Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Tall Troupers In Almeria

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

As a director, I am a great believer in rehearsal, especially of dialogue. I like to run a dialogue reading before finalizing the script. For THE TALL WOMEN, we had a round-table sitting where we did nothing but read the script for phrasing and ease in expressing the dialogue. Many times a line read very well, but when spoken by the actor who is required to speak it, it sounds awful and needs to be changed. Many times the actors themselves may say that it is not the way they would express that thought or feeling. Intelligent actors see their roles in their own way, and if they feel uncomfortable with a line of dialogue, it is much better to change it to what they feel right in saying.
For this picture, we had some very experienced and seasoned actors who knew their own abilities and limitations, and we made many changes in those first readings together. I have never felt that the director should tell an actor how to play a part or how to act; I prefer an exchange of views on who the character really is and how he or she should be portrayed. After such a discussion, the result is usually agreement between us about how the part should be played, and my only contribution is in the overall interaction among the players for the continuity of the script.
I had no problems with the actresses of THE TALL WOMEN except for Crista Linder, who was not really bright enough to fully comprehend the subtleties of a little Irish girl so shy and introverted that she hid it by an extroverted display of Irish gaiety. She had to portray a fear that was not overt but an underlying, ever-present part of her personality. Fortunately, Crista was so innocent-looking that we were able to get her character right on film without her knowledge or understanding. It was just there, and her death by rape brought tears to every eye and gave a note of true fear and suspense to the latter part of the film.
We worked long and hard, and every one of those women proved to be a real trouper. None of them had ever been to Almeria, nor had any of them but Anne Baxter ever seen the type of desert barrenness we faced. We began working with a picniclike ambience which soon changed as the hard work and tough terrain began to take its toll.
Our accommodations in Almeria were the best available, but by any standards they were crude. We stayed in a hotel located right on the Mediterranean with a very small, rocky beach. There were only two rooms with private bath, which went to Anne Baxter and me. I took one because my hours were much longer than anyone else. I would be at the set thirty minutes before any of the actors, and I would remain after they left, planning the next day's action. Then I would return to the hotel for a shower and dinner, which wasn't served until 10 P.M.
We had to rent the one and only local theatre to see our rushes (the prints of our previous day's work), and since the theatre didn't close until midnight, we couldn't finish before one in the morning. Then we had a production meeting with the camera crew and my assistants to discuss the rushes, decide if there were any retakes necessary, and get the crew's assessment of how the picture was progressing and their suggestions for improvement. With luck we would finish by two, so that at most we would get three hours sleep a night until our day off on Sunday.

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