss doing a pole dance?' '' Coppola recalled. ''I said that because I would like to see it. That's the way I work: I try to imagine what I would like to see.'' 

Coppola said this casually, a little like an aside, which is how she relays most of her ideas, big or small. She speaks softly, and her voice can trail off, even when she's paying close attention. 

While she does have strong opinions, she seems vague and shy, too vague and shy to be a director. Directors are supposed to be bold and forceful personalities: authoritarians. ...

Then she said: ''I have never tried to change my personality, to be more like my father. We approach things completely differently. He came on the set of 'The Virgin Suicides' and told me, 'You should say ''Action'' louder, more from your diaphragm.' I thought, O.K., you can go now.'' 

She laughed. ''I'm not going to say it wasn't intimidating, but when you direct is the only time you get to have the world exactly how you want it. My movies are very close to what I set out to do. 

"And I'm superopinionated about what I do and don't like.'' She paused, and then she added, ''I may say it differently, but I still get what I want.''

from The Coppola Smart Mob by Lynn Hirschberg, 
NYTimes.com > Magazine  August 31, 2003

Lost In Translation...

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How was it working with Catherine, as a first time director? 
[Catherine Hardwicke - above - director and co-writer of "Thirteen"]

Holly Hunter: It was great. Catherine is a first time director, but she's also extremely experienced being on movie sets. And there is a huge difference between that, and first timers who've never been on a movie set before. 

Catherine lived on movie sets for the past two decades working as a production designer, both having a lot of money, and very little money, in the budget. 

She's worked with high profile and low profile people. She has a flexibility and a sense of reality about what it takes to make a movie: the rhythms, the demands.

There's a tendency by a lot of people to panic on a movie set. It's the "hurry up and wait" cliché. 

Catherine was really beyond that. She has so much energy and uses it very efficiently. She can juggle things in the air very well, and delegate power very well, all skills she honed being a production designer. 

She was much better equipped than many other people I've met in that situation. 

Also, Catherine is not a frustrated actress, and that helps because she let me do my job! [laughs] It wasn't competitive. That's another element that sometimes creeps in with first- time directors: they think they might be able to do the part better than you.

All the best directors I've interviewed have the same philosophy: 
cast well and leave your actors alone.

Holly Hunter: That's right, but it takes a tremendous amount of confidence, and a tremendous knowledge of his or her own ego to be able to say that and mean it. Catherine had, innately, a sense of where she began and ended as a director in that regard. 

[interview by Alex Simon, Venicemag.com Aug 2003]

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I've tried to create a good enough atmosphere that actors feel safe pretty quickly and they do good work. 

But they've got to get frustrated, because I do. Actors have this absolutely schizophrenic job where they're asked -- especially on film more than stage -- to create in such a haphazard way.

Actors are all Jackson Pollock. They're asked to create right now and then do it 35 more times. Then the shot that goes with it, we'll do on Thursday. And you know the shot when you come into the building? That's actually in October. So can you sustain that feeling? 

It's such an insane way to make a piece of art, and yet that's what we ask from them all the time. And then when they don't do it, you start to see people go, "Where's the $17 million worth of actor we paid for?" 

That's about the only time I get frustrated on a movie. Because you're asking [actors] to look idiotic, and asking them to look like it in front of a lot of people. To be free enough to do that, to play the fool, you've got to really give them some space.

Neil LaBute...... [Back Stage.com May 7 2003]

*books by Neil LaBute:......
The Shape of Things......The Distance from Here

The Shape of Things...

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I'm young at [directing] and haven't done much of it and I have a lot to learn. That's where my ambitions are, really. That's where my head is and where my passions are. 

Acting is just something I do that, every once in a while, I just need to do. I can't imagine myself stopping acting. It just means I want to do it because it makes me happy.

Directing is a much more whole experience. It is every part of you and, of course, when people applaud that movie, they applaud every part of you -- the music you love and that you believe in, the stories that have been told to you and that you tell, the things that have moved you in your life. 

As an actor, you are really only responsible for your performance and it's a just completely different level of commitment. .....Jodie Foster.....[Toronto Sun, March 22, 2002]

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I've been on set since I was four and I thought I knew everything about making films because I was on set. And to find out how totally isolated an actor is from the filmmaking process is really alarming. 

To find out that you actually don't necessarily know anything, even if you've been on set your whole life. That all the really important work is done before the actors are there. All the decisions, all the discussions, all the ideas, or a lot of them anyway. 

And I just found it kind of emasculating. It was like, "I don't know anything." That was really scary realizing that I have to learn over what I thought I knew the best. 

I think that maybe a lot of directors don't realize this, but actors don't necessarily think you do anything as a director. They don't see your work. And that is really terrifying when you are on set with a couple of actors who you really respect, who you think, "Do they think I'm working? Do they think I'm doing anything?" 

I think if you're a good director, you don't yell a lot. You're not a presence but you know, that shot was my idea. And you sort of feel invisible and I think that a lot of the tension between actors and directors can come from that. 

Actually a stage actor I knew once said that she didn't understand what a film director did. She felt a director stood between her and the audience. 

On stage you are talking directly to the audience, in film you should be speaking directly to the audience through the camera. "Who is this person who is standing between you and it?" And it totally made sense to me. That's probably how I felt, a lot of the time. 

So that's really a difficult thing - to swallow your pride and know that you're doing good work and not getting congratulated for it. Sarah Polley

from article: "Sarah Polley: Actor/Director/Activist/Canadian" 
by Bradley Cheyne, Emerson College

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Julie Taymor on directing "Frida"

Salma Hayek on learning courage

Julie Taymor savored the chance to nurture and observe Hayek's largely untested talents as they bloomed before her [acting in "Frida"]. ... "It's great to work with Anthony Hopkins (on Titus), but he's also a great actor. If he fails, you've been a real idiot. But with Salma, I think this is the first time in 30 years as a director where I felt being a woman was an asset and almost a necessity. Because we got very personal with each other." ...

Salma Hayek is putting the finishing touches on her directorial debut, a religious-themed Showtime movie titled The Maldonado Miracle, with Ruben Blades and Peter Fonda. That's because she found a new source of inspiration while making Frida: Taymor.

"The movie was offered to me before Frida, and I thought I couldn't do it. I didn't think I could direct. Then I worked with Julie. ... I realized I was afraid to do it before because I have a hard time with people taking me seriously as an actress, let alone as a director. But Julie gave me the courage."***[USA Today Oct 22 2002]

****Frida: Bringing Frida Kahlo's Life and Art to Film by Julie Taymor

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When "thirtysomething" was canceled [11 years ago], all of us had trouble getting acting jobs. It was a weird period because we were so known as our characters. [But offers for her to direct episodic TV began to pour in.] I said to my agent, "How am I getting so much work?" He said, "Because you're good." I said you mean being good can get you the job? That never happened to me before. If you are an actor and if you're good, that doesn't mean you get the job.

****Melanie Mayron***[from article: "Taking Her Cues as a Director" by Susan King, LA Times, August 25, 2002 - about Mayron directing "Slap Her, She's French."]

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Was there any special thing you did to draw the performances out of these young actors [in your film "Rain"]?

It's probably the way I work - the overall thing. I encourage informality and spontaneity. You have to work at that and break down any barriers that are becoming formalized, ritualized, and unreal in terms of performances. I really work on that with all of my actors. 

Aaron didn't have any formal training and I don't think that Alicia had, either. They didn't have any things to hang on to except for what I was sharing with them, in terms of what I wanted. That allowed a very truthful, natural sense to come across, even though both of those children are very different from the characters they portray.

Christine Jeffs****[from romanticmovies.about.com interview by Rebecca Murray]

Christine Jeffs production co.: The Girl Film Company www.thegirl.co.nz

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Director Jill Sprecher also met resistance to the ensemble format and nonlinear story structure [of her film "13 Conversations About One Thing"]. From her perspective, the industry's unbending adherence to narrative formula is another hurdle for women, albeit a subtle one. 

"There is a real prototype," she explains, "which is a three-act structure and a protagonist who overcomes obstacles and in the end gets it all. Well, if you just think about that construct, it's very male. Women are used to not having it all. We have to give up things if we want other things. It's more bittersweet. So right there, that whole construction is outside the realm of the female experience."    [from article: "Femme helmers.." by Patricia Thomson, Variety.com Jul. 28, 2002]

Sprecher also directed Clockwatchers (1998) - cast includes Toni Collette, Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow and Alanna Ubach

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[Getting a first break involved] years and years of trying to prove to people that I could do it. Pitch meetings all the time, or flying to Europe for meetings with people and trying to act like a person who could direct a movie, not really knowing what that person is supposed to act like. 

Who wants to give a million dollars to someone who has never directed a movie? I still canít believe how fortunate I am, because I know a lot of talented people who are not getting a break. ... 

I know plenty of struggling men. Sometimes Iíve felt like it was in my favor that I was a woman. There were three women coming out of film school at the time I was, compared with 25 guys. If I made a movie that was interesting, it was like "and sheís the girl!" But that can also bite you in the ass. It depends on the type of movies youíre making. Itís hard for everyone, and I think it can sometimes be harder for women. 

writer-director Nicole Holofcener**["Lovely & Amazing"]  [moviemaker.com interview]

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One of Kathryn Bigelow's teachers in art school instructed his students to find their "most productive weakness." ... when she began directing movies, Bigelow discovered what her weakness was. "Withstanding pressure," she says. 

So she set out to conquer it. "I learned to treat the reality of constant pressure on a movie set abstractly, like it was a mental process," she says.

She explains her ability to flout conventions about women directing action movies by saying her instincts were honed during her early years as an artist. 

"In painting, there are no preconceived notions of what's possible. You're always starting with a blank canvas," she says. "And that's what's given me strength." ....

As the only child of an English teacher mother and a father who managed a paint factory, she says she has been interested in art "for as long as I can remember. Though I had friends, I was an introvert and I expressed myself through art." ...

To anyone familiar with her body of work, Bigelow's love of B-movies informs her style. "Near Dark" pays homage to such time-honored B-grade genres as the biker movie, the western and the horror film. "Blue Steel," "Point Break" and even the more epic "Strange Days" are alive with a pulp sensibility. 

If "K-19" seems incongruous in this mix, she cites B-movie auteur Fuller's 1954 submarine drama "Hell and High Water," with its masterful camera moves in confined spaces.

"I love B-movies, like Anthony Mann's.. because the creative muscle [of the filmmaker] hasn't been put through the Hollywood homogenization machine," she says.

"They are pure expression like the works of Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning. There is a wildly chaotic rawness to [B-movies]. And they're not self-important." [LA Times, July 14, 2002]

Samuel Fuller directed China Gate (1957)  / 
Anthony Mann directed God's Little Acre (1958)

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David Anspaugh, who was my first director, on Rudy, was all about empowering the actor, making you feel comfortable and appreciated, allowing you to keep your dignity, and treating you like a man. Being treated like a grown-up makes you proud to be involved in a film. 

Directing isn't getting somebody to do something. You're not cultivating a performance out of someone, peeling the onion. That's all bullsh*t. The best you can do is do a lot of preparation, empower people and allow them to be the best they can be: you stay out of their way and allay their fears. 

It's like a conductor of a symphony: waving that baton isn't getting people to play any better, it's just helping to coordinate everything. It's all in the preparation, the discussion, the planning, the synchronization. And then you sort of stand in front of the instruments, wave your arms, and look like you're running the show.

******Jon Favreau - about directing his film "Made" ******[popmatters.com interview]

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photo: Jane Anderson - director / writer - from book: Great Women of Film

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