Oscar 2016: Monimated Directors on Filmmaking

The five directors competing for the top award at the Directors Guild of America stressed the uncertainties of their craft at Saturday morning’s annual Meet the Nominees panel at the DGA Theater.

“Stanley Kubrick said it’s like trying to write a poem on a roller coaster,” noted director Alejandro Inarritu, nominated for The Revenant, in desrcribing the process of finishing a film.

The Mexican director had to start editing before he had shot the ending, due to the production lacking snow in Canada. That forced him to shoot the final scenes in South America.

“I’m a chronic unsatisfied person,” he added. “The editing of this film was torture.”

Director Adam McKay, up for The Big Short, explained that his film — which features extensive use of actors breaking the fourth wall — reflected his belief that the comedy required that technique to reflect the strangeness of the 2008 global economic collapse.  ‘The Big Short was meant to have a conversation with the audience,” he added.

He cited David Lynch’s iconic Blue Velvet and the news anchor rumble in his own Anchorman as  inspirations, assserting, “I love controlled chaos.”

McKay said that he had told cinematographer Barry Ackroyd to continue shooting even after a scene appeared over–leading to Brad Pitt improvising the “I’m getting a colonic” line.  “I never called ‘cut’ when everyone expected me to call ‘cut,’” he added.

Tom McCarthy, contending with Spotlight, noted that he was forced to shoot a scene at Boston’s Fenway Park early in the production because of the lack of availability — partly due to the New York Yankees management refusing to participate due to the subject matter. McCarthy added that he’d been a lifelong Yankees fan.  “I’m no longer a Yankees fan,” he noted.

Because the production had access to only a small portion of Fenway, the scene took all nine ninnings to shoot a relatively short scene as fans at the game intruded in the area, asking at one point to buy Mark Ruffalo a beer.  He responded by saying he was drinking an O’Douls, prompting the fan to make fun of him.

McCarty said the shooting at Fenway made an enormous difference.  “It was real baptism for the production,” he noted. “It really gave us a sense of Boston and it gave us a feeling that we had better get it right.”

Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller cited Alfred Hitchcock as an inspiration, noting that he opted for only essential dialogue. “You want to make movies that people can watch in Japan without subtitles,” he added.

The Martian director Ridley Scott admitted that the scene in which Matt Damon forgets his space helmet before stepping outside was not by design. “It was a happy accident,” he added.