Above is an old photo of the original schoolhouse on City Island. For the opening montage introducing the island, I’m looking for home movie footage or stills that show the place in period, like above. If anybody reading has anything to contribute leave a comment and we’ll get in touch.
This past Friday night we shot the denoument of the movie, a kind of mad explosion of truth telling in the middle of the street as the Rizzo family reveals all their secrets. Sun went down at 8:30 and it took another hour to “light up the sky”. We began shooting at nine-thirty–nine pages of dialogue to be covered about twenty-five seperate camera set-ups by two seperate cameras. Lunch was at eleven PM and we’d covered only a quarter of the material. We came back in and kept working. By three AM I was convinced that we wouldn’t finish and would fall behind schedule–a disaster when making a film as tightly budgeted as this (it can actually mean not finishing the scene at all–ever…) We “turned around” (i.e. turned our lights in the opposite direction so as to shoot out the reverse angle continuity) at three thirty. And by five-thirty, as the night sky turned blue with morning’s arrival, we finished the final set up, completing the sequence in its entirety and not even dropping a shot.
How the hell did we do this? I’m not sure. But I will say this: get a great crew–which I have–and stick to a well organized plan (which we did) and those guys can make anything happen for you. And above all: GET GREAT ACTORS. Andy, Juliana, Steven, Dominique, Emily and Ezra we’re all on board and they were champions. Andy–who had the most challenging amount of stuff to do–was hoarse by the end of it. But he never wavered and his exemplary professionalism motivated everyone else.
And what was my part in all this? I’m starting to agree with Orson Welles that a director isn’t necessarily the most important thing in a movie. Yes I staged the scene–with the actors guidance of course–and yes I planned the camera coverage (with Vanja Cernjul, my excellent DP). But I had the easiest job. The thing to remember about directing is that it really is a matter of setting events in motion and letting the talented people around you do their best work. Except for the enormous amount of stress I was undergoing (three AM was truly dark for me), I had the least amount to do.
Since it’s the weekend I’ll post something not precisely related to the movie but somehow reminiscent of it. When I wrote the “City Island” script, I had Tony Bennett playing in the background the whole time. His music is always linked, in my mind, to this story. Furthermore, Tony is a Bronx boy. And his birthday is today. So is my father’s–and he was a Bronx boy too. Crazy! Here then is Tony Bennett–not exactly at his most attractive photogenically but at the peak of his 60’s vocal excellence. This was from a Dean Martin show. And Happy Birthday, Frank De Felitta, eighty-seven years young today.