& MARC ABRAHAM
Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers, Captain America, Godzilla) and Marc Abraham (Children of Men, RoboCop, Dawn of The Dead) are at Savannah Film Festival to talk about their new film I Saw the Light, a passionate look on the story of country music legend Hank Williams. We had to pick their brains on their process of getting into character and getting actors to make characters come alive...and we were not disappointed. Check out the interview below!
EV: Elizabeth, Is there a specific process that you have to get into character or is a case by case basis?
EO: I think it changes from job to job but there’s definitely a routine I’m starting to figure out since it’s only been about 5 years of working for me. I haven’t done a job without a dialect in a very long time, but I love doing them because it forces you to get really really specific about your intonation, your intention, your meaning and it forces you to do all the script work super detailed and technically. So that’s always step one for me, doing dialect stuff. Also a woman I work with, Sarah Shepherd, a dialect coach. She becomes this backboard of ideas while we’re talking about dialect, while she’s correcting my sound changes, while we’re talking about ya know do we think these exact words are lending to the accent or preventing us from being able to do the accent better. And at the same time we’re just talking about the script. She’s a creative person, she’s a smart person, and she becomes like a teammate of mine. I’ve already told her that I’m terrified to do a job where I don’t need an accent. I like having here there as part of that process as a coach in a way. But that is the beginning part of the process for me.
EV: Ok yeah I get that, I’m sure having an accent to produce helps you get into character.
EO: Totally, and when you’re on the day working you do a warm up and you slowly get into, like while you’re doing hair and makeup and things and it helps start your day off doing dialect warmups and helps you get back to whatever the sound makes you feel or move.
MA: Well, my process is the first thing I need is to find something I’m really passionate about. I just have to be really really passionate about something because otherwise, I start out passionate and then by the third I read what I’ve written and think, “What a bunch of crap”. So it’s at least got to have some life to it. Then my process is to do as much research as I can when I’m writing something. Once I have something that I feel really good about, I continue to write and re-write it and play with it. But when I prepare to make the movie, my process is almost totally based on fear. It’s scary. Ya know, “What am I gonna do”, “Where’s the camera going”, “What am I gonna say”. So what I do is I really go through the material that I’ve written over and over again, constantly trying to imagine how I want to feel when I see it rendered. Then really having a strong idea about what I’m trying to accomplish. Then using my words, because thats the strongest means of communication for me from a literary standpoint to express that to my collaborators. So when I first sit with a cinematographer, I don’t say “I’m thinking about a 50mm lens here or I think were gonna go with the 150mm “. I just try to describe what I want the scene to do and give him some references. And an inversion of that with your actors. You just try and communicate, it’s just a communication. You may write and scene and say “This is what I think it is and this is what I want to have happen”, and you might give it to a really good actor and they might say, “Well actually thats not what I thought it was at all”. And then you’ve got think, wow that’s really interesting. Maybe thinking, are they really out of their minds and they didn’t get what you wrote? OR….did what you wrote have a whole other aspect to it? So my process then becomes one of really trying to impart my vision and then get out of the way of my own vision enough so I can hear what their vision is and hopefully together, get a plan, and then trust it. Just trust it, cause you’re gonna have to pull the trigger, otherwise you’re just sittin’ around sucking your thumb and nothing ever gets done.
EV: Wow. I like a lot of things you said there. I like what you said about fear, I think if something doesn’t scare you about a project then it’s probably not the best project to be working on.
MA: It’s scary man, it should scare you.
EV: At the collective we do a lot of collaborating and it’s always so interesting to have someone write a piece of music and then have someone else make a visual for that music and they see things so differently while listening to the same piece of music.
EO: Yeah, that’s so cool
EV: Okay, Elizabeth. Super hero question. Besides Scarlet Witch, who’s your favorite super hero…..it can be a villain if you want.
EO: Catwoman. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, in Tim Burton’s film.
EV: Okay…that was Batman Forever?
EO: Batman Forever. With the Penguin.
EV: Right, Danny Devito as The Penguin. Tim Burton just killed it on that film.
EO: Yeah I think so too. People say that they’re the worst ones….I don’t agree.
EV: Who says that?
EO: I don’t know someone recently was like…."re-watch them", and I did and I was like “Yeah, they’re great.”
EV: Any future projects?
EO: Well, like Marc was talking about earlier being passionate about a project. I want to be on a set so badly, but I don’t want it more than doing the right project. Something that drives me and compels me, something that I feel I have to do. If I’m not willing enough to be super vulnerable enough for a director, and beg on my knees if I need to, then I probably shouldn’t be doing it. So there’s a few things that are potentially happening but those are things I really want to do.
MA: I’ve got an action thriller of a novel that I wrote that I’m chewing on pretty hard but I haven’t decided for sure. But like Lizzy said and I’m totally in synch with that, you better really want to do it.
EV: Yea, especially with film. It’s near impossible to have a film even get made.
MA: It’s impossible and it’s a real time investment and energy.
EO: And self, and family, and relationships
EO: It’s a lot of sacrifices.
MA: Exactly, and you’ve got to be able to justify that somebody. To yourself, and to your friends and to your family. You’ve got be able to say, “No, you don’t understand”. If you can’t say that to them, they’ll know it.