Film Courage: What’s your formula or process for telling a good story?
Jay Silverman, photographer and director of OFF THE MENU: This is a great question. I think storytelling…I am not a verbal person, I am a visual person and constantly if you’re Steven Spielberg, you self-edit before you even go on a stage (go on location) you already know you want bing…bing…bing…bing.
If you’re really fortunate and I always used to say this when I was doing commercials, Ridley Scott builds a 180-foot wide set and when the scene is over with, you look at it and they only use 12-feet of it. He’s got that luxury and in independent filmmaking you don’t have that luxury and quite frankly you have to be intuitive enough to recognize what your quest is. In storytelling it is Is that scene really necessary where the little girl goes and knocks on the door and says Hey, you want to come out and play? Can we just cut to her already there already there? Then you start self-editing and typically this is motivated by your desire to keep the story intact but be inventive. We had to do that all the time and I think especially having…even though Jen [screenwriter Jen Goldson] wrote the script, Joe Gamache who is one of the producers is also a writer and he was able to on the fly help us simplify scenes that were sometimes over complicated and I’m not talking about the writing, I’m talking about having to shoot it from six angles.
And it’s interesting because when you read or hear interviews like you’re doing on me, great filmmakers typically (especially someone like Clint Eastwood) will actually talk about the fact that Why’d that scene only come from one point of view? And you he goes That’s all I needed and even the actors complained. They wanted Don’t I get a close-up? And I thought to myself Clint Eastwood has got a lot of balls you know to be able to wake up in the morning and just say No!
It’s so funny because I’m always fascinated by reading backstories about other filmmakers and it takes a lot guts and a lot of self-confidence to take the most dramatic scene in your movie…my last film GIRL ON THE EDGE there’s a very climactic, dramatic moment where Peter Coyote is talking to Taylor Spreitler (the star of the film) and it’s a very serious moment and we just organically felt this isn’t going to be covered in and it will be all handheld and we’ll do it from a couple moves on the fly. But we will not do new setups, we will just keep filming. And that works for me and it worked for the film because from an editorial standpoint you’re not putting together five angles, emotions that are drifting.
One moment you might feel it’s great to talk about this and get close and the next take you might not. I think actors appreciate that giving them the freedom to bring out storytelling in a way that is coming from their hearts.
Question For The Viewers: How do you know you are telling a good story?
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About OFF THE MENU (description from OffTheMenuMovie.com):
Romantic Comedy An unlikely heir to a Mexican fast-food empire goes ‘cuisine’ hunting for the next culinary big thing, and finds himself in a small, dusty New Mexican town where foodies come from all over to salivate over the culinary treats of a local, authentic, and feisty female chef.