Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cinematic Losses

I was very saddened by the passing of the great filmmaker Sydney Pollack this week, which of course only reminds me of the other cinematic loss suffered this year with the passing of Anthony Minghella.

I've been fortunate enough to have had the honor of interviewing both of these film greats in years past and while I can't say I knew them personally, felt compelled to remember them here.

I interviewed Mr. Pollack as part of the Interpreter cover story for Creative Screenwriting Magazine and he was very generous with his time for the interview. As co-writers Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian explained in the article, Mr. Pollack had a passion for storytelling and took the development process very seriously. While exhausting at times, Mr. Pollack strove for the story to be the best it could be and refused to settle for any sort of short-cutting.

He was very supportive of our coverage and frankly I'd had it in the back of my mind to try and figure out some sort of a retrospective piece on his work. Yet, I'm sad to say I never got around to doing it. I felt lucky to have interviewed him and as a fan of his work have always had the deepest amount of respect for him.

I first interviewed Mr. Minghella for Cold Mountain as the cover story in Creative Screenwriting Magazine and he was also kind enough to come spend time with us for a screening and Q&A of the film. I had recorded this Q&A although it was in the days before podcasting and the tape seems to have been slightly damaged, but probably fixable. I'm hoping to one day restore the footage and get it online.

Mr. Minghella was a fascinating interview since his process, especially in his research stage, was very in-depth and focused. Upon the completion of research he seemed to store the information in his deep in the back of his mind allowing it to bubble forth as needed while writing his scripts. In effect if he remembered something he researched, he deemed it worthy enough to be put in his script as opposed to having a stack of papers by him when he wrote.

After the screening he stayed around to chat with our readers and subscribers and sign various books and posters. A few years later he was kind enough to double-book a screening with us, meaning he drove across town from one screening and Q&A to ours. While many busy writer/directors can always do this - few wind up doing it as it really takes a lot of time and energy to do two Q&As in one night. I made sure that we were the last stop of the night so that we'd have more time for our Q&A.

That Q&A for Breaking and Entering can be heard in Itunes as part of Creative Screenwriting's podcast. Again Mr. Minghella was very kind to our readers and subscribers afterwards and his presence on the big screen will be greatly missed.

Both Mr. Minghella and Mr. Pollack's company Mirage had a bunch of interesting projects in various stages of development. It will be interesting to see what the fate of those projects become. I hope that somehow a few of them make it to the screen as they always had such good taste.

Ultimately, talented filmmakers live on through their films and based on the work left behind by these two greats, I'm confident that they shall be admired and studied for years to come. -JG