On rehearsal and shooting in Ireland.

I am sick today. It snowed. It doesn’t snow often in Ireland so the roads are pretty much just left as they are out here where I live, and we all slide around as best we can. Someone asked in a comment about whether or not I rehearse.  The only time I really rehearsed scenes in depth was for “Angela”, when I was working with a ten year old and a six year old child.
There was a world in that film, a particular way of looking at the world that Angela had invented initially to scare and control her little sister, as well as to give her an illusion that she is controlling her own chaotic life, but eventually the mythology she made up takes hold of her mind and sort of makes her crazy. Anyway I rehearsed with those kids for two months. We went over each scene a couple of times, but really what I was doing was creating a relationship between the girls, and making them fluent in the belief system. The actresses were not the personalities of the characters–Charlotte Blythe, who played the little sister Ellie, was an older sister and had a powerful personality in real life. She was gently bossing Miranda Stuart Rhyne around. Miranda, who played Angela, was an only child and she was following what Charlotte told her when I needed it to be the reverse. So every day I enforced Miranda’s authority over Charlotte as they played their games. Charlotte had to get permission from Miranda to do everything. Gradually their relationship changed and became what you see in the film.

Additionally for “Angela”, I workshopped the script in acting class with John Ventimiglia playing Andrew (he was my scene partner in the class and I always knew he would be the right person to play Andrew, the father of the girls). So in a sense he rehearsed a lot–he developed the character with me.

But normally I don’t rehearse actual lines so much. Partly it isn’t feasible–normally people arrive a day or two before they are scheduled to shoot–but also, I don’t like to exhaust the lines. I want to see them said for the first time on film. I adjust the performances on-site. This involves a great deal of trust of the actors and their characterizations but I have always worked with them individually, whether through auditions or conversations or video to find looks and maybe accents–just not the actual lines. I worked with Daniel Day-Lewis for months on what Jack Slavin in “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” should sound like, as well as the rest of his charac ter. I worked with Robin Wright for a year, mostly through conversation and one day of video when we were trying to find her look. That might sound superficial but the look of a character of course tells you so much and so costume fittings tend to be very deep, they are a big part of creating a character and I always leave hours and hours for them.  What I do sometimes do is rehearse relationships. For example, Daniel Day-Lewis and Camilla Belle spent almost two weeks together just living during the day in their house on the abandoned commune for “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”. I think you can see the closeness they developed on film.

Someone asked me about shooting in Ireland and my answer is, yes, I would certainly do it. I tried once, I had a film that fell apart in preproduction.

It was called “Gone to Earth,” based on the book by Mary Web. A period film which was actually already made into a film by the great Michael Powell. Originally Samantha Morton was to be in it, but she had just had a baby and couldn’t make it work, so we limped on and finally the whole thing collapsed. It was a terrible feeling walking into a room full of people thinking they have a job and telling them the factory is closing. It was a depressing moment–I sort of decided to stop trying to get films made at that time and sank myself into fiction, finished writing the book of short stories “Personal Velocity”, got them published, which then led me to make “Personal Velocity ” the film, and off I went again.

My problem with writing an Irish story is I haven’t felt I had the authority to write about this culture, this place, because I am still really a visitor, and my passion has been for telling American stories. I do have a couple short stories that take place in Ireland though, so maybe I’m inching up on it. I am working on one of them now.

4 Responses to “On rehearsal and shooting in Ireland.”

  • Ellie:

    Thanks for that, what a pity about “Gone to Earth” but looking forward to the short stories :)

  • Tricia:

    I just finished reading The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and wanted to say thank you. I enjoyed it so much. I am anxious to see the film as well. I have been saving Jack and Rose (which I bought on DVD), because I expect it to be a treat.

    I think it would be tough to tread the same ground as Michael Powell in a film, but will be eager to read/see what you are doing next.

    Happy New Year!

  • Tessa:

    Hi Rebecca– Happy New Year! After reading this latest blog entry of yours, I have a question… Did you attend writing workshops when you were “learning” how to write? Was there a temptation to write about yourself? And if so, when did you move away from that to create actual characters with their own lives? Was that hard or liberating?

  • Kathie Pitman:

    Hi Rebeca,
    I saw Pippa this evening and loved it! I noted you as the writer and had to let you know that I am in awe how familar Pippa’s thoughts came thru on film. I definItely identified and because it is in books that I most closely recieve that feeling of simpatico, I was just amazed. I am going to get Pippa the book tommorrow first thing! Usually I read the book , then see the movie version!
    I visited Ireland in mid February this year and heard the story of how the entire country closed up because they don’t get snow often and had no snow plows any where anyway! Then I saw what looked like tropical palm plants in the country side and felt the warm spring like rain when back in Dublin. The country and people everywhere were just amazing to experience, it is the one place in all my travels that I didn’t truly want to leave to go back to the states. However as a writer myself I felt if I stayed in Ireland permanently I would be having too much fun laughing, eating those great lamb dishes and drinking with folks in the pubs to write anything. So it was back home to Ugly New Jersey. In a subsequent trip to Wilmington, North Carolina I found my writers paradise, enough book shops and writers groups with the right dose of reality so I would write and not escape into Ireland’s seductive culture. I am rambling on… forgive me, just wanted you to know that now that I am aware of your writing and film work, I look forward to reading and viewing more!

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