I shot a scene from a new short film called Therapist the other night.
I cast Michael Coleman and Jessica Bishop months ago. They were given only an outline: three paragraphs with a vague description of the story.
When Jessica sent me a list of questions, I told her to answer them herself.
I had Mike watch Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, The King of Marvin Gardens, and Carnal Knowledge.
I had Jess watch Oleanna and Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan.
A day before filming they were each sent the dialog for the scene. Jessica said she would have the lines memorized by the time of our shoot the next night. I told her not to.
We met at 7 pm. We crowded into the little room where I sleep on a red couch.
There was no crew. There were no lights. The budget was $2.99 plus tax for the Boone’s Farm Sangria which I poured into two glasses and the actors started to drink.
I asked the actors if they had any questions before we started. They asked some. I pulled out the camera and we did a take. It was long and repetitive like a first draft. They each did small things I wouldn’t have imagined or directed.
I shut off the camera. “Do you want to talk about it, or just go again?” I asked. We talked some and then went again.
I don’t know how many takes we did.
Jessica asked about “sound” at some point when my roommate hopped in the shower and the neighbors started playing music in the front lawn.
“I don’t care about sound. As long as they can hear what you’re saying. I don’t give a shit if it sounds bad or looks bad. I want it to look ugly.”
I said something like that.
The actors got better and they got worse. They asked questions and so did I and we all found answers. They failed; they succeeded.
The room grew hot. Mike and Jess were greasy with sweat. We were almost there, close to one good take.
Jess asked if we could take a break from the heat. I said yes. She was about to get up. I thought better. No. Do another take and another. If we walk out of this cramped little room right now we will lose something. I knew it.
A few minutes later, they got it.