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“When Used Well, Mirrors in Film Can Create Stunning and Confounding Images”: Bill Benz | The Nowhere Inn

Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein appear in The Nowhere Inn by Bill Benz (courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Whether capturing or creating a world, the objects onscreen tell as much of a story as the people within it. Whether sourced or accidental, insert shot or background detail, what prop or piece of set decoration do you find particularly integral to your film? What story does it tell?

Mirrors are almost always a production headache. They (bear with me as I describe what a mirror does) reflect all the c-stands and lights and crew members that you were trying to hide from frame in your cramped indie film location that was never intended to be “a set”. However, when used well, mirrors in film can create stunning and confounding images. They provide an opportunity for creative blocking and can help make a scene more lively than your typical shot-reverse-shot. They are a tool for metaphor; the actor’s reflection is cinema’s cleanest visual representation of self analysis and discovery (#1 is the Matrix spoon and #2 is Matrix gooey mirror, everyone agrees).

This is why we loaded The Nowhere Inn with mirrors. A key theme of Annie and Carrie’s script was the concept of analyzing why people behave the way they do. What is someone’s real persona and what’s an act… and what’s the difference?

Throughout the film Annie and Carrie are enveloped by echoed images of themselves — dressing rooms, video screens, tour bus windows — but my favorite example came from simple luck. While the production design team altered much of the hotel bar location, we kept the polished glass cocktail tables that were already there. In a moment of self-doubt, Annie looks down and sees her reflection in the table beneath her martini. It was always in the script for her to catch herself in the mirror, but to have it be from below — recalling Narcissus at the Fountain — and for it to conveniently duplicate a similar image much later in the movie, were both strokes of luck that make this cocktail table the most notable “onscreen object” to me.

And yes, like all the other mirrors, it was a pain in the ass to shoot.

Sundance Responses 2020

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