Insights from Oscar-Nominated Director Todd Field

Todd Field, the Academy Award-nominated director of the film Tár, recently chatted with Giles Alderson and Dom Lenoir about his career in filmmaking.

In the podcast, Todd discusses his background as an actor and his transition to filmmaking after attending the American Film Institute.

He shares that after film school, people started offering him roles in films, but he turned them down because he had no interest in acting anymore.

However, at a certain point, it made sense for him to take on a role to relieve some pressure off his wife who was working full-time and supporting them.

The Film School Fantasy

‘It’s impossible to adequately describe a situation to a young fledgling filmmaker. I had that film school fantasy come true which for anyone that went to film school is always at the back of your head. These films are going to festivals and then Hollywood’s going to come knocking. And that rarely happens.

But it happened to me. A young executive at Tristar, Ben Cosgrove, had seen my thesis film at Sundance and was screening it and Stacy Schneider, who was running Tristar at the time, happened to stop by and say what are you watching? She called me in for a meeting after that and said I’ll make your first feature film.’

Making Time to Rehearse

Todd also discussed the importance of rehearsals in his filmmaking process. He believes that rehearsal time is crucial in getting to know the actors and investing in each other’s process. He is very transparent about his expectations of the actors and his interest in the rehearsal process.

‘I need to rehearse. And a lot of that rehearsal isn’t mechanical and about running lines, it’s about getting to know each other. The same way you go with your cinematographer to the camera house and spend time together and you invest in each other’s process.’

In terms of casting, Todd ‘only auditions for supporting roles. If I go to an actor, I go to an actor because I admire them and I know they can play their part.’

Working with Cate Blanchett

The director also spoke about working with Cate Blanchett on Tár. She had to learn how to play the piano to portray her character in the film and the two became ‘amateur enthusiasts of concert music and the history of concert music’ during pre-production.

Even though she was filming two other films, Cate worked hard to learn the role and had ‘memorised it in its entirety, including the scene description, so anytime we adjusted something based on a conversation or rehearsal, it had to have real intent behind it because she had this thing memorised like it was a play.’

His Final Words of Advice?

‘I think you have to do what you have to do. Most people have an unreasonable expectation that if you’re going to do this, you make a living doing it.

I made a decision really early on that wasn’t going to be the case for me. I was given advice when I started out by Carl Franklin. Carl said, when you make your first film, it has to be a signature. Don’t do anything that isn’t important to you, because it may be the only chance you have. It may be the only time you ever make a feature film.’

For more from Todd Field, listen here.

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