Sunday morning’s Directors on Directing Panel discussion played out like the film class that everyone is dying to take: There was educated discussion, rational debate and that one kid who just loves to make an ass of himself for the sake of a good laugh. The event featured a number of the minds behind 2005’s cinematic masterpieces, including Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”), Hany Abu-Assad (“Paradise Now”), Duncan Tucker (“Transamerica”), Mike Binder (“Man About Town”) – the panel’s aforementioned funnyman – Paul Haggis (“Crash”), Bennett Miller (“Capote”) and Thomas Bezucha (“The Family Stone”). Moderated by Peter Bart, topics ranged from budget issues and “Brokeback Mountain” to the oh-so-crucial role that festivals have begun to play for smaller scale films.
“[When you go to a festival,] you play to people that love films, and if that’s deceptive, I’m OK with that,” Binder joked. Tucker recalled struggling to sell “Transamerica” less than a year ago: “[People told me,] ‘We’re not gonna come see your tranny movie,’ then we got this prize at [the Berlin Film Festival] and we got this review in Variety [Magazine]. [It was] a review you’d sell your grandchildren for.”
“When you don’t have Tom Cruise, you need some help,” Hood added.
And it is with this help that many of the panelists feel the industry might be changing. “The audience appetite is stronger for the experiences we aren’t familiar with, more so than our politicians would have us believe,” Bezucha declared during a digression about “Brokeback Mountain.”
While they agreed to disagree on many of their favorite films, personal motives and strategies for dealing with actors, the panel seemed to reach unanimity about one thing: Directing is, no doubt, the toughest job on set.
“You can’t be afraid to disagree with everybody. You have to be very comfortable,” Haggis asserted.
“You know if the whole thing goes down, you’re the guy going down [with it],” Binder said.
“Movies are all I ever cared about,” Bezucha recalled. “The only thing that made me nervous was working with actors.”