Monday, November 7, 2011


Because I don’t want to come off as a rube, I’m only going to tell you two things about my Hollywood experience on the set of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

1 - Filmmaking is a lot like writing.

Perfection doesn’t often happen in one take.

Imagine working with the same dozen or so words; making the same movements with your body; fighting fatigue, doubt, and frustration over and over again for hours.

Sounds like writing to me—only with a crew of dozens, movie stars, and eager assistants ready and willing to bring you hot drinks. (I really want an assistant now.)

After arriving on set, I watched Bradley Cooper, John Ortiz and Julia Stiles film the same two scenes over and over again. The scenes they shot used dialogue directly from my book, and included one of my jokes.

David O. Russell had them film it one way, he experimented with another take, and then tried something completely different—again and again—all in an effort to make the ninety seconds the audience will see seem like effortless magic.

What impressed me most was how concerned David was with every beat the actors pronounced. He’d often make the actors say the lines over and over—having them emphasize different words. They’d say a line, he’d interrupt the scene and say the line the way he wanted it, and then they’d repeat it. (It was almost like the actors were his musical instruments—he was sounding them—getting the best out of each.) I watched him do this for a long time and never once did he hit a wrong note. Each tweak improved the scene, heightened the comedy, upped the tension. He was a master at work.

I was given headphones and David gave me a handheld monitor that showed the whole shot with the sound equipment visible. A white rectangle blocked off what would be seen on screen.

I watched them shoot the shots over and over—from Pat’s point of view, from Ronnie’s point of view, from Veronica’s point of view, emphasizing this or that word, making different facial expressions, employing different camera angles. This reminded me of editing manuscripts.

Then David and I had a chat about the differences between my work and his—the book and the movie. It was my baby that I had brought up and he was now raising it through the teen years—that was the general metaphorical thrust of our conversation.

2 - According to my observations, David O. Russell is really nice!

At one point, when the sun was setting, David was making sure everyone had a hat on. “The heat escapes through your head. You need a hat!” he kept telling people as an assistant handed out Eagles caps to those whose heads were not covered. It was a surprisingly kind moment. David O. Russell didn’t want anyone to be cold.

Read THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK before the movie drops: Amazon - B&N - Indiebound - Powell's


Unknown said...

Coolness. Thanks Matt!

Scott Humfeld said...

Glad you had a chance to go on set and see how films are made and give those folks a chance to meet you.
I would think it is difficult to do a scene over and over and still keep it fresh. But, they are pros.
Very much looking forward to seeing TSLP on the big screen.

Charlotte Brookover said...

How Exciting! Sounds like you've put your wonderful words in some good hands with Mr. Russell. I'm so happy for you!

ColloMommo said...

I just think this is the coolest shit :) xoxoxoxoxo

eldaveablo said...

I just hope they do the book justice.

kent said...

Like everyone else, I am so excited to see TSLPB up on the big screen. I love the director and think he is the perfect choice (although he will make it his own). I respect you for keeping things so short but I will say to your audience that I heard the longer version of this over drinks the other night and every detail is exciting! We might need to demand a part two blog. ;) Congratulations, Matt! This is huge for you, but I feel it is just the beginning.

reenie said...

totally agree with ColloMommo...and yes Kent you are so right. all good stuff ya!

Melodie Wright said...

Um, I am a rube. Feel free to share more supercool movie experiences so the rest of us can live vicariously through you. Srsly.

Christine Marie said...

I was wondering if you were going to be on set at all. I was there for background parts for 2 days, and had a fantastic time. They are really doing a great job and I hope you are thrilled with the turnout!

Q said...

Thanks for all the kind words, people!

Barb McClatchy said...

"Q" ... my daughter was on the set this past week in Philly as an extra and was in awe being in the company of De Nero et. al. in a few scenes. She hopes to get a "close up" in one dance competition scene they shot over and over again with just her and one other extra at about 4 a.m. on Thursday/Friday morning. I then immediately downloaded and read your book. Read it in a day. Loved it. Posted reviews to further your success. So very cool on so many fronts. Can't imagine what you're feeling about now. This is so huge. Do you keep pinching yourself? Congrats!

Q said...

Congrats to you and your daughter, Barb!

Barb McClatchy said...

Q -- thanks! But it's really thanks to your creative genius that opened doors for her and has given her a lifetime memory: she and her casting partner were helping Robert De Niro with the Eagles' Fight Song lyrics between takes. He remembered her from that point forward during the remaining three days of shooting. Priceless!!
Wishing you all the best with the book and the premier!

catherine said...

As the author of the story, you place yourself in a very difficult position. Now, observing the making of the film, from what you were the original creator, it takes strength in letting go and let other collaborate with your origional work. Congratulations.