Sunday, November 15, 2009

Finalizing pre-production on THE TALL WOMEN

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Our production team returned in sixteen days with a complete file of selected location sites and production plans. They were excited by what they had discovered and were positive we could make a picture than would do credit to all concerned. We were now ready to set up a final shooting schedule. Our contract with Anne Baxter called for one week for rehearsal, six weeks of shooting, and one week for added scenes and dubbing. All other contracts were for the duration of the picture, with no time limit. So, since almost all of our characters were in the picture from start to finish and there were no scheduling hardships, we were permitted the unusual luxury of starting to shoot at the beginning of the story. Of course, we were bound by the limitations of our budget since we had no extra cushion to cover additional shooting.
It was on this film that I finally learned the difficulty of being both producer and director of the same movie. As the director, I wanted and needed the time to make the truly fine picture that the cast and script of THE TALL WOMEN merited. On the other hand, my miserly producer side refused to grant that request based on lack of funds. As director, I had the chance I had never known before, of making a classic that could stand on its own for the future. No one had ever attempted an all-female Western with a major actress taking a role that had always been reserved for John Wayne or Gary Cooper. Now I was being stymied in this great opportunity by a recalcitrant, penny-pinching producer.
It was a soul-wrenching experience and one that I will regret to my dying day: I succumbed to the producer in me and accepted the short shooting schedule we could afford. We set a thirty-day shooting schedule with twenty-five of those days in Almeria. To capture everything that excellent script contained required at least another twenty days of shooting, but there was nowhere to get the additional dollars to finance it. Instead, we scheduled an almost superhuman number of scenes to be shot every day, which proved almost impossible to fulfill without killing our actresses - which we very nearly did.
Anne Baxter arrived in Madrid ten days before the start of shooting in order to compensate for the nine-hour time difference between L.A. and Madrid. We took advantage of her early arrival to throw a cocktail party in her honor at the Hotel Richemond, where she had an apartment. It was a very important event in Madrid society and everyone wanted invitations. Accustomed as the Madrilenos were to celebrity visitors, there was something about Anne Baxter that triggered more than average interest. I had never realized how well-known she was in Europe and just how popular she was in Spain. We invited the entire movie colony along with major government officials, and to my amazement, we had several hundred people waiting at the hotel to catch a glimpse of her. We were written up in all the important periodicals, and we got off to a great start with THE TALL WOMEN.
The actresses met for the first time at the cocktail party, and much to my surprise they got along well. I had expected some bitchiness on the part of some of them at all the hoopla thrown for Anne, but they accepted the fact that she was the star with an amazing amiability and were pleased at the opportunity of being photographed with her. Anne was such a warm and wonderful woman that it was impossible not to like her. Vanity was not a part of her personality, and her honesty in interviews amazed reporters. She won over the Spanish officials and, most importantly, Don Joe Lopez Bravo, the minister in charge of motion pictures. That gentleman made it a point to thank me for bringing such a great actress to Spain. The party was a great start, but the next day we went to work.

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