Paul Thomas Anderson: Breaking Down His Directing Style & Techniques
Some people are quick learners, some people have a keen sense already and polish their skill while some seem to have been born with the skill and talent to accomplish something great.
Paul Thomas Anderson famously known as P.T Anderson happens to be such a filmmaker who seems to have been born with the ability and eye of a filmmaker. Born on the 26th of June, 1970 P.T Anderson was born in Studio City, California to Ernie and Edwina Anderson.
Ernie Anderson was the renowned and familiar voice of ABC and a horror show host Ghoulardi, which used to run on Cleveland television late at night. San Fernando is the place where the young P.T Anderson grew up. He did not have a close bond with his mother and shared a troubled relationship with her, but he was particularly close with his father Ernie whose support and encouragement made him make a place for himself by being a writer or a director.
Being the third youngest of nine siblings, Anderson attended numerous schools which included Buckley in Sherman Oaks, John Thomas Dye School and then Campbell Hall School. He and his group of friends were always up to something related to filming and shooting and which got a bit out of control for which his parents sent him to Cushing Academy which was a very refined boarding school.
He had his share of attending elite schools but never really fit the mold. As he was skinny, smart and had a sharp tongue too. Being sent too far from the man he idolized didn’t bode well for him, and somehow he talked his way back and ended up in Montclair Prep and that is where he began to grow in the true sense.
Anderson was interested in film making since a young age. It will be surprising to know that he made his first movie when he was 8 years of age. Ernie, his father knowing his son’s passion gave him a Betamax video camera when Paul was 12 years old and since then, it started. Paul’s teenage life thorough out schooling went by shooting something or another.
He has living been living his life following his teenage life motto, anything for a shot. His friends tell how annoyed they used to get because that camera used to be with him anywhere and everywhere and he shot anything he set his mind to. Anderson seemed to have been born with a sense of how the camera could relate to the people and the images could be utilized to narrate a story. And that is exactly how he became a renowned American film director, screen writer and producer.
Anderson had no alternative plan to directing films. After his Betamax he began using 8mm film and arrived at the conclusion that video was easier.
Anderson had begun writing at an early age and by the time he was 17 years old, he was experimenting with Bolex 16mm camera. Anderson wrote and filmed his first real production as a senior in high school at the Montclair Prep after spending years of experimenting. He got the money for his movie by his cage cleaning job at the pet store.
This film was a mockumentary of total 30 minutes which was shot on a video called The Dirk Diggler Story (1988). The plot was about a pornography star and the story seemed to be an inspiration of John Holmes which had also acted as a huge inspiring element in Anderson’s other, Boogie Nights.
Emerson College was where Anderson was enrolled as an English major but he spent only two semesters there and only two days at the New York University before he took a step towards his career as a production assistant on television films, music videos as well as games show in New York and Los Angeles.
Anderson felt that the stuff that was being shown to him at school was more like homework rather than experience. So that is why he decided to make a 20-min movie which would play the part of his college.
In 1993, Anderson made Cigarettes & Coffee with a total budget of $20,000 which were comprised of some college tuition money set aside by his father, gambling winnings and his girlfriend’s credit card.
Cigarettes & Coffee’s was a short film that connecting numerous story lines together with only a $20 bill. This movie was screened at the Sundance Festival Shorts Festival of 1993. Anderson though to expand it in a feature-length film and following that, he was sent an invitation for the 1994 Sundance Feature Film Program where Michael Caton-Jones acted as his mentor.
According to him he saw Anderson as a talented and fully formed creative voice just with lack of experience and taught him some tough and practical lessons.
Launching of a Career
In 1996 at the Sundance Feature Film Program Anderson got himself a deal with Rysher Entertainment and that was how he directed his first feature film, Sydney which was later retitled as Hard Eight.
Rysher re-edited the movie upon completion but Anderson submitted the original cut which ended up getting accepted and screened in the Un Certain Regard section at 1996 Cannes Film Festival. And Anderson was able to release his own version after the retitling and raising $200,000 which were needed for its completion. Hard Eight was what launched Anderson’s career.
According to Anderson, he uses the influences of Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick and Max Ophuls in his movies.
Bring on the Porn Industry
While Anderson was coping with the troubles of Hard Eight, he had already started off on the script of his next feature film, Boogie Nights (1997) which was based on The Dirk Driggler Story. The New Line Cinema’s President absolutely loved the script.
PT Anderson is the first he steals shots and entire sequences from other movies. Here is his inspiration for the iconic pool sequence in Boogie Nights:
And Boogie Nights was an immense commercial and critical success. Boogie Nights won three Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Burt Reynolds) and it was a revival of his career. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Julianne Moore).
Frogs from the Sky
Anderson was then given complete creative control by New Line. The result was Magnolia (1999) whose plot circulated around different people coming together in the San Fernando Valley. Aimee Mann’s music was the base and inspiration for this, and has been called the example of American cinema’s strength. Magnolia received three nominations at the 72nd Academy Awards for Best Actor in Supporting Role, Best Original Song and Best Original Screenplay.
After Magnolia, Anderson wanted to give comedy a try and he featured Adam Sandler in his next movie Punch-Drunk Love (2002) which was a light romantic comedy drama. The story was about a business owner who has anger issues and seven sisters. Sandler earned critical praise for his role. And Anderson won the Best Director Award at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
Anderson happens to have very real and flawed characters in his movies and most of his movies focused on the dysfunctional family relationships, surrogate families, regret and desperate characters as well as themes of denial & responsibility.
Pulling a Daniel-Day Lewis
Little bit based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil, There Will Be Blood (2007) was regarded as one of the greatest films of the decade by the critics. It earned $76.1 million worldwide, this movie earned 8 nominations at the 80th Academy Awards tying with No Country for Old Men for the most of nominations.
The lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis, won an Oscar for Best Leading Actor. Anderson was greatly appreciated and nominated for the Directors Guild of America. This movie was also said to be a wholly American movie to be ever made.
Breaking Down Scientology
The Master (2012) was about an individual bursting with charisma who initiated a new religion in 1950s. Anderson started on its script in 2009 though it was in his head for 12 years. The film received three nominations at the 85th Academy Awards for Best Leading Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor, (Philip S. Hoffman) and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams).
Anderson is famous for his bold visual style of film making, stylistic trademarks like a continuously moving camera, memorable use of music, long takes based on steadi-cam and multi-layered audiovisual imagery. P.T Anderson is called one of the most exciting talents that surfaced in years. His movies represented feelings of loneliness, destiny, and ghosts of the past as well as destiny.
May 2013 brought along with it the production of Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice which ended up in August of same year. It was the first time ever the writer had allowed his work to be adapted for screen.
The film’s supporting cast included Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Shot, Katherine Waterston and Eric Roberts to name a few. And the film earned two nominations for 87th Academy Awards. Mark Bridges for Best Costume design and Anderson for the Best Adapted Screenplay.
Anderson again displayed remarkable skill while directing a 54-minute documentary Junun which was regarding the making of an album which shared the same name by Jonny Greenwood, an Israeli composer and few Indian musicians. Majority of the performances were recorded in the Mehrangarh Fort, a 15th century building in the Indian State of Rajhastan. New York Film Festival of 2015 was the place where Junun was premiered.
Currently, Anderson happens to have his hands full with a drama based on the London fashion industry in the 1950s whose filming will began in the end of 2017.
Because of his incredible skill that how exactly a scene is to be shot, his amazing realistic approach of showing the characters, Anderson is the only director who has won three director prizes from all the three renowned and prestigious major film festivals Cannes, Berlin and Venice. Ben Affleck stated in his acceptance speech that Paul Thomas Anderson is whom I think is quite like Orson Welles. Paul Thomas Anderson is the artist who has no limits.
Below is by far one of the best video essays on Paul Thomas Anderson’s work. THE DIRECTORS SERIES is an educational non-profit collection of video and text essays by filmmaker Cameron Beyl exploring the works of contemporary and classic film directors. You can donate to support the project at:
Paul Thomas Anderson – THE SUNDANCE KID
3.1: THE SUNDANCE KID is the first installment of THE DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and careers of director Paul Thomas Anderson, covering his lo-fi origins and his breakout at the Sundance Film Festival.
-THE DIRK DIGGLER STORY (1988)
-CIGARETTES & COFFEE (1993)
-HARD EIGHT (1996)
Paul Thomas Anderson – THE CALIFORNIA CHRONICLES
3.2: THE CALIFORNIA CHRONICLES is the second installment of THE DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and careers of director Paul Thomas Anderson, covering the pair of sprawling ensemble-based pictures that cemented him as a major new voice in American cinema:
-BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)
-VARIOUS MUSIC VIDEOS (1997-1999)
Paul Thomas Anderson – THE CONCEPT COMEDIES
3.3: THE CONCEPT COMEDIES is the third installment of THE DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and careers of director Paul Thomas Anderson, covering his short foray into experimental art comedies:
-VARIOUS MUSIC VIDEOS & SHORT WORKS (2000-2002)
-PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002)
-VARIOUS SHORT COMEDY SKETCHES (2002)
Paul Thomas Anderson – PORTRAITS OF POWER
3.4: PORTRAITS OF POWER is the fourth installment of THE DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and careers of director Paul Thomas Anderson, covering his monumental pair of epic character studies:
-THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007)
-THE MASTER (2012)
-FIONA APPLE: “HOT KNIFE” (2012)
Paul Thomas Anderson – HIGHER STATES
3.5: HIGHER STATES is the fifth installment of THE DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and careers of director Paul Thomas Anderson, covering his explorations into the possibilities of an altered state, whether it’s naturally or chemically-induced.
-INHERENT VICE (2014)
-JOANNA NEWSOM MUSIC VIDEOS (2015)
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Paul Thomas Anderson Interview – The Master
The following conversation between Elvis Mitchell and Paul Thomas Anderson Thomas Anderson was recorded live at LACMA’s Bing Theater. It followed a double feature of two war documentaries by John Houston, 1945’s San Pietro and Let There Be Light from 1946. Anderson cites both films which he found on YouTube as highly influential during the making of his latest film The Master, which is currently nominated for three Academy Awards.
So talk to me about the first time you saw Let There Be Light.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Well like I said, it was on YouTube and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I guess with the first film which I think I watched at the same time, taking nothing away from it because it’s a great film but the scene explosions off in the distance and in the camera rout, I was familiar with that stuff and had already kind of become desensitized to it in a sort of terrible way. But this is something; these close ups of these fellows and hearing them talk and long takes, it was not battle footage, it was obviously the aftermath of the battles. And no wonder they didn’t want anybody to see it. And at the time I was writing The Master and you can only go so far when you’re trying to sort of get in the head of another time and you sort of get hungry for more films of that period, don’t do it. But seeing a documentary from that period and something that’s laid so bare… God I watched it again and again and again and again.
It was at a time when I was writing it where I was feeling pretty good about what I had but I just felt like something was missing. And suddenly you get lucky enough to kind of discover something and you just kind of opens up for you maybe a story that you’re working on and that’s what that scene with the BE LIKE did for me.
Was it a sense because in that movie, unlike any John Houston movie, even on like Under the Volcano, there’s just a sense of these guys being completely lost their own bodies?
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Perfectly said, yeah. It’s funny too to see this kind of happy ending put on it which you could feel… I don’t know. I know he had a raspy sense of humor, not that he was applying it to this film but you could feel maybe like he was saying ‘well I just put a little swell of music and say that everything’s ok and maybe I can get away with it.’ You know and the war department probably said there’s no swell of music big enough to make it ok, what you’ve done’… but yeah. The black guy’s talking about his wife you know that letter, it doesn’t get any more harrowing. So seeing somebody like that, so vulnerable and so naked, you never saw fellas from that era came back, you never saw them kind of baring their souls and I’ve never seen anything like that.
I forgot to say it at this point, please no recording of this. We’ve got lots of people with fully charged Tasers who are ready to take each and every one of you out because they are really sadistic.
But the thing about the Master that kind of applies… getting back to the conversation, what a Segway;
The thing that I really feel from Let There Be Light and the Masters, your movies before the master, death was always kind of like something, kind of a specter in the background but this is a movie that kind of starts with a guy recovering from being surrounded by death and that really seems to influence the way the Master starts to me.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah for sure. I think too, I mean in a practical way just for making that film was like, you just ask yourself ‘are you going to go shoot some war footage and stuff like that?’ and that’s a real big investment not only of time and effort and energy and money but are you going to be able to do something that hasn’t been shown before. Do you need to do that? But for that film that you’re talking about, just want to look at Joaquin Phoenix, like when you look at these guys, just look at these faces and you don’t need anything else, that’s the sort of thought that just occurred to me there. I think the battle of San Pietro, to me the best part of that film, as we’re talking about this, yes you have that hero and war stuff but getting to the end and you see these faces and you get this kind of relief. It’s not a relief but it’s faces. It’s not landscapes and explosions as haunting as that is but the second you see the faces everything just comes rapidly into focus. And Let There Be Light is exclusively faces, there’s no war footage at all.
Yeah and in those faces is all that kind of collateral damage from the battle; those starved kids with those lines under their eyes and those worry lines on their forehead. And in Let There Be Light, just that pain in their faces.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah, the pain in their faces but also too, just something that’s great about the film is how they do talk about it. Because it was always this sort of, it’s the generation that wouldn’t talk about it and they kind of kept it all to themselves. And I guess that’s true but here, these guys were really pouring their heart out. And just the interesting thing is sort of watching these guys try to mess around with all these different methods about how they might be able to help them or cure them; sodium pentothal, hypnosis and Rorschach shack tests and all that kind of stuff which only made it worse or did it help? I don’t know.
It didn’t seem to help but the funny thing was that there’s so much confidence in each of these treatments, that didn’t really seem to do anything and watching the Master, I mean…
Paul Thomas Anderson:
I love the doctor, that kind of real nuts and bolts doctor, right. You know he’s just like slapping them around. Like Tex Avery’s character is a doctor with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth…
And the only thing he doesn’t say is ‘snap out of it’. I mean that’s the only thing missing.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah, he stops just short of saying snap out of it. But for that film, for the Master, obviously it helped feed into ideas that eventually got into [inaudible 6:49] head and dynamics of how work with mental illness. How to just work with the mind. That was the kind of thing that he got into and I think he did spend time in naval hospitals. So he was obviously around all this kind of stuff. So whatever he was doing was not entirely this made up thing, he was around this stuff and funneling it into what he was working on.
Because when Phillip is questioning Joaquin, it’s almost that same kind of thing as [inaudible 7:23] he’s like really trying to sort of probe this soft spot because he understands that there’s trauma, there is that admission of trauma basically in the conversations and it’s really like watching these interrogations and this.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah, that’s right. A lot of those things have been formed in the script for the Master before I saw this. But it’s that kind of lucky thing, that it sort of helps verify maybe something that you’ve made up or you found somewhere else. It just helps you kind of feel like you’re on the right path when I was seeing this stuff. And those kind of hard hitting questions are meant to kind of break you down or get you to open up. Nothing entirely new, it’s all this kind of you know psychology or psychosis but… yeah, I lost my train of thought.
Yeah. I have a couple other questions, it’s ok. Because in that sequence especially… I like when you’re woozy on stage and then I own you, you’re Joaquin Phoenix.
The cutting in that section reminds me of John Houston’s cutting. I was saying before were he said basically ‘an edit came naturally when you blink’ and that kind of cast iron cutting, this is the cut, this is the cut, this is a cut, really is in that sequence.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
I’ve never heard that he said that before that’s great and make sense to me. I think I respond to his films just how nuts and bolts they are. They’re really kind of lean mean fighting machines and whatever it is, it floats my boat about it. I really like that about his films. I love it actually. [Inaudible 9:15] and that was kind of the beginning of a real hardcore obsession with his stuff and feeling just so muscular. But in addition to, not just muscular, and John Ford was muscular too and had a sort of sentimental side but I think John Houston was a great writer too. I always respond to his writing as well; not really known as a writer but his adaptions of books and things like that.
Oh sure. Because what he does that find myself thinking about with your stuff is there are always these kinds of questions of masculinity, except in his movies – those questions are always answered and in your movies those questions basically aren’t.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well he was more of a man than I’ll ever be.
I don’t know, you were telling me about this steak and tequila diet when you were cutting There Will Be Blood that sounds very John Houston to me.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
I was think vodka. Yeah, the connection’s in there. I do live in the same neighborhood though, he built the house out where I live and that’s still there actually. He built it and they ended up shooting a Red
Badge of Courage on the backyard out where I live. It’s not populated by a lot of houses and stuff.
Did you read Picture, the Lillian Ross book?
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Isn’t it great?
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yes it is.
It’s one of the rare sort of looks into how entirely into the science stuff he was. If you read that and White Hunter Black Heart, you get a real sense of that thing, he always knew what he’s going to do no matter what the cost.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah. And probably you know many times against what was better for him, which translates into the film Better or Worse; really nuts and bolt, attack and kind of streamline a vision. I don’t think there was a lot of poetic thinking or hemming and hawing that went on. But he was also, I don’t want to say it’s all just nuts and bolts with him too because he was such a painter and he probably was a romantic at heart and you can feel those kinds of things coming through in his films too. I think just because you make a film that is as cut and dry as Let There Be Light is, it would be wrong to assume that he was sort of a cold person, if anything it’s the opposite. He was nuts and bolts in the filmmaking to allow what was happening in front of him to do the talking. It wasn’t filmmaking getting in the way, he was a humanist that I think this idea of blinking when you cut probably is based on ‘well, let them tell the truth. I’m not going to tell the truth or make my own truth by kind of cutting it up a bunch of different ways. I’m going to let what’s happening speak for itself.’
Are you like that though; that precision and the cutting in that sequence, that question and answer sequence because that felt so new to me for you. That kind of ‘let’s get on with it’ kind of thing.’
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Well I have to admit that that’s probably just a function of being able to shoot with two cameras at the same time. So you can literally on the computer these days just press when you feel it. In the old days you would have to get two cameras, a big long scene and you have to get everybody matching and get rhythms right and everything else and that he did not have here. I don’t know how they did it, they must have had two cameras. I don’t know. But that’s just a lazy thing; you can press a button…it’s terrible.
I didn’t mean to expose your laziness to this audience here, this is my fault.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah it’s more of a feeling, sort of like when do you want to look at look somewhere else.
But it felt like that to me because especially just seeing that stuff and also watching the Maltese Falcon again, which really has it and then this incredible momentum and there’s a kind of, something I don’t often see in your films, a real kind of narrative momentum in that particular scene. It’s usually playing out in terms of character but it feels like it’s building toward something like a real climax at the end of that sequence.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Right. Yeah. You’re asking about when they’re asking questions back and forth. It’s an inherent thing though in that and then it is a cliffhanger, and that’s just luck of the draw to get a scene that can work like that, that could actually work as a suspense scene and work as this dynamic interplay. But at the same time you are learning something about this person or this character. So these kinds of ideas of screenwriting, knowing your plot and momentum and character and usually the worst scenes that you have to go do in a movie are the ones that will move the story forward. You’ve got to stop for a second and somebody has to kind of say some really horrible dialogue about ‘will the reactor blow up if you don’t have… you know whatever it is’, but they’re necessary because you’ve got to keep going. You scratch your head the day that you have to shoot those like ‘how can we get this off without seeming like we’re completely ridiculous’. But a scene like the one you’re talking about was just sort of…you know, you get lucky and everything’s happening at once. You’re learning new information and you’re on the edge of your seat and you want to find out more and…yeah, I won’t get another one like that in a long time and that one just worked out in our favor.
Yeah, because it felt so unique for you to do something like that because the information is generally something that we have to learn over the course of the movie.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah, exactly. If you want to find out find out what the story of somebody’s mother or father; that’s a whole thing. But if you sit down with a Q. and A, you can fire questions.
I’m going to keep that mind for this. But the movie we’ve talked about since I’ve known you and I’ve been talking to you since Boogie Nights is Berocca has always come up in terms of influence and just kind of the languorous quality the beginning, where there are longer cuts in the Master and so many other movies. And I mentioned this to you after I’ve seen Boogie Nights and you went ‘yeah, Berocca is a movie that means a lot to me.’ Talk about the first time you saw Berocca and how that really kind of moved you.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
I don’t ever remember the first time I saw it. It must have been on D.V.D. I think on D.V.D. and I just loved it. I mean I’d love [inaudible 16:08]. I like in general movies that are just pictures and music or something like that and Berocca just kind of really did it for me. And then I saw it in the theater and that’s a whole other experience and it’s always stuck with me. And any time I get a chance to drag somebody to it I will do it, or I just go on about it boring people. But in the Master, Joaquin and I were always talking about apes and animals and things like that for his character in that film and I showed him the first shot of Berocca. And I don’t know if anybody’s seen it, it’s going to be boring but there’s a monkey in the snow and he’s falling asleep. It literally must take like two minutes just to stare at this monkey slowly falling asleep and it is absolutely hypnotizing, one of the best things I’ve ever seen and I showed it to him one day and he just loved it too…so it was like let’s try and do that.
Yeah, because when I talk to him he was saying that by the end of the movie you’re calling him your pet monkey and what trick are you going to ask him to do today.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Bubbles, Michael Jackson’s monkey. Yeah it felt like having a trained monkey that would… no, really I think it fit and that was probably one of the ideas in the film whether we really talked about it or not. It’s like Freedom Roy, like what happens if you have a tiger in Chris Rock’s word that goes ‘Tiger’. I think there was discussions about that kind of thing, about you know having an animal, having a monkey and putting diapers on it and what’s eventually going to happen is that it’s not going to like its little hat or its diapers, it’s going to bite you. It’s going to get mad. It doesn’t like it and no matter how much it flips over… It’s not exactly like the frog in that cartoon that sings, remember the frog, the Michigan rag. It’s more like Bubbles who went fucking crazy. Come on, you can’t put diapers on a monkey.
I hadn’t thought about the lesson of the Master until just now, but it clears a lot of the movie up for me. But when he told me that it’s weird because the way he moves physically, like it even when he’s wearing a suit, like that sequins one he’s wearing as a photographer in the store is completely wrong for being in that environment; he’s moving around and prowling in the room looking for prey basically or something to do.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
If you can imagine the sequel to this film, like what happens? Ok, this is over and now you’re set loose and you have to go get a job. You know, questions arise like ‘what are you the fuck supposed to do with your life. How are you supposed to get on with it? How are you supposed to manage a day to day existence?’ And one thing that I talked about with Joaquin with as it relates to this kind of stuff, is that not only was there trauma that these guys had come back with but having a sense of a master or a commander that you respected in that you liked, who you could look up to and a sense of schedule in your life…
Paul Thomas Anderson:
The discipline exactly, was suddenly like the rug was pulled out from underneath you and you were expected to kind of make your way without that and that alone was difficult. Not to discount all the kind of images that might be floating around in your head from what you’ve seen and what you’ve gone through but that kind of structure and that kind of discipline that can be so helpful to people’s lives was missing.
So we’re talking about this and I know Totty and Blake Edwards and one of the things that those guys have in common, and as I was watching The Master Two, I felt a little bit of the days of Wine and Roses; just that sense of wanting to be told what to do with your life and not knowing…
Paul Thomas Anderson:
I don’t know that film that well.
It’s the most dramatic of all the films and you’ve got Jack Lemmon’s essentially like comedian right basically playing out all these traumas, you know that sense of being lost. And I really felt that, I guess watching The Master as much as anything else and I know that for you, people trying to figure out what to do with loneliness is something of a recurrent theme in your work. And I wonder how you imagined working that into The Master so much because it’s really a big part of Freddie and he’s completely lonely.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
I guess he’s somebody probably that probably moved through most of his life alone or sort of learned to survive alone but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t completely hunger or desire to be around people or to be part of something. But like back to the Bubbles thing, the second he feels too much goodwill in the room is probably the moment he’s going to split. Probably that much love and attention is probably worth bailing on for somebody like him, which it doesn’t make any sense but it does…for anybody that knows that feeling.
But loneliness, I mean I sort of feel like the last section of There Will Be Blood is clear he’s kind of going crazy with loneliness to some extent and the way that loneliness kind of warps people. I think about the beginning of Sydney, Hard Eight he’s a guy he’s that’s made this agreement with loneliness but these kids don’t know what to do. And that idea of the way you make your peace with loneliness or you can’t deal with it runs through a lot of your work.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah you know it’s like if you’ve ever taken a vacation alone, you get a few days away from your family or something and the first fifteen minutes you’re thrilled but you know seventeen minutes later you’re lonely again, you’re sad. I think people like to be with other people, don’t they mostly? Don’t we like being together, mostly?
I don’t know. Do we, mostly?
Paul Thomas Anderson:
But then again we like to split. I don’t know… I’m vamping… I don’t know, loneliness… I don’t know Elvis, I don’t know.
I don’t mean to watch your movies and ask you these questions, I won’t do this again. I know now. But that kind of hunger, I think often to be around people; you think about Mark in Boogie Nights and he’s really desperate to sort of not be a lonely character. And I kind of feel like I can see this kind of weird arc with from going from him to Adam in Punch Drunk Love and now to Joaquin in this, these guys who had to figure out a way to deal with this. And these older guys Adam and Mark can be social, but watching this movie I kind of felt a little bit about the way that Paul Thomas Anderson Schrader described Travis Beckel; this guy who’s alone, coming back from the war, who’s had this regimental life where he was probably at his happiest when he was told what to do every hour of the day and told how to socialize, all these things you’re talking about.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
I got a really nice email the other day from this great filmmaker, Tatia Rosenthal. I haven’t talked to her in a while, she does stop motion animation. She sent me this really nice note and she said I was so happy that your movie had a happy ending, talking about the Master; that it had a happy ending that Freddy ended up where he belonged – naked and being an animal fucking someone else. I thought, ‘I was so great. It really touched me. Really. It made me feel like… you know so this talk about lonely, yes of course you know he’s got a lot of things wrong with him but that kind of feeling that I don’t know what will happen with him or how it will go for him but it was nice to see him in his element completely naked and fucking.
And often for you when you’re working there’s like a piece of literature, there’s a book that you use as kind of a foundation, was there something like that for the Master?
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Just lots of dynamics stuff that I was getting into. There’s a great book called Pacific War Diary. You know this one. I mean you’re not you weren’t supposed to write on ships and I’m going to get his name wrong James Fahey, I think, he had the most detailed diary that he kept and that he stored away and it was published twenty years ago. It talked about the best way to kind of really try as hard as you could to kind of understand what it might have been like on the ships day in and day out; that was really helpful. I couldn’t get enough of that stuff. And that was the main book in terms of Freddie’s character really, a lot of stuff from John Steinbeck’s biography that was written. I stole a lot of stuff from that, just kind of like loneliness. Not that Steinbeck was a lonely guy but I think he had a period his life after he left college where he was very kind of aimless and he wanted to be Jack London but that didn’t really work out exactly right and he worked on various farms and he worked in a department store, at a cannery. So that stuff was really helpful…trying to think of anything else. Everything else is dynamics related stuff.
The movie had this interesting schism between like the past and the present. Where in the past you’re supposed to know what to do with your life and everybody Freddie’s surrounded with is an adult and to some ways he wonders if he’s imagining that these people are more adult than they actually are because it’s all from his point of view.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
That’s good. Yeah. Isn’t it always the way, you always imagine that somebody is more adult than you are, somebody has got it all figured out and you don’t, and they don’t. I never thought of it that way but absolutely, yeah.
Because the scenes we see that are not from his point of view, you can see that Philip basically doesn’t know what to do with himself. And his wife, that’s a great scene with Amy when she’s basically saying ‘this is who you are and this is what you’re going to do goddamit.’ It’s really amazing to see those people not from Freddie’s point of view, to see that they are not what they think he is.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah. You said it better than I can and that’s not something that I thought of but there it is. And I think that’s true. You always peer around the corner wonder if somebody is believing in something that maybe they might have it all figured out. And maybe they do. I’ll always be thinking somebody has got it more figured out than I do for sure. And then you go over to their house and it smells kind of like cat piss or something…and you’re like, ‘I knew they were weird.’
I’m not sure if it smells like cat piss in that house but when he’s in that great sequence when he’s basically imagining all these women naked, again, that’s one of the greatest things you’ve ever done, just going getting inside his head that way. And if you look at the guy sitting there that the last thing you thought was on his mind.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
What I like the most about that, thank you for saying that about it. It’s not really there, what I liked was that that here’s a person who seemingly could drink anybody under the table and drink anything and still be standing. And here he is crumbled in the corner, somebody who has absolutely met his match, who at the point when he’s thinking and passed out, this guy’s just getting started. That was my favorite part about that, besides all the women and all that; it’s just like he’s still going, the Master can out party Freddy.
And there’s something very Steinbeckian about that too, all I think about is Steinbeck about these guys who basically see who can out do somebody and one guy semi passed out with one eye open watching these things going on around him. That’s even the biography of Steinbeck.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah but it’s also kind of a John Ford thing to have some of the stop and start singing and dancing in a movie; it was just like every John Ford movie. I can’t remember what director it was, might have been Frank Capra somebody saying some about John Ford and he said ‘oh Ford, when he doesn’t know what to do he just cast really long shadows or have people start singing and dancing.’ Now that I’ve said this to you, it’s going to get in your head every time you see John Ford movie, like there’s those shadows, why are they singing, there is dancing… and then he gets back to the plot again.
They sing and dance and there’s a fight.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
There’s a fight, preferably all the same time with long shadows.
Yes it’s the searchers, all these moves in which you feel like you’re basically at an Irish wake at those sequences; they sing, they dance, they fight and they pass out and they wake up and apologize.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Right. The Master singing and dancing stuff comes from just kind of having a character that’s like the life of the party. You know, somebody who’s not going to be happy unless everything is just jam packed and I think we all know people like that.
There was a lot of talk and discussions about what doesn’t need to be in the movie; that was always the discussion and having screenings just amongst us where we were just eliminating stuff and seeing if we could do without it. And trying it without the naked girls dancing, trying it without Amy jerking him off. The comfort of an editing room should be about seeing what film you’re making and seeing what you can do without. It’s not any fun to go in there knowing exactly what you’re meant to put in and go and do it. That would be dull. This was like really kind of fun to just sort of mess around with the film and see what we want to do really. That was what that was, whatever he saw it was probably just some incarnation along the path of making the film.
Talk to me about the decision to shoot in seventy because to go from looking at those, that perfect sort of academy box that one-three-three of those documentaries to that size frame.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Well we try to keep the frame smaller than normal on seventy minute, which is meant to be two to one. So we boxed it in, so we made it one-eight-five.
But there is more headroom on a one-eight-five…
Paul Thomas Anderson:
A little bit more headroom and less width. And that idea was because the stuff was this kind of stuff, it was Let There Be Light and films of that period which somehow everything just felt a little bit more intimate and I knew we were making a movie that was not in wide open spaces. It was closed rooms and stuff and you could maybe do shots where you had somebody head to toe in a room and it seemed to fit more than a real justification; it was kind of like, it works. That scene’s right, let’s do it that way. And that goes for shooting it in seventy millimeter too. It was like half-baked ideas about how to make the film or what format to shoot it in and they were all just that; just half-baked ideas and we started shooting Tessa Panavision and we’re hoping we would see something that felt right where he just looked at it and he said that’s good, that’s what it should be. And with those cameras that’s what it turned out to be.
Do you like seventy, I mean because there’s just a kind of a power in that frame that you just don’t get.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
It’s true. I love it. It was great and long may it wave. Hopefully people will use it more often and hopefully more theaters will continue to bring back or at least save their projectors and it would be great to have it around. It doesn’t seem to me, I know what these video projectors, the size of them, I does you don’t have to throw a seventy millimeter projector away in the garbage to make room for a digital projector you can keep them both. There’s no making room for a lawn chair for a projectionist or something. It’s like there’s enough room up there for everything.
I think after that we’re definitely not going to throw our projectors away. But what I liked about this, because I was expecting a classic seventy millimeter frame and that wasn’t that. It’s almost like you reconceived this what you’re saying because it’s a lot taller.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Right. We thought we were real clever and thought ‘oh, my God I think we’re the first people to ever do this.’ And then we realized that Jack Tati had done it in a film that I saw and I loved; Playtime.
You’re doing it for those long boulevards though, you’re doing it for a very different thing.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah but that’s the same reason – you did it because you needed to do it and it seemed right. It’s the same reason.
Yeah, because for some reason seventy millimeters seems to be the perfect frame size of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I don’t know why that is. But he seems to be made for it as an actor, you know what I mean.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Is that a compliment? That’s true. You know what, that should be like a poster or they would have done that in the old days.
Absolutely, because certain actors of a certain sizes of actors in terms of what they throw off need a kind of frame like that.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
It’s funny because I tried to walk around the Kubrick exhibit for a second beforehand and they got a great still of Charles Laughton from Spartacus. And I know Phil doesn’t really know Charles Laughton stuff very well, he just doesn’t but they remind me of each other. And not only their hamingniss which can be so great but don’t think that that’s just what they do. They can do everything and that kind of skill as a comedian, as an actor, as everything and just absolutely watchable and talking about needing seventy millimeters to film them and I think Charles Laughton was the same way. I just feel that way. Some actors are like that. You wouldn’t think Phil Hoffman would be a great person to fill the movie screen but to me he is. I’m glad you feel the same way.
Yeah, because I haven’t thought until I saw it and I thought of course, this is exactly it. I think I saw the movie maybe a month after I saw him doing Death of a Salesman and he’s like ‘yeah, that’s what this is.’ There is that size and also like the way he uses the voice and again the character he’s playing is someone completely confident with his voice. And you often cast people who love to speak and I think back to Tom Cruise and Magnolia or even to some extent Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights, these guys know exactly what to do with their voice Every time they speak. You really love guys like that, don’t you?
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah, for sure. They’re easy to write. You know once you start getting them to talk like that you have to stop yourself from writing that kind of stuff and put a discipline on it. Because the way that Phil talks in this movie, it’s also aristocratic. I don’t know what it is.
But it’s fake aristocratic though and he gets this enormous amount of pleasure from throwing it on to someone like Freddy who doesn’t know the difference. I mean he might as well be talking to the king of England. It’s really wonderful watching that exchange. It’s a way that these guys and so many these guys in these movies that even Sidney in Hard Eight, they measure their power by the way people react the way they speak.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
And they hypnotized you with their voices.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Well you know, my dad used to talk like that. My dad had a great voice and he would just talk like a normal guy to you and everything else and everything was going great and the minute you fucked up, this register would completely change and everything would get a little bit deeper. And you would shape up and like ok, the voice just went down a few octaves.
So he didn’t talk like that normally, that was his stage voice basically.
Paul Thomas Anderson:
Yeah for sure, he had a deep voice to begin with but he didn’t say…
“Tonight on a love boat”
Paul Thomas Anderson:
He would go to Denny’s and say “two eggs, hash browns and toast.” A joke, terrible joke.
I’m going to let you go. But let’s thank Paul Thomas Anderson Thomas Anderson for spending some time with us. Thank you so much.
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON – The Master
INTERVIEWER: Now I am reluctant to say this because it may waste a few moments on applause but I am going to anyway, ladies and gentlemen Paul Thomas Anderson.
So I guess the big and obvious question is why 70 millimetre why did that matter to the master and to you?
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well it didn’t and it shouldn’t you know because you should just be able to (I guess our mikes are too close together) it didn’t and it shouldn’t it was kind of like, you know if you took a blind taste test you know and somebody said what looks right for your film, you know whether it was shot on your phone or whether it was shot with a 45 year old camera or whatever.
It didn’t matter it was just sort of figuring out what seemed right to this story that you were doing and you have to kind of say to yourself exclusion of what might be easy or what might be financially the smartest thing to do you just have to kind of throw it away and say what feels right and figure out a way to make it work.
So it was not like some intention some like great goal or like kind of shoot 7 millimetre you know it was just undeniable how it felt and what it looked like and how it could evoke the period and make you, you know time travel back to that era as best you could. You know like going down the time hole like the Master says it felt like that was the best way to do that.
INTERVIEWER: You talked about making it easy it wasn’t, I am watching this film thinking about 70 millimetre all the incredible long single takes and at some point something in my brain just went why don’t you make things easier on yourself, why?
Paul Thomas Anderson: Where is the fun in that, I guess but that is fun, but when it is not easy it is fun you know for us, with that said you get to see you know like that dinner table scene when they are talking, when Amy says” why is he here ? I remember shooting that and I remember feeling like this is really easy and it was. It was easy in the best possible way.
It was actually finally it was like getting to scene in this movie where it was well written and it wasn’t like you know like complicated and it was so fun to go and do, we shot like 3 or 4 hours it was really easy to do and those are fun to do but, only after you have done something that have driven you around the bend and made you crazy.
INTERVIEWER: So when you get to those easy scenes you like, why don’t I write more of these.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Yeah, absolutely completely.
INTERVIEWER: I want to talk about Wykeem Felix’s performances in the film which is kind of astonishing, he plays almost a cave man for stretches of the movie how much of that was in your head on the page and how much of that was his performance that you discovered during the filming.
Paul Thomas Anderson: All of it was his, I mean not all of it I wrote something that was pretty good but he made it something that was amazing, you know. Really that is not just being humble as a writer or kind of being cute or anything like that.
The distance between writing something in your room and thinking that it could be a good character and have somebody doing what he did is vast and (please raise your mike Paul, thanks). It probably going to be complicated like some secret of the universe or something (7:02) I tell you it was going to be well lubricated. You guys like the film? Just need to remind myself why we are here for a second.
INTERVIEWER: Why are all these people staring at us, so when you are shooting.
Paul Thomas Anderson: I feel like I am too fucking high honestly or not high enough either one.
INTERVIEWER: When you are shooting someone like Wykeem Phoenix and he is bring all of that to the role, are there moments where you worry that its being stretched outside of your original conception that you are going to get into editing and not have what you wanted or needed.
Paul Thomas Anderson: No not that, never. Yes to the first part, like sometimes you can feel like woo, what’s going on, it’s getting this is different than I imagine and that is to your own shit that you are brining to it, it’s like you kind of have to let go, you have to let this thing become a real human being and when someone is doing stuff that is really you know its magnificent but it’s hard to recognize maybe at first you know.
If you are kind of a control freak instead of recognizing like you know god what is this and it is going to be distracting and what you know you have to reconcile in yourself with handing it over to somebody who is making it flesh and blood but you don’t ever get to the place where you think, oh, I am not going to be able to edit this together.
If anything it is the opposite, you sort of say, you recognizing what is going on you are enjoying it and you kind of what to make sure that, no I guess you are right you can edit it together but not through no shortage of material, through just sort of making sure there is an over abundance of material and just, I think that, I hope that makes sense.
INTERVIEWER: The other thing in the film is the (8:58) extonshone of close up crazy close up of actor’s faces are actor daunted by that or do they love that opportunity, what kind of direction do you need to give when the cameras are just here for so long.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well my experience is that they don’t like to know exactly where the camera is, I suppose if the camera is right here you know they know it is a close up but, hopefully you can find a way to do a nice close up if the camera is a little distance away without being too far away you kind of seeing what they are doing, but for the most part the actors that I work with don’t really have that much of an interest in how close the camera is or not is you know I think it is kind of a vanity of an actor to say like where are we here you know as if to say if we are here I am really going to give you the good stuff, if you are back there I am not going to give you anything , you know but with that said there is some kind of practicality to that you know.
You do want to say to an actor like you know the camera is half way across the room and I just have to get a shot that establishes where we are don’t start acting your heart out because I won’t be able to see it and that’s more about sort of a management of their energy and their time you know.
Because imagine if you have to do this stuff it takes a lot out of you, you know I mean you don’t want to sort of pretend like it an Olympic event but it does spend energy and if you are asking somebody to spend a lot of energy where you are not in a position to film it properly they should know it, you know and Wykeem is acting for almost 30 years and he was acting from he was child and Phil has been doing it for about 20 years and Amy is about the same.
So everybody kind of know the measure of what it is to make film and hopefully you don’t waste their energy or waste their time.
INTERVIEWER: This movie convince me there must be (10:58) second types of some scenes, watching some of Wykeem’s is like watching a Jackie Chang movie and knowing he did all of his own stunts I was exhausted.
PAUL ANFERSON: That’s good I never heard that before Jackie Chang, yeah, there should be out takes of him just like splitting his soul open like you know when Jackie Chang’s pants would break and he would like you know.
INTERVIEWER: You could give the thumbs up like the like Jackie.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Don’t worry my soul is still in tacked.
INTERVIEWER: One of the things that’s most surprising about The Master I thought is how kind it is to (11:38) Dodd and to his believes, do you think that would disappoint some people, was there ever a version in your head which was more about false prophet and tirade like at the end there would be blood.
Paul Thomas Anderson: No, you are making an assumption that there is something disingenuous about it I suppose and I don’t think there is.
INTERVIEWER: It’s not like your films are known to be necessarily kind to their characters though I felt like there was a kindness here there was a gentleness to the depiction here that I haven’t necessarily seen in some of your other movies, yeah as if there was a sweetness to this film that I wasn’t expecting.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well that’s different, that’s fine, I suppose it is probably the movie that is more minor key than major key and I guess what I mean by that is no kind of big moment you know where somebody kind of either realizes something or kill someone or you know something, nothing big happens and I supposed at one point there is probably discussions about you know how do you kind of wedge something in this story but ultimately you have to kind of accept that if you can’t you can’t and you have to try to make something satisfying and engaging to the audience that doesn’t have that because, and if it doesn’t have that and hopefully you invest in who these people are and these minor choices that they make which maybe minor at the moment but ultimately maybe major in their lives or something like that, I don’t know, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: I think that adult singing too ( 13:42)is one of the most romantic things I have seen in a movie in a long time, is this a romance, are you happy to call this a romance.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Yes, for sure absolutely I look at it that way but it’s a way to kind of look at the story you know that you can understand, I don’t think that you can anybody doesn’t understand heart ache or romance or love or lost love you know those are the kind of things that you can figure out through your own experiences.
It’s very hard to kind of figure out anything bigger than that for me at least I can’t hold that much inside my head. No really you kind of hold inside your head the experiences that you had the things that you latch on to when you are trying to figure out when you are making a film and you relate it to personal experiences that you had and those are the things that makes sense to you, you know anything bigger than that is just too hard.
You think about that desperation that you feel about somebody that you may be in love with it just not going to work out you know we have all had that I am sure or if we haven’t we are going to you know and it is not a new story it is kind of an old story actually and it is just about how we deal with it how we manage that kind of thing that happen to us, so yeah, oh it is getting fucking kind of mob in here.
INTERVIEWER: Let’s lighten thing up a little, I read a quote from about something about you know that directing a film is only half of it and the other half is protecting your film, protecting the film you make from these outside influences. Your films seemed so uncompromising but obviously there must have been compromises do you see disguise in your own film when you look back of that old fought and won and lost.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Yes, sure of course, that’s very sweet of you to feel that there is no compromises but everything is a compromise I mean it’s not and what I mean by that is you know you write a scene and you have this idea in your mind about what it might look like and you get there and it is 3 dimensions and its flesh and blood and there is a great actor who has a great costume on and somehow you had some ridiculous preconceive notions in your mind.
Does that disappoint you does that look like that, well that’s ridiculous because you know that’s just some kind of fantasy that’s like you might know you play video games or something like that and be happy.
The point is and the compromises are good you know that the sun is going down and you have to get this scene and that’s is not exactly how you thought it was going to be but you know what fuck it, it’s usually better, it’s always better honestly when something in ruts whether preconceive thing you have about it should be kind of you know when the day kind of attacks you and the sun is going down and it forces you into something. Honestly I feel like those are the best times that we had in making films and the best scenes that we had are usually based on that and that kind of things that happens that takes you out.
Otherwise you draw it you make a cartoon you know and those are great but that’s not what we are doing.
INTERVIEWER: I don’t know but at the moment it seems like you change tactics slightly in film making you know you are uploading your own teaser trailers for THE MASTER you are taking it on the road, was it a conscious decision to become more involved in the reception as much as the.
PAUL ANDESON: No it wasn’t conscious it was something that we always wanted to do but we just never could because you know we never you know. When I started out there was no such thing as you tube as funny as that sounds you know you had to kind of beg borrow and steal to get your trailer into theatres and to get people to think about you had a film coming out and all that stuff and you are kind of at the mercy of how much dollars they would spend and to think there is kind of situation that you would put materials out there and let people know that you had a film. It was like fantasy land when I started now it is as it should be its great.
INTERVIEWER: Another great quote that I read of yours is “films school is a con and you can lean more from watching listening to the commentary track on that day of black rock than 20 years of film school” is this an accurate quote? I feel like a lawyer and I say did say did you say this sir
Paul Thomas Anderson: The only problem with giving an interview ever is not being misquoted but being quoted exactly.
INTERVIEWER: Well if you are the professor and this is your class.
Paul Thomas Anderson: What did you say when you were 24 years old.
INTERVIEWER: I dread to think, what pick like, what are 3 films that would be on your curriculum of you foe film school commentary tracks or movies that will be educational.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Oh, great question okay let me think, yea I will tell you something that I watch, the first film I would show right now if we could watch another movie right now I would show TED, that film that came out this summer, we were just talking about this earlier that is the funniest movie that I have seen in a long time and you just sort of like you know no joke just how enjoyable movies can be to watch and so well written and so funny and so well performed and so great and just to look at that reminded me like you know .
You can get into weird stuff and serious stuff and 70 mill stuff and you know but to see something that just snaps you back you know that excitement when you saw airplane the first time. I remember when I saw airplane the first time, I was watching Ted tonight I just felt like this I had so much energy and so much enthusiasm behind it and I love that film, I would start with that just because that’s what is on my mind right now you know.
INTERVIEWER I think you may have some pretty surprised students at your film schools on that first day.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well you know the worst thing when I went to film school they started showing all this really dumb stuff like you know, Citizen Kane is not dull at all but they would start with this like this really kind of chore inductive like home work like you know black and white silent films which I love but the first day at film school film class is like you don’t want to watch that you know.
I mean it is either too intimidating or you are not in a place where you feel like you can either watch it or whatever it is feels like it turns the whole thing into home work a kind of chore more than the reason we are all like feeling why we are here right now it’s nice.
You know like fucking we want to have some fun we want to watch a movie you and yeah anyway that’s what I think.
INTERVIEWER: Well look I have a million more questions mostly about punch drunk love which is my personal favourite of your films but I am not going to ask them because I know we have a gazillion people in the audience who are waiting for questions, there are microphones at the sides and at the top and the bottom if people want to line up if people have question the Astro staff will take you through it.
But while you are lining up I guess there is time for me to ask one question about contact love, so does it feel like a.
Paul Thomas Anderson: By the way events full.
INTERVIEWER: Wow that is not a single, does (22:16) love feel to you like it is far outside your other films or does all your films feel as distinct as that from each other as that one does because I think to a lot of people it does seems like it is outside a lot of films.
Paul Thomas Anderson: No I mean I think if you ask it and you sort of ask to think about it I could see yeah, sure because it was kind of a guard in a particular way when it came out and you know I can realize all that stuff but in the scheme of things really we if you happen to (22:54) oh fuck I will lean over here.
I don’t feel that way I feel that way when I am force to think of it that way but you think of films if you are lucky to be in the position to make them you think about them as models workers in your actual life you know when did I have kids where did I work you know, what was going on in my life at that time you know you really think about them at that time.
I remember when we were editing that movie September 11th happened and I remember that I remember certain personal things that happened in my life but they are more important to me than the films are you know I think of them that way.
INTERVIEWER: So they are like tattoos.
Paul Thomas Anderson: You know fuck that’s great, yeah, exactly no that’s really kind of beautiful, that’s exactly.
INTERVIEWER: Well my work here is done, shall we open it up to questions from the floor.
Q: Hi Ben is my name I just want to congratulate you first of all on a fantastic film but also on not missing the opportunity to present forefront nudity in 70 mill.
Paul Thomas Anderson: You are welcome.
BEN: I think many of us here would think you are one of the most important film makers of the last may be 20 or 50 years, and so while you are here I think I would take the chance to ask, what’s your process of rising and making choices, so choosing projects and then choices within that?
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well I think it’s like, no I have been thinking about that lately because we are promoting the film and people asking stuff and it’s just like honestly it’s like no you know it’s like a great mystery and you don’t really have a good answer about how these things come about except that I realize a couple weeks ago somebody keep asking writing practice and stuff.
I remember feeling like I had a lot of stuff that I had written, you know you write something on a napkin in a hotel room and whatever but at a certain point you have to get serious about it and one of the most serious things that I can remember for this was like I really want to make a film with Phil.
We worked together a couple weeks here and everything else but it is enough of a reason to say I want to get serious about figuring out what my thoughts are about what I have and it is as good reason as any about keep moving forward with something and that give the writing process, sorry does that make any sense to you it is an unsatisfying answer but the other thing I would say I guess.
The writing process you know maybe I read it somewhere, I think I read about Ernest Hemingway who I liked he is not one of my favourite writers but he is like when I remember reading about writers that he had a regiment of writing every morning and things like that.
I remember reading that and feeling like I should try that and it worked for me like you know it worked to have a discipline to wake up every morning and you know some people have a different things they write before they eat or they eat and then write. Whatever it was whatever that thing was it was just discovering what was real.
I know people that was great writers and they work exclusively at night and that would not work for me I just couldn’t do it I know people that sleep until 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon then they wake up and they have a little bit of like and then when everybody goes to sleep that’s when they write, that’s works for them, that wouldn’t work for me but I found the things that worked for me and I have stuck with them.
I mean I don’t do them every day but when I do them everyday that’s when it feels like I am at work and that’s when it feels good.
INTERVIEWER: Somebody has a question upstairs.
Q: Hi I am, my name is Ashley and you probably like my favourite director of all times and I think you are wonderful and I was wondering, you start with 3 or 4 editors during a feature film making career and I was wondering what qualities you values in an editor.
Paul Thomas Anderson: In an editor, well, what is that sound is that you, it is you. I think that’s a great question and the memories that I have like you know I worked on the film with Leslie Jones who also we did Punch Drunk Love together, it is just amazing the kind of gulf of time is between you know the time that you are just sitting in the same room not editing the movie and you are just bullshitting about what’s going on with you or you talking about other things and the time that you are actually spending at the computer editing.
You just want somebody that you can be with that you are comfortable being around and sharing your life with, that’s what I look for.
INTERVIEWER: So do you look for friendship as in people that you have.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Really for sure.
INTERVIEWER: I think that’s admirable I don’t think there are enough.
Paul Thomas Anderson: I don’t want to make a movie with somebody I don’t like you know nobody wants to do that right.
INTERVIEWER: What if they are supremely talented dick.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Fuck them, there is no such thing anyway if they are that good they are not dicks, you know what I mean, really.
INTERVIEWER: Don’t you think I would like to think so.
Q: Hey man thanks for coming down to Melbourne and this is a question that I have had in my mind for a long time and that is, do you often get approached by big studios to do tent pole movies block buster’s super heroes’ explosions and if so can you go into much details about that.
Paul Thomas Anderson: No I have never really been asked to do that kind of thing and but that’s you know I understand your question I understand where you are coming from but it’s not, it’s like you know it is kind of hard to accept that there is some, you look at what Christopher Nolan did with Batman that’s like the meeting of absolutely the highest level of artistic skill and a kind of commerciality’s sort of appeal to a wide range of people which is what anybody would want.
T is amazing what they did with those films kind of on parallel actually they don’t come to me with those ad that’s alright I didn’t mean that to be a joke or anything you know I would be thrilled to do something like that it would be great.
INTERVIEWER: Question from up the top.
Q: Thank you for coming I just wanted to ask, oh actually firstly I first just want to strongly disagree with the interviewer I think you rock some of the strongest kindest impressions of paper work.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Thank you.
Q: cont: I saw all your films and I just want to ask if, I fell like there is a very strong intensity but also kindness to the characters in the films that you write and I wonder, I don’t know I am just assuming because I don’t know who you really are but if you had to have that experience of intensity in your everyday life like how would you deal with that.
How would you leave such a project that takes up so much of your time which seems to be dealing with these really intense and you know scary things.
Paul Thomas Anderson: That’s a great question, that’s a great question.
Sorry, I mean you work with some of the most intense seeming actors as well and you seem to draw out the best performances of them but like it seems so temporary like for someone who just watches the movie like how do they kind of.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Those days it’s like funny I know your question like those days when you feel like you have done an intense scene or something like that, pardon me but they never like, they probably don’t feel half as intense as they do when they doing the final film but you just made me think of like sometimes when something.
You write something and you really are happy with it which rarely happens like you know you start writing a film and maybe once for every 60 days you gets something that really excites you and makes you feel good and you can’t sleep at nights, you cannot you just wired you are completely high and you are just thrilled by something that happened and then it goes away and you are right back down to kind of feeling insecure or confused and you are clawing back up to try and get something that might make you feel that way again.
That happens a lot in writing and it happens in this sort of slightly different way and you make the film in my experience because it is more practical there is a lot of people around and you have to kind of keep working forward you can’t indulge in emotions and feelings they way you might normally do if it is just you.
There is a practically for making a film it doesn’t really allow to an over indulgence of emotions but sometimes that can happen. You get sad when you end a film you know just because the experience of being with everybody is going to be over.
Q: Do you ever get exhausted by the, sorry.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Let her finish.
Like the really kind of crappy aspects of, I don’t know if they are crappy but the harder aspects of film making the repetitiveness of having to like you have this idea then it ends and then it is sad during the time when it could be stressful or whatever is that ever like oh, you don’t want to deal with that or do you have some extreme drive to do it.
Paul Thomas Anderson: All the time.
Q: Okay my question now for you Paul is throughout your films mantras and repetitions of dialogue happen as a recurring theme especially in Boogie Nights the big bright shining star especially in this film I noticed (name) (34:36) going back and forth from the wall to the window and so on, could you comment on why this is such a prevalent theme.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well hopefully you don’t do thing that you know are themes or you are doing things that you know you are doing like one of the most amazing and fun things that could happen is when you write something, if you writing really fast and you typing and some weird thing comes out of you like a type or phase and you just don’t correct it I don’t fix it you know, don’t do spell check, don’t do grammar check or whatever they have and all that stuff.
Let them be you know make sure that they exist because there is a reason why they are there, they are not typo’s.
Q: So it is trying to find a balance between I don’t know precision and instinct.
Paul Thomas Anderson: For sure, for sure always, no body want to see a movie that’s perfect, do they, its alike all clean and polished and everything like that and sometimes you know, like but again I am a victim of you cut and paste it’s fun to mess with stuff but it is also fun t mess it up you know and see what.
INTERVIEWER: Can we have a question from the top.
Q: Watching what was an incredible and meaning full and powerful experience for me and I just want to thank you for that and it is not just because my first name is Dyno and my last initial is P but one the things I like about the film especially about The Masters is how real and authentic everything feels from the performances to the sets to the costumes every element and I was just wondering what creative uses of computer generated images and computers in general being used in films.
How do you feel about that when it comes to making films look and feel real when it can just be generated on the computer.
Paul Thomas Anderson: How do I, well I don’t know I mean.
INTERVIEWER: This lady back here super heroes blockbusters.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Who uses Instagram here, right, right I don’t know.
I am sorry.
INTERVIEWER: Because it is inauthentic, is that it,
Paul Thomas Anderson: No it is authentic because it exists but it’s just amazing its weird it’s like creating something that makes it look old, you know it looks amazing it looks great it really don’t but something is not right I can’t figure it out what I like is that everybody can see it. I love that part of it I love how easy it is and that is fucking great but there is something else that just quite fit I am not sure what it is but that’s not to say he is in fog but we use this thing we want to find a way to mess it up you know it’s the same thing, crazy isn’t it.
INTERVIEWER: So no one needs to be too perfect to get where.
Paul Thomas Anderson: We want to be perfect, no we don’t want to be perfect we want it to look like it use to look you know and that’s great and like I don’t know this is like complicated conversation.
INTERVIEWER: Next question.
Q: Hi Paul I would like to know more about your encounter with Stanley Kubic on this Eye Wide Shut, because you last couple of films seems to be influenced by Kubic.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well let me just say I don’t think there is anybody who hasn’t been influenced by Staley Kubic it’s just like I mean I don’t know I can speak for other people.
INTERVIEWER: I have been told if you could raise your microphone.
Paul Thomas Anderson: I can’t speak for other directors but it feels like you know what he did was kind of you know a water mark for all of us just to say this is how you should treat what you do and this is how you should address it with attention passion and I was lucky enough to meet him and it was great privilege great honour and everything else.
I think I have said this before it’s no big mystery he was nice to me when he knew that I directed Boogie Nights but he was much nicer to me when he knew that I wrote it. There was a difference, there was a difference between being a kind of a person who directed thing than somebody who wrote and directed something which is pretty cool, that kind of stuck around and I count myself pretty lucky to have been there and that really resulted to going to meet Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman when they were making that film. (Pardon me I am burping).
INTERVIEWER: Up the top.
Q: Hey Paul this is the first feature film you shot without Robert Ellwood I really love the ascetic of The Master but I mean there were no hiber fast tracking with ends, there were long takes but there were no like tightly choreographs or movements heavy as any other films so I guess I am just wondering if it shift had anything to do with it and how it might affected your approach to cinema graphy.
Paul Thomas Anderson: No that didn’t have anything to do with Robert no being there or me hiring or anything like that, that’s just stuff of what you are doing you know mainly because of the story I just don’t know where we could have done that kind of stuff in this movie.
Anytime there is a kind of opportunity to do something that was a little energetic we were like so happy you know like Freddie getting in the boat we were like throwing down hundreds of feet of dolly tracks and we were jazzed up because most of time it is so straightforward and, yeah its weird when you are running a movie and you really kind of maybe some part of you wants to just fight the unleashed and kind of do something like wet band and crazy stuff but what’s coming out of you as a writer is not that.
They don’t add up and you just have to listen to, I think the writer wins everytime with that just kind of what you doing so yes good question but it has nothing to do with Robert or (42:00) me its more what the story is you know. i am so nervous because it is like a thousand people line up there and everybody is going to be asleep by the time we.
Q: Hi Paul my name is Ed I just want to ask you how do you respond to negative criticism I mean you know someone really gives the business to something you made do you take stock in it or do you stick to your own guns.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well yes, I mean I have to move away.
INTERVIEWER: Apparently you steel their drinks is what I noted.
Paul Thomas Anderson: You know it’s weird when you get negative criticism but it’s okay its good its fine I think.
INTERVIEWER: Do you rate reviews do you keep track.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Yes I try to especially when it comes out when the film comes out and you are sort of excited to find out what people thinks and you get some really good ones and you get some negative one and you just scratch your head and everyone is talking and then you kind of gauged the temperature of what might happen and then you are not really sure what to do. It is just what it is it doesn’t change anything you know.
I mean it doesn’t change anything at all it is all kind of ultimately, it’s like a fucking fart in the wind and gone, you know it doesn’t no, I am not being but it doesn’t mean anything.
INTERVIEWER: Are they good bad reviews and bad, bad reviews bad reviews that you feel are accurate or truthfully in some way other than not getting it.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Sure sometimes you sort of read something and say wait a minute I know what you mean okay, you know you kind of get defensive but you can understand what they are saying and you see and you kind of recognise you own weaknesses in what they are saying and perhaps they are right but then you find a way of justifying that.
INTERVIEWER: Up the top.
Q: Hi Paul I have another question about Elleswood, did you have any trepidation going into projects without him and you think you are will reunite for inherent for bust.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Sorry say it again please.
Q: Robert Ellswood, did you have any trepidation going in to The Master without him and do you think you will reunite for inherent bust.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Yes I was very, he is asking me if I was trepidatious about going into this film without Robert Ellswood who I have shot with before, of course I would it is very difficult to do just because I have worked with him and but I hope to shot inherent bust with him, that would be great that would be amazing.
INTERVIEWER: And this is the first time pinch (44:56) is all out a book to be adopted that’s right isn’t it.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: So no pressure or anything.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Has anybody read the book, know the book, you like it great good no one has read the book, that’s great.
Q: Hey Paul, I was just wondering if you are going to do any more film commentaries for your films in the future, I know you want your films to speak for themselves but I was just wondering if you could do at least like a technical commentary where you would be with your cinematographer and you could explain the technical issues of the movie.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Sure that would be great to do a commentary.
INTERVIEWER: Is that stuff you enjoy.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Well no not really but we should do that.
INTERVIEWER: One more question from up the top.
Q: Good night Paul my name is Scott welcome to Melbourne and thanks for making this wonderful film for us to see, my question is because you are such a prolific writer obviously if you would have taken some of the spring plate you made and turn them into books you probably would be a well regarded author, so my question is how did you know that film, how and when did you know that film would be your medium and not any other.
Paul Thomas Anderson: You know I mean listen, if I could make a living be a writer like a real writer novelist I probably would have done that it would have been great because you know that would be amazing that seems to me would be an amazing life to live to be able to do that.
I never felt comfortable, I never felt I was that, I didn’t practice to do that I always thought that like you know it wasn’t until like you know 10 years ago that I thought that would be a really good idea, I thought that writing was screen writing was which it’s kind of pretend writing. I don’t mean that as a demeaning thing it is only half of what you doing and I wish I was a good enough writer other than that’s what I was practice that to be because that’s hard and that’s something else, it is a great question.
INTERVIEWER: Is it what you fall in love with first, did you fall in love with movie before.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Yes exactly, that is exactly what it was and I didn’t know what writing books was really I thought you just wrote because you just make a movie you know is like and then the other thing came afterwards, but great question.
Q: Hi my question is about Johnny Greenwood doing the music videos for your last two movies I was just wondering how you end up working with him and if you would work with him again in the future.
Paul Thomas Anderson: This is like a Johnny Greenwood school I would live to work with Johnny Greenwood for as long as he would like to work with me. I feel privilege to know him and work with him amazing composure who you know who looks like he doesn’t know what he is doing but actually does and it is my honour to have him making music for what we are doing.
It is great amazing, when I same movies when I watch when I grew up I was watching Stephen Spielberg’s movie with John Williams I was like that’s how you do it like music and what the movie is they bash together like there is no, not that I am comparing us at all but just like that was what influenced me, that’s how it should be like these two things smashed together and kind of like garb, you know you are supposed to smash an audience with that stuff.
That was my influence I thought that’s how you are suppose to do it and then I saw Bernard Herman, you know what Bernard Herman did in Alfred Hitchcock and stuff like that, that’s what you are supposed to do, so that’s have been my feeling that music should be in movies and working with Johnny makes me feel like I have a great collaborator who just makes sounds that feel you know kind of expand how my mind or my ear might hear something.
INTERVIEWER: Up the top.
Q: Hi, hello a lot of your films are about transformation especially this one and I am just interested in your personal experience with the process and whether you actually done any of that stuff and how you are moving toward freedom through that because it seems to be a theme or whether Tom got any secrets for you.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Tom got any secrets for me. Well I don’t thanks for your question I think you know when you get to looking into something that you are going to do as a story you just can’t help but affect what you think about your life I mean hopefully you know it sort of it would be foolish to kind of spend a couple of years of your life on something and think it is not going to affect you.
You hope that it is not going to affect you, you hope that it kind of opens your eyes to something and make you smarter and better cooler and happier and all that stuff I mean otherwise fuck why do it.
Q: So you do it.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Do I, no, yes for sure no, for sure I feel like you know if you are into something and you are kind a looking into it the point of getting silent by something is that it has value not that it doesn’t have value you know I mean there is no it acts like a dead end. It just why would you spend your time doing that just to make fun of something I don’t know it doesn’t seem right to me.
INTERVIEWER: Down below.
Q: Hi Paul I feel like you need sort of a really tough question, your film seems to have a sort of a real.
Paul Thomas Anderson: This is the last one.
Paul Thomas Anderson on Filmmaking
Paul Thomas Anderson: This cut happened by accident where he comes from the back seat to the front seat, it’s a result that some of the elements actually that I’d shot that took John from the back seat to the front had been damaged, the negative had actually been cut and damaged and I had no way to get from the back to the front. Essentially I was forced into what I think is actually is kind of a cool, creative jump cut and looks real interesting, and you put a little horn by in there, and this sort of sweeps by and you’ve got kind of a good rhythm, a good snap cut you know, and I probably would not have come up with it if not for damaged negative elements. The pants-on-fire gag which another sort of concept which is really trying to take that battled story structure concept to a new level, which is you got to suck them in within the first five minutes. Well I agree with that concept and hopefully you can just make it so kind of punk rock and weird that it really kind of works in an interesting way, not that you start with an explosion, you start with those small little puff up pant fire. That I think is kind of interesting and my friend Scott Frank actually was a great writer so I was moved when he said…it was a very long cut, my first cut, and he said “You had me …even though this is the most boring fucking movie ever made right now…you had me because of that pants-on-fire gag cause I waiting for the pants on fire the whole time.”
I said “Well that’s what it should be in an ideal world, it’s that kind of thing.” And I also think it’s very interesting to always sort of flash to something that’s talked about, like Trufeaux did, you know “May my mother drop dead if…my grandmother will drop dead right now I’m lying.” Boom! Cut to the mother.
I sort of revisited this, or did it again in Boogie Nights with the name and the drug dealer thinking up his name and flash the neon sign. It’s a good little trick and it’s a fun one and I think a fair one to kind of count on.
I thought that I would be able to talk my…I’m not new enough at this that I can’t really talk about my process, I’ve only done it twice, you know what I mean, and I’ve only …I’ve only done two movies and I’m writing my third, I mean I’ve written other things but I have a different process every time. I know certain mile markers are certainly the same, but I’m kind of finding out that I don’t know my fucking process, that it’s always kind of brand new and each movie has a life of its own. This movie I wrote very very very very very very quickly, I mean in like two weeks and that was so fast, but it just came vomiting out of me, I mean it was clear that it had been building up inside of me for a long time, you know what I mean, a lot of the issues. Maybe a lot of guilt had been building up in me and it just came vomiting out as a screenplay. Boogie Nights took much longer, I mean that was so…and now the thing I’m writing I’ve been writing for seven months, I’ve never written for seven months, but wow it’s so astronomical, it’s huge, it’s everything you know.
But I…so, no is what I’m trying to say is I have not fucking idea what my process is.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Again Paul I think this is true of the really good directors, but there are many directors of whom this is not true. Paul has a really clear vision in his head of what he wants and he had it long before we got to Reno to shoot this scene, and I don’t know when that vision really materialized, maybe the moment that you tore that last page out of the typewriter maybe. I don’t know, for him when it…but it’s clear when you’re working with Paul on a film that he knows exactly where he wants to go and he does see this whole thing in his head very clearly. And so that like matters of style for example, matters of style…I don’t think we really discussed this, I mean there was no discussion where Paul sat us down and said, “Now guys, about style. Here’s the style that we’re…” We never had a talk, we never even used the word I don’t think, it didn’t come up. But we all knew we were on the same page immediately almost.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Let’s say I’ve written this movie so far as John C. Riley gets to the slot machine and the scam and he starts to the scam, and then he performs the scam properly and he gets a free room. Now there’s a fade out after that chapter and it goes to two years later. Now when writing I could have written myself all the way up to John C. Riley, fade out, he’s in the room, he’s got a hotel room. I probably wrote three or four different branches off of that, one that was fade up, it’s the next day; fade up, it’s two weeks later; fade up, it’s two years later; fade up, it’s like a flashback, you know what I mean, and I don’t even remember what they were but you’re just trusting a sort of tangent that you might follow cause…I never have writer’s block, and that’s not a sort of a brag or anything because I kind of have the opposite in a way, which is too much shit going on in my brain, and believe me it’s just as disastrous because you can’t follow a thread, it becomes very hard to follow a thread. The challenge becomes not getting a thread, the challenge becomes like “Ah which one do I grab on to?” And so I will have written four different paths for John C. Riley and Phillip Baker Hall to follow the next day after they get the hotel room. And then it’s a matter of sort of deciphering which one is the right one and which one is the most interesting to me; which one is the most natural. Was it the first one that came to me? Was it the one that came because of this, that and the other thing? It’s like a fucking Rubik’s Cube and it’s very hard to talk about, A) without sounding pretentious;
B) without kind of…without someone sitting next to me and watching me the whole time I write a script, you know what I mean.
The way that I write dialog I think is best said by certain actors, Phillip Baker Hall chief among them. The way that I write dialog exactly to the T is not best really for John Ryan. John Ryan used to loosen it up a little bit. John Ryan used to put in his own breaks and pauses, kind of ignore my punctuation a little bit, and that’s what’s most successful for him and most successful for me watching and listening to him. But for Phillip Baker Hall or Bill Macy they do it and should do it spot on to how I’ve written it. And you kind of discover what each actor needs, and which actors should have more room with the dialog, and which actors just need to be choral led and made to say it exactly as is. There are some actors whose greatest gift is not improvisation, and there are some actors whose greatest gift is improvisation and it’s just kind of walking this very sort of fine line between how you kind of keep things on track but keep it natural.
Paul Thomas Anderson: So I guess when you make a movie your equivalent of commas and semi-colons and periods is the opticals, like dissolves or fade-outs or even something that’s not an optical like a cut the black, it’s a sort of cinematic punctuation let’s say. And first 20 minutes, the first reel essentially is Sydney and John which is essentially just the two of them. Again that’s very influenced by Melvin and Howard and sort of taking the notion that if you can introduce two characters who are interesting enough and have them talk for 20 minutes that you’ll just kind of stick with them on their journey that follows. And I kind of took that and ran with it I think, and my first reel of this movie is two guys talking, there’s a very sort of pointed and specific punctuation, which is a fade-out, at the end of the reel, and the title card says “Two years later.”
Now people thought it was abrupt and…they can go fuck themselves. You know if it’s a criticism then it shifts from a character piece to more of a new art piece, then fuck, that’s a good one, I’ll take that. That’s sounds great to me, I’d love to see a movie like that you know that somehow shifts from being a character piece to a new art piece to …then a sort of a little chamber drama in the middle you know. Fuck yeah! I’ll take that, and I think that’s a good thing, mixing it up a bit.
I’m obviously a very big fan of the gangster genre, and one of my notions in writing this movie was to…you look at like White Heat, or you look at They Drive By Night which isn’t really about gangsters, well it’s about bad people you know, but I just remember watching that movie a lot when I was writing A Battle of Flamborough, which is a great fucking movie, which is such a big influence for me. Battle of Flamborough, such a major influence on this movie, if you rent it you’ll see that I probably owe fucking John Pernoveaux a lot of money in…for ripping him off cause it’s just a great movie.
Paul Thomas Anderson Anyway my notion was is that you never…imagine if one of those guys lived, like imagine James Cagney doesn’t die at the end of White Heat, you know what I mean, imagine that he lives and 30/40 years later, 50 years later even, and he’s got to pay for what he’s done in his own head like sticking with one of those gangster movies and kind of going, “You know what mother fucker, you’re going to have to pay for something down the line, whether it’s in your own mind before you go to sleep at night or whether it’s to somebody else.” And so that was the kind of notion that I had, like “Fuck, let’s see James Cagney like trying to make up for what he did wrong going back to one of these…the people that we saw him kill in the movie and go like ‘Fuck how do I reach out? How do I repent?” And that’s sort of where this came from.
It must have cost you four grand to run a 38, Jesus! The night over at the El Dorado I saw a cat have a heart attack right at the crap table.
I don’t put much of that sort of thing into the script, that’s either there and I’m trusting the actor so much that he’s going to get that or I’m going to let him know that in a rehearsal situation, that…or that I’ve written it kind of properly enough that…let me put it this way, if I write “Sydney shakes hands with Jimmy, says…Sydney says “Jimmy nice to meet you,” and then “Beat”, and then “Have a seat.” That beat is going to mean something to Phillip. Hopefully that will read as something…Phillip is going to decipher, you’ve written a beat here, there’s a notion going on here, there’s something going on. He knows who he’s playing, he knows he’s playing Sydney fucking from Atlantic City. Sydney fucking gangster; Sydney with this kind of history. He’s spotting, I’m looking at Sam Jackson, I’m looking at someone I don’t want around my surrogate son. I’m spotting that he’s black which guys got to mean something. He’s spotting that there’s a power play here. He’s spotting that …I’ve placed Phillip in this booth where his back is to the wall, you know what I mean, Phillip’s going “And my fucking back is against the wall…”
Yes of course your back’s against the wall. Sydney is not going to fucking sit in the booth where his back is not against the wall, he’s just not. So all this stuff is going to go at work and that’s where all that stuff hopefully gets compressed into four letters, B-E-A-T, you know what I mean. And good actors find that and they know that, and they know that already, and if they know me they know that that’s what I mean. And we can talk about it specifically but it’s almost like it’s a mile marker, an asterisk that says “Yeah there’s some…I talk about here… beat…good.
Paul Thomas Anderson There’s two things that I love here, listening to the music by John Bryan and Michael Penn… You’re listening to John Bryan play the xylophone, and this is the sort of Christmastime theme that they came up with, it’s sort of the xylophone lounge kind of version, it’s just so…great and so wonderfully played by some brilliant brilliant musicians.
As we move into Phillip Baker Hall we’re about to go into the steady-cam shot. One of my favorite things is to watch actors walk, or actors who walk well…and Phillip Baker Hall walks like a motherfucker. God he’s good! And you know this is just a shot of a guy walking but it’s a guy in his setting, and it’s a guy in his world and I think it’s a kind of cool thing to just take a breath and a relaxing moment to watch someone sort of walk through their world.
I don’t know where I got this kind of bug in head, but hit it big. You see hit it big there on the square board which is one of those just big accidents that happened. This steadicam, this little thing they call steadicam, this S-T-E-A-D-I C-A-M, it’s this really tricking fucking thing because I think it’s really overused, and it can be overused if a director’s lazy because they’re very easy to use, they’re very quick, if a guy straps it on you can kind of move anywhere with it, and they’re very much abused. But if you realize what it feels like, which is kind of dreamy and kind of floaty, and you apply that and you know that that’s what it’s going to do, then you’re using it well.
This frame of Phillip as he comes through the door, this is a 300 millimeter lens, I remember this lens well, actually we…
Question: Is this coming out or going in?
Paul Thomas Anderson : This is coming out. I remember playing a gag and telling you to keep walking and walking and walking and then stopping, and then walking because it’s a very hard sort of shot to put a focus on for Mike Reba who’s the focus puller for both this movie and for Boogie Nights as well.