Changes while directing

questionmarkWhen you were directing The Nines, did you find that you wanted to change some of the action and dialogue because it didn’t come across in production the way you thought it would when you wrote it. And, if you changed things, was it because you were maybe hypercritical of your own work and saw problems where nobody else would or did you consider making changes just because you could (being the writer and everything)?

– Dennis Feeney

The action changed somewhat, based on the geography at hand. For instance, there’s a scene in Part Three where a family is coming back to a parked car. As scripted, there was a certain sequence for who would be where for what line of dialogue, but once you have real actors, real dolly movements and real reflections to contend with, that all changes. And that’s after storyboarding, during which some of those things were already decided.

In terms of dialogue, I didn’t find myself changing that many lines. We’d had the luxury of some rehearsal, so if there was a line that an actor really had a difficult time landing, I could change that ahead of time.

Once we started production, I really saw myself as a the director, not the writer. If something wasn’t working, my instinct was to look at changes in the performances or the camera movement rather than the words. Indeed, the few times I did go back in to writer-mode was when I saw unanticipated opportunities. During a confrontation between Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy, I added this line…

  • He’s an actor. If no one’s watching him, he doesn’t really exist.

…which ends up being fairly important to the scene (and, ultimately, the movie). Yet I added it at six in the morning on the day of shooting, based largely on something I overheard the actors talking about between takes. That kind of serendipity is what made my dual roles rewarding.

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