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“WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” director, Barry Levinson

In making an independent movie, you go into it understanding that you have certain limitations and therefore you have to find ways to compensate and not sacrifice content or the essence of what you are attempting to do. What Just Happened? was shot on a very lean 33-day schedule, and there were more than 80 locations. I shoot fast so it wasn’t a problem, but where I actually found myself constrained in terms of dollars was in the editing room when we were choosing the music for the film.

There’s a good amount of source music, and you find yourself becoming attached to a particular song because you have been living with it for awhile as you edit. Then you get a quote to license the song, and in some cases, the dollars are way beyond what we could afford. You try to explain to music publishers and record companies that you’re not working with a major studio budget, but some are not amenable to adjusting their price. So throughout the postproduction schedule songs were constantly flying in and out of the film.

You fall in love with a piece of music and how it works with the film, and then sometimes you’re hit with a reality that you just can’t make it work with the dollars you have available. For instance, “Chan Chan” from Buena Vista Social Club was a song that I thought would have worked extremely well in the film, but the price became too prohibitive. I even spoke with Ry Cooder and he was sympathetic and tried to help out, but whoever it was who controlled the licensing of the songs from that film gave us a number that was not doable. So after listening to a couple thousand more songs and a lot of phone calls, you finally end up with a balance of source songs that support the film, and you hope you haven’t lost some special moment along the way.

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Saturday, Jan. 19, 6:15 pm — Eccles Theatre, Park City]

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