We're 99% done with shooting-- maybe. There's one more scene we have to shoot for sure, and since we still have our leading man for another week or two, we'll see if we can think of anything else to shoot. Might as well use the time we have.
The whole production's moved at a very smooth pace. About the biggest problem we had was in casting the part of Sue-- a small but, we thought, vital part of the film. Just around two weeks ago, we found her. Or so we thought.
When she auditioned for the part, she wasn't great, but she would do. With a few rehearsals, she would have done an admirable job of bringing the character to life. And, in truth, after a few rehearsals it was apparent that she had improved greatly. You can probably tell from the use of past tense that things haven't quite worked out.
There were a few early warning signs. First of all, she had an extremely erratic work schedule that we had to plan around-- making changes at the last minute, et cetera. In the past, we've tried to work with extremely busy persons, and more often than not, they end up bowing out because their schedule is too hectic. And it's hard to blame someone; after all, they're only getting paid in home-cooked (or pizzeria-purchased) meals. Paying gigs come first.
But there was also a strong sense of disconnect. She would say a line; we would give her a direction because we thought the line needed work; she would say the line exactly the same way as before. We went through this cycle three or four times before we got a different line reading-- one which wasn't precisely what we were looking for, but worked just the same.
And it wasn't just that we had trouble communicating, it was that at times we weren't even speaking the same language. Let me give you an example of what we're talking about.
Last year, we created a "zombie sitcom" for Youtube called 'Ned and Sunshine', which is a whole 'nother story in and of itself. But while we were casting that series, we auditioned an actor who didn't know what zombies were. He was very confused-- and perhaps a bit offended-- when he explained it. And we knew at that point that working with him, on that project, would be impossible-- that he just didn't 'get' the project at all.
We had much the same feeling with this actress.
We had to rewrite an entire scene-- the big Duck, Duck, Goose party-- when she failed to show.
On the night of the final rehearsal before shooting her scenes, we got a call from Jacob-- our lead-- to let us know that she had let him know that she would not be able to make it. The reason? She wanted to stay home and watch "Who Wants to be a Superhero?"
Now, we love and respect Stan Lee as much as the next person, but it was a bit too much. And so, after a lot of discussion, we decided to fire her.
Now, with only two weeks left before Jacob-- who is in every scene-- went back upstate to college-- this left us with one of three options. Option one, which had proved damn nigh impossible thus far, was to recast the part.
Option two, which was untenable, was to stick with the flaky actress in hopes that she wouldn't screw us over when it came time to shoot, and that she would be adequate at that time.
Option three was to cut the part entirely, which would necessitate the removal of nearly fifteen pages from our already-thin fifty-eight page script. This would bring our runtime down from eighty-to-ninety minutes closer to seventy minutes. Which, when working from forty-three pages of script wouldn't be bad. And that's what we decided to do. (Sort of.)
But wasn't the part vital? Well, yes and no.
Yes, the part was vital to the script of The Man Who Loved. She served as a counterpoint and foil to Sarah; she was a threat to the marriage, not so much sexually but in a more subtle, platonic way; she also soldiered some of the more didactic material. So, the script of The Man Who Loved could not function without her.
But the film is a different story. The film seems to be getting along quite nicely without her.
Though she's not completely gone. She's mentioned briefly and appears as an off-screen voice, provided by camera-shy cutie Mary Russell-- one half of the directing team. So, I guess we did recast the part in the end.
The script and the film are two different beings, two different versions of the same story. There are a lot of similarities, but also a lot of differences-- in tone, in content, in theme and emotion. As the production-- and, indeed, the rehearsal, casting, and editing-- process unfolds, the story takes a new direction. That's the wonderful thing about working in a collaborative form.
Painters use oils or watercolours; writers use words; musicians use notes. But a filmmaker writes in faces, bodies, details, expressions: a filmmaker writes in life itself, in souls. And so a film will always be a living thing, while a screenplay will always be words, margins, and page numbers.
I guess my point is, sometimes you don't need that one scene or character upon which you thought everything hinged. When you can't get that shot or scene or line or character the way you want it done, you have three options--
One, go with the mediocre version. This violates the Howard Hawks definition of a good film: "three good scenes and no bad scenes".
Two, don't finish making the film. But remember, "the worst film ever made is the film that's never made."
And three, work around it. Film, like politics, is the art of the possible. Do what you can with what you have.