...Or, 'How Public Transportation, Running Out of Time and "Party Down" Created Two Perfect Movie Minutes'
-by Leslye Headland
If there’s one thing I learned making a movie, it’s that every frame has a pretty epic story behind it. Here’s one about the scene with Lizzy and Adam on the bed in Bachelorette.
In 2007, during a bus ride from Beverly Hills back to Hollywood (I didn’t have a car for two years), The Proclaimers “500 Miles” came on my iPod shuffle. It was a song that meant so much to me when I was little (Benny & Joon!) but I hadn't heard it in forever. I decided to put it in the scene where my pokerfaced ex-lovers, Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Clyde (Adam Scott), reconnect. There’s nothing like nostalgia to melt a cynical heart.
Fast forward to 2011. I’m in my first week of shooting. I’m on set with Lizzy and Adam. [Click for More]
I'm still nervous around them because I'm the HUGEST "PARTY DOWN" FAN EVER. They were a DREAM pairing for these characters. So I'm sort of awkward and not really sure how to talk like a human. Anyway we're preparing to shoot the Proclaimers moment. And we’re running out of time. Our schedule for the film was crunched in general, being a low budget indie, but this particular day was wildly stressful. And now I'm really scared because I'm gonna have to tell the Tracy and Hepburn of my lifetime that:
We're gonna do their love scene in the master. No coverage.
Now I had always this weird idea that this scene should be done in the master. It felt to me like the opposite sentiment of the last shot of The Graduate. Elaine and Benjamin were mismatched by their spontaneity. Gena and Clyde were connected by their history. To me, it made sense to shoot two completely different scenes the exact same way.
But NO COVERAGE at all. That's pretty bold.
Lizzy and Adam were hesitant at first. Only because they loved the scene too and didn’t want me, as a first time director, to sacrifice anything important for the sake of making the day. All the actors on the film were supportive and protective like that. I assured them this was what I had always secretly wanted. It’s just that now we HAD to do it. No safety net. They were on board.
We rehearsed. They took their places. I called Action. I played the first few bars of the song then turned the music off. And then I watched Lizzy and Adam embody the melting of two like-minded cynical hearts. What you see in the film they did without music. Without a lot of discussion ahead of time. With very little direction from me. They just got it. All in one long take.
Some weeks, later in post-production, I was shocked to discover, when my music editor laid in the Proclaimers track, that the music timed out perfectly. It’s as if the ghost of the Proclaimers had scored the scene even though we filmed it in silence. He even mixed it so it went from source to soundtrack almost imperceptibly.
Whenever I watch that scene, I’m blown away by what filmmaking is. A small little random idea. Followed through by expert artists. Fine-tuned to make it magical. It’s almost like Gena and Clyde’s kiss itself. Painful reality melting into cinematic romance. Sweeping you off your feet. Falling in love all over again.
[Editor's Note: A huge thank you to writer/director/trueoriginal Leslye Headland for guest blogging for the day. Previously she blogged about films that shaped her life and how she cast her leading ladies -Nathaniel R]