Somehow the past three days vanished in a haze of life-cathing-up errands, phone calls and the truly transitionary shift from production to post. Said “transition” for me takes the form of a particularly strange anxiety dream–this exact dream has happened to me after every movie. In it, I am standing on the set waiting to shoot but NOBODY HAS A COPY OF THE SCRIPT. At first I stay calm and tell myself that since I know the script I can deal without it. But I can’t. I need to shotlist, I need to read the lines, I need to tell the actors something–and all this requires a COPY OF THE SCRIPT. And everybody becomes aware of the fact that not only can’t I tell them what to do, they can’t help me with the easiest request possible–to hand me a COPY OF THE SCRIPT. Embarrasment mounts and then turns to anger. Why are there no COPIES OF THE SCRIPT? I wind up thrusting myself down on the ground, like a child, and pounding the pavement: until there is a COPY OF THE SCRIPT in my hand, I announce, nothing will get done! How will that make everybody feel? Pretty silly, right? Still, this tantrum doesn’t produce the one thing that I need: a COPY OF THE SCRIPT. Worse, the dream ends as a humiliation for me–the crew doesn’t ultimately owe me a COPY OF THE SCRIPT…and it is plain that it was I who should have had this under control. I sit, angry, bereft, humiliated and completely de-authoritized. Then I wake up.
Now, like I said, I’ve had this exact dream at the end of every film I’ve made. Which is strange enough. But last night, I had dinner with one of our pre-eminent filmmakers, Fred Schepisi (“Plenty”, “Roxanne”, “Six Degrees Of Seperation”). His son Nick was part of our A.D. team and Fred visited set one day when we were in the city. We hit it off and made a dinner plan which turned into a lovely evening of confessionals–directors of all ages, backgrounds and reputations share so many of the same problems. (Remember the brilliant scene in “Ed Wood” when Ed meets Orson Welles at the bar of Musso and Frank’s and they have a surprising amount of common-ground?) After going through with Fred the “which actors to avoid” conversation, and discussing the improbables of so many productions, we got into the “coming down from production” scenario. And dig this: Fred’s had the exact same dream of being on the set without a COPY OF THE SCRIPT. I felt both vindicated and entirely less alone than I thought I was. Even Fred Schepisi has this ridiculous reflexive post-production nocturnal scenario.
And I have a feeling that he’s not the only other director who has this dream. What an interesting poll this would be to take; how many directors have this dream? Are they all good directors? Do the bad ones not have the dream because they don’t find anything unusual in being out of control? What specific deep-seated neurosis inherent in directors does this dream speak to? Lack of control? False empowerment syndrome? Complete and utterly lunatic lack of faith in the organism that is the movie set? All I suppose, but the latter is the most provocative; for a movie set, when functional, is an organizational thing of beauty, a mini-society in which seemingly anything–given the right equipment–can be accomplished. But a movie set bereft of a single important element–an actor who wont come out of a trailer, a director who can’t decide what to do next, a camera that doesn’t work, even NO COPY OF THE SCRIPT BEING AVAILABLE–such a set is a truck parked on a hill with the e-brake suddenly being released. The descent into chaos threatens the process at every moment. Staving it off is the triumph of a good day’s work.