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in Filmmaking
on Oct 29, 2007

Steve Buscemi’s Interview, which Filmmaker featured on its cover last issue, opened in London this week and there’s been some U.K. press about the movie and its American shoot. And while I don’t consider myself a reflexive stars-and-stripes-forever rah-rah’er, I found the comments in this Guardian piece entitled “The Final Cut” by the slain Dutch director Theo Van Gogh’s “creative consultant” Doesjka van Hoogdalem about shooting in American both naive and annoying. Much of the piece is devoted to van Hoogdalem’s wide-eyed wonder at the wacky wastefulness of U.S. filmmaking.

From the piece:

However, maintaining the authenticity of the Van Gogh style was only possible because producers Weiss and Van de Westelaken were able to bring Van Gogh’s Dutch crew to the US. “We had a good lawyer who managed to persuade the US authorities that only the Dutch team could make this film,” says Van Hoogdalem.

They had a stiff battle with the unions, who refused to accept the Dutch side’s insistence that only a few people were needed – or desired – on set. Van Hoogdalem herself acted as both director’s assistant and script adviser until the unions protested that she was doing someone out of a job, at which point the role of “creative consultant” was invented for her.

“We had to fight with them constantly about everything, from taking lunch breaks at a specific time, even when we were in the middle of a scene, to the number of people we had on set at any one time,” she says. There were rows over everything from gaffer tape – with the Americans wanting to hire a gaffer-tape lorry when a single piece of tape was required – to the suggestion that a “loop group” from the Screen Actors Guild be hired at a cost of $5,000 a day to produce the background muttering sounds of a restaurant crowd. When Van de Westelaken suggested sticking a microphone in a real restaurant and recording the sound, the Americans on the crew “were amazed, and didn’t believe it could be done,” he says. “We said, ‘We do it like this all the time.’ In the end, they came to love our way of working.”

Um, yeah, if you shoot a union film in the U.S., there are labor rules. You might want to check them out before you come here. The crew does eat every six hours. People have specific jobs. Yes, it is a way of working. And I wouldn’t listen to whoever said you can’t record wild sound in a restaurant. In fact, I’ll give Van Hoogdalem a tip for the next trip to the U.S. — email me and I’ll hook you up with a sound FX guy who already has these sounds on a CD.

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