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Listening

 
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 2:13 pm    Post subject: Listening Reply with quote



Listening starring Frances Barber and Paul McGann is a short film (23 minutes) by Kenneth Branagh and tells the story of a deaf man and a woman who meet during a spiritual retreat It's not a silent film but rather one with "limited dialogue"and took six days to shoot in 2002.

The film appeared at several film festitvals in 2003, including some American ones like the Seattle International Film Festival (in which Listening was the 4th runner-up for Best Short Film); the Atlanta Film Festival; the Los Angeles Shorts Festival; the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films; and the Rhode Island Film Festival (where the film won Best Director and Short Film awards).

On September 16, 2003 Listening was shown in Bristol at the Watershed Theatre during an event hosted by Bristol Silents. The following is a transcript of the question-and-answer session with Ken Branagh following the screening of the film. This latter is up at http://www.bristolsilents.org.uk/, but you have to be a member to see it. The membership fee is low, however, and the site has lots of cool stuff available. Smile

Listening Q&A session with Kenneth Branagh (Director and Writer) and Simon Mosely (Executive Producer) for Bristol Silents, Tues 16 Sept 2003, introduced by Chris Daniels (a local silent film enthusiast who along with Norman Taylor formed Bristol Silents in August 2000 to promote and celebrate silent cinema nationally).

CD: Both (Frances Barber and Paul McGann) send their apologies for not being to attend this evening due to unforeseeable work commitments. But we are very pleased to welcome Simon Moseley who is the executive producer on Listening and is also someone who has worked with Kenneth Branagh over some years, I think, since his work on Frankenstein, and he'll be joining Ken on stage later. Which brings me to the second thing that's special about this evening, which is when we asked Kenneth Branagh if he would attend this screening and introduce the film for us, he said he would not only come and introduce it briefly, but he would stay and take questions from the audience afterwards. So Ken and Simon will stay and take questions after the screening. So I'm thrilled to welcome here tonight, to introduce his latest short film, Listening, would you please welcome Kenneth Branagh?

KB: Thank you, thank you very much. I'm Ken, this is Simon and it's a short film, so this is a short introduction which is really just to say thank you very much for coming. We're very very pleased to be asked to be here. You make a short film and there are a limited number of places where it can have an audience, and this is one of them, and we're very very pleased to be here. We shot it about a year ago, shot it on 35mm, shot it in England, and as Chris was saying, Frances Barber, Paul McGann, local Bristol resident - I won't say too much about it because hopefully the film will speak for itself and you're obviously fantastically intelligent - I can see all of these faces shining with questions, so we'll be very very happy to, if we can, answer anything you may have to say afterwards, and if you have nothing to say, that's perfectly fine too, and we can all have a drink much sooner. But anyway, thanks very much for coming. We're very glad you'd like to see the film and I hope you enjoy it. This is Listening.

A: First of all, I did enjoy it immensely. Really really nice idea, very simple idea, I didn't know quite who to feel sorry for actually, him or her, but anyway. I just want to know where the initial idea came from, for you to make the film, whose idea was it, where did it come from.

KB: Thank you. I'm glad you liked the film. The idea came from reading lots and lots of short stories, stories of Thomas Hardy, Chekhov, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy particularly where the sort of circumstantial quirks of fate, these moments where through a sort of missed opportunity, what in the sort of grand scheme of human nature is a blip, but in the lives of these two people is sort of catastrophic, occurs, if only she had known he was deaf, if only he had known she was at the door, the sense of lives passing each other, missing each other in a way through on one level miscommunication and yet at the same time because they haven't had words to use, I wanted to see if you could tell a story of a relationship forming perhaps even more intensely through not using words, through the circumstances of this retreat, and in terms of my work, the films that I've made have been full of people talking away, usually me, and so I wanted to see if I could tell that story in a compressed way, yet see if you could come up with something that had some mystery to it, some surprise, so that there were layers of meaning and sort of mystery that would make people think and see if you could come up with something where, although compressed, the actual very very small idea of whether two people could fall in love quickly and not use words could leave you with something, some kind of aftertaste, some kind of what I would call, what you would hope for, what I aspire to as a kind of what I call a beautiful melancholy. With some sense of it being open-ended, maybe they did contact each other, so it came from wanting to try and tell a short story with as few words as possible.

A: I thought it was lovely. As an actor, I was just wondering whether, where necessary, did you find it to easier to either motivate or restrain the actors without dialogue, than it would be if you had a framework of dialogue to hang options around?

KB: Well, it's an interesting question, because it was one of the things - I'm sorry Paul McGann was due to be here tonight - apologies, he's filming in London, and the schedule went over, otherwise he would have been here - it was one of the truly interesting parts of the experience, and it happened over a couple of days, that in the end, at least for some of the takes, Paul for instance liked me to talk all the way through the take, so, for instance, when we shot his reaction, writing the note alone in his room at night, he was very keen that I talk through what I thought the character was feeling at the time, which I understand is the way that some silent films were shot, it was part of the directorial style, to be yelling out the graph of the emotions; and so it was true of Frances at the door as well . Then sometimes there were definitely, I sensed that they enjoyed being contained, and doing as it were off their own bat, and then there were moments, for instance, when they meet, the first time they meet, we chose very deliberately not to rehearse that. There was simply an instruction, 'Frances, you try and find a way to tell Paul that you would like find where you can eat' and so the particular body language of that came up as a result. They both, at least in what they said to me, found it very very interesting to in such a concentrated way be thinking about how you convey the truth of character or the truth of a moment, without dialogue, without leaning on dialogue, without doing a crazy kind of film-acting when people say it's all in the eyes and you find actors doing that (pulls a face) because they're trying to press every inch of emotion out of their eyes - I've certainly been guilty of that in the past. We did a lot of talking about it beforehand, and we did rehearse a bit around it. We talked about the nature of Paul's deafness and we talked about the various ways that could have occurred and he made his own decision about that. But then we enjoyed sort of letting it happen, so there were quite a few surprises as it went. But they seemed to find it very very challenging and I certainly did, and it was interesting talking it through and seeing more - sometimes you'd talk and be very animated and passionate, telling, for instance, Paul in that moment where he has the note, expressing very loudly and passionately what you thought was going on inside his head, and then stopping talking for a bit and just letting him let that percolate through and then something quite different would come up, perhaps at the appropriate size or in the appropriate way for the appropriate size of shot. In a way, it was another part of the experience, which for me was very interesting because you didn't have, you weren't constantly holding a script, you were talking about a scene. Any more for any more?

A: How long did it take to film?

KB: We took six days to shoot it - we were supposed to take five but we went over by a day. One of the other things that we wanted to do was take the risk or the experiment, if you like, that the lack of that additional pressure that making a feature has. There are all sorts of - I think you make a film, whatever it is, whether it costs two-pence half-penny and you shoot for 2 days or it's a huge film, it's all pressurised because everyone cares about it and it means a lot to you. But we weren't ever going to have to worry about the opening weekend grosses or things like that, and so, what I wanted to do was take the risk over the first two or three minutes of this film of being very very slow indeed, not for the sake of it, but I wanted to try and put people in the kind of meditative state that this character has reached, without being too sort of daft about it, he's sort of at one with his surroundings and he's enjoying being in nature - I wanted the film to appreciate, in this case, the beautiful colours of autumn, the stillness, the simple act of reading a book in a beautiful place and try and offer that up as a sensual experience with the film, with none of the usual worries about 'What's happening? We've got get them. Something needs to blow up in the first two minutes. We've got to see the girl, we've got to get the car to turn over', knowing that we would come roaring in with the appearance of the girl and her anxiety, so we went over, partly to answer your question, because we were looking for the beauty of nature, we shot in the week of 7th October, when everything was just on the turn, it wasn't it is now, a little dry, things are happening earlier this year I notice in the garden. So for instance in the shot where he listens, or indeed, doesn't listen, to the Beethoven being played on the CD, we shot the wide shot when we jump up three days later and ran from inside, when suddenly the sun came out and was in the exactly the same place it had been for the close shot which we just got before it went in, and it's another part of trying to catch nature, especially at that end of the year, because the sun's moving all the time, obviously, and so we ran around a quite a lot and indeed went over a day, trying to capture autumn and capture a bit of what I thought would be the beauty of that place. And indeed one of the nice things from a few people who've seen the film, who've written to me and said 'Where can I book into that place? Do they have a website? The blue hotel?"

SM: It does exist but it's a secret.

A: What are the different challenges in filming a film of that length in comparison to a film like Hamlet, which is a lot longer?

KB: It is a hell of a lot longer. In some ways, simply the length of time you spend on it, obviously although in fact, although we paid everyone, which isn't always the case with short films, where often you are beg, borrowing and stealing, and asking for favours, we probably spent two weeks in pre-production, I mean I'd written it some time before that, but a couple of weeks in pre-production because we couldn't afford to have many people on for that amount of time and be paying them, which is a bit of a challenge for things like the art department, even though relatively simple, straightforward demands on this. But actually the post-production on this took forever, because that's when we were looking to (a) enjoy the process of trying to work out how to cut it and how it should be - it did change, but I think I've said this before, there are three films - there's the film you plan, the film you shoot, and the film you edit, and in ideal world, they sort of organically move from one to the other but at least in my experience, and if you have the indulgence of having written it, then you're looking for both the shooting and the post-production to be in effect more drafts of the script, more drafts of the screenplay. So I chose to take the time to adjust and change some things that way, plus practically, we were at the back of the queue for certain things - here's a dissolve in here, so you have to go an optical house to order that. We didn't want to pay very much because we were on a low budget, so you wait for several weeks whilst everybody else gets their dissolves done and it gets fitted in, so that took a long time. But in terms of the actual commitment, Simon was my first assistant director on the last three or four films we made: In the Bleak Midwinter, a little black and white comedy that we made over here, in 21 days, and we also worked together on Hamlet which took twelve weeks to shoot and a long time to plan and a long time to post, but in terms of one's energies and your commitment, it doesn't really change. It still for that while necessarily takes over and you become, whether you like it or not, quite obsessive about it and whether it's low budget, small budget, the panic sort of extends to fill the vacuum.

SM: The main difference is that you don't have the studio breathing down your neck, obviously. We were funding it with Blackfriars, a property development company. They gave us an amount of money, but on the whole financially, we looked after it ourselves. We did the deals with people ourselves, obviously we paid people very small amounts of money and begged a lot of favours from people, so obviously that's a huge difference between that and having Castle Rock saying "Well, okay, when are you going to deliver this film and is it going to come in on budget and on time?"

KB: That pressure removed is a huge thing,

SM: It's a huge thing to take away.

KB: Is very nice. But the pressures that remain are the pressures of time and the pressures of budget.

A: Are you seeing a difference in the way audiences in different countries respond?

KB: I haven't unfortunately, because of work, been able to travel to some of the festivals it's played at, so I couldn't really answer that question, except to say that there's been some feedback from people who've seen it and different kinds of questions. But I don't know whether there's a significant difference. What's your view on that?

A: There could be, in as far as some cultures are more silent than others.

SM: Curiously, actually, the place that's received it best so far is in America, which to my mind is the opposite of what you would expect.

KB: Mind you, I suppose, I don't know what people here feel - has anyone here been on a retreat? A few people here. It seems to me that the idea of retreats is an idea more familiar or more prevalent in America; I'm not sure, or in other cultures. I've not been on a retreat, but obviously I was much intrigued by the idea and much intrigued by the idea of where you go to do what I think for some people can be the very difficult thing of being on your own and being quiet, at least be quiet except for the noise in your own head. And so, when I started to, for the want of a better word, research it a bit, I was surprised and intrigued by the numbers of different kinds of retreats from completely silent retreats and fasting retreats plus the whole kind of Disneyland package of instant wellness retreats as well. It turned out in the end to be much bigger -it was one of the things that encouraged me to continue with doing it was to discover that there was clearly there's an appetite, if that's the word, for choices about going out and being away from the noise of the world we live in.

A: I came tonight not really knowing what to expect - I'm pleased I came. Are there any more?

KB: Well, we've talked about, without trying to be too neat about it, about making four other short films about the other senses. Partly to (a) because I feel as though there are a few stories brewing and because you know, if you think about the other senses and the challenges they provide cinematically, if you're going to do a film about touch, how you place people in that sense if that is part of what you're trying to achieve, and the idea of Listening in this world was very important to me. That, or smell, you imagine trying to do it, maybe you could do it with a kind of scratch card, I don't know. Wasn't there a film, something like The Swamp or something, where they had a scratch card.

A: John Waters did that.

KB: Scary. But we had an idea for a story about a perfumer who loses his sense of smell, which would be a significant event in the life of somebody who did that, I suppose. But we're not sure, actually. But it's one of those things where you think if that's to happen, it would be nice not to rush them. There was something about, there was an organic way that this film emerged - it got made because it felt like it should be made. It didn't really have any end beyond wanting to tell this particular story and allow oneself to experiment a bit as you went. And in that sense, it was very purely enjoyable and had a particular character. The only thing I'd resist is if we suddenly think "Ooh, we're going to make a feature now with four short films and it turned into something else", so maybe it might be one of those things where, if it does happen, it happens over a period of years.

A: Do you think it would have made a difference if you had cast a deaf actor in the film?

KB: It's a good question and it's one I considered. I saw a very very good deaf actor, actually in this town, play the Fool in King Lear and talked to him about this project. But in the end I wanted, because on one level, as I hope is implicit in it, the issue is not about his deafness. I showed the script to several people I know who are deaf, because I wanted to make sure they didn't feel, I didn't want people walking away from the film thinking that somehow his tragedy is that he's deaf. In my view, that's not anything to do with it. It circumstantially complicates the relationship - his issue is to do with his own personality and the way in which he has, from a certain level of peace and oneness with his surroundings, happily choosing this sort of level playing field of this silent retreat, to not have to work perhaps as hard as he might do in other ways. To focus less on that, it wasn't so much a part of my focus to convincingly, or in a different kind of way to what you're suggesting to look at. And also to be brutally honest, I wanted from the face that would be so prominent and so silent through the picture to have what I think Paul has, to my mind, a sort of on occasions a beatific quality, a sort of otherworldly quality, some quality of the numinous, some sense of being, as they once referred to James Cagney, as "a far-away fellow" and there's something socially about a far-away fellow and I wanted a far-away fellow. And I wanted a face that could be both neutral and yet convey, I don't know, sometimes he's my idea of Jesus, in a way, not that I'm suggesting that he was. There's something in the face, there's something about the bone structure, there's something about those great eyes and there's something about a quality of stillness and a kind of delicacy to his presence at times that was what I was looking for.

A: I wondered if you would enjoy making a silent comedy?

KB: I expect that I'd enjoy it, I don't know if anybody would like it.

SM: Would you pay to go and see it?

A: Yes.

SM: Well, we might make it.

KB: Alright, okay, first ticket. We'll get your name before we leave.

SM: Sign here please. They're all in this room. 100 tickets.

KB: I think it would be pretty challenging, myself. Do you know, when I've seen things that evoke the world of the silent era - a favourite musical of mine is Mack and Mabel, about Mack Sennett and Mabel Dodge - I saw a production where, there's a number that starts the show called "Movies were movies when I ran the show" and he was involved with all the comedians, all the great silent comedians, and then they attempted to put together scenes and physical stunts that evoked this fantastic world of physical comedy, and it was desperate, it was dire. It wasn't remotely funny and it reminded me, not because these people were particularly adept but those who did silent physical comedy were just brilliant and it feels as though it would be difficult to find the group who were trained and practised enough to do that. Although I directed a play recently called The Play What I Wrote, with two lads who call themselves The Right Size, who trained partly in the clown tradition and who do have, I enjoyed and was thrilled to see over the run, brilliant physical comedy talents. I guess if you felt you could really get that specialised expertise, but I think it would be very very difficult. Maybe I'm being very obvious about the way I think about it, people aren't so crazy about slapstick.

A: Oh no

KB: Well, that's how obviously I'm thinking about it. You should direct this film about silent comedy.

SM: That was quite a good idea.

KB: Well, for me, it wasn't so much about the loss of listening as the redefinition of it, that listening wasn't so much to do with hearing words, but listening in some more complete sense to what another person offers you by way of their atmosphere or whatever language of whatever kind, sign language or emotion. It was about seeing whether, in a place where words were removed, the necessity to listen in a different way, to absorb in a different way, would in some way heighten our sensitivity, or heighten our senses. And I suppose I wanted to convey with Paul's character at the beginning that he, in a way, had seemed to have developed a sort of
openness, a sort of organic relationship with the world that he was in - he watched, looked, felt, was part of it was alive to it, in a way that this noisy individual who comes into it wasn't, who then with the fragility she has, and with the inability to use words, expresses herself in a much more primal way, in a much more elemental way with all of the civilities removed and suddenly, very quickly, she's very very emotional and very naked in front of a complete stranger who then makes quite a bold and intimate suggestion immediately. That "if these letters are troubling you, burn the letters", and cuts across any "oh, it's my boyfriend and it was this and dah-de-dah" - all gone. It's just "you're upset. The letters are upsetting you. Burn the letters. Okay." And trying to see whether that scene, whether one could play with her shock in dealing with this accelerated intimacy from not having words, so to that extent, she was at a stroke communicating much more effectively with him than with the man who wouldn't pick up the phone. So it seemed to me it was partly exploring that idea, that you lose words and you're potentially more receptive.

KB: You are aware of what you think is a character's internal story, internal life in addition to what they say or what you have them enact, but one of the things I enjoyed about this and I think do enjoy generally is when people arrive with perhaps quite a contradictory or quite unusual
surprising reaction to what you've written or what has been suggested in the script. I think that was true, definitely true here. For instance, I had something, again a bit more obvious, in terms of the dialogue for Frances's arrival for the film in the car. I can't remember what I had her say, but I had her say something - she was on the phone, I had her on the phone and having the snippet of the end of a conversation with the lover who is spurning her or vice versa, and it was her suggestion - she seized on this moment as one that she recognised in some way, this level of pressure, that moment when you feel cast adrift or lost - she was the one who, immediately on Day One, said, "Well, shouldn't she just yell, 'Pick up the phone, pick up the phone'." She said, "I've done that plenty of times." Just a tiny example of how that seemed to me to work better and also in something like this where, at least in my case, I didn't feel remotely precious about them doing exactly what was written. The process I was talking about earlier, about the film morphing from one thing into another starts as soon as the designer arrives, Tim Harvey who designed the film, suddenly start having questions or comments, and so, I'd like to think, for me, there's quite an exciting interchange. If you feel strongly about something, you say so, but on the whole, in this instance and more or less generally, when you feel the actors, without completely wrenching it away from sort of central thing it might, inhabiting it, embracing it, making it their own, being excited to contribute, if you feel that they are within the spirit of the thing, then that's a very exciting thing and I like to encourage that.

KB: In relation to Frances' character, I did have the idea of somebody who comes into the film, who is the diammetric opposite, who is fantastically busy, busy in every sense, someone who brings a busy life. I'm very aware in my own life that one can, if you're fit and healthy and I'm lucky enough to be so, you can be busy all the time in small or large ways and that's sometimes a very functional way of dealing with the world and sometimes it helps you avoid the world in some ways, so we talked with her about being someone who, for what it's worth, you wouldn't get this from the film, I guess, had a back story probably in the city some way, probably in the media, someone who's always out, always socialising, feeling the pressure to wear the right thing, eat the thing, tremendously concerned with what other people think and needing the confirmation of other people's voices and other people's opinions, contact in the way that so many of us do. I don't know how long it's been since we would say, how did we ever get on without mobile phones? It's now, you can't be out of contact with people, people can't not find you. They scream, "Why didn't you put your phone on?" Or "I left you a message." "But I was in Guatemala." "But it doesn't matter, I left a message." We felt that she was a woman for whom this was a huge thing, but busyness and concerned with the self, very much concerned with the I, me, my - my feelings, my hurt, my this, my that, looking inward rather than outward, and for whom we felt this retreat would be, which we admired her for, a brave thing to do, which is to come up against this silence, come up against yourself, on your own, without these things that confirm you - the mobile phone, the message, even the distraught message from the man who might have left you, in this case. Unfortunately, I suppose what happens is that she transfers that anxiety to a man who at the beginning was more in balance and then as soon as he is accelerated into this, burning letters together and being physically close to someone, all of these wordless interchanges are suddenly charged and his equilibrium, as hers steadies, is undermined. If you can undermine an equilibrium.

A: At the top, you mentioned that there are limited opportunities for the short film. What do you think is the future for the short film?

KB: I say they're limited, but there are still places to go. There are limited commercial opportunities. Much harder now to run shorts with features, but special arrangements always have to be made, and I don't know really how practical it is for people, unless perhaps in the context of a cinema like this, but not necessarily in a multiplex, for shorts to be run or for people to be made aware of them and it gets down to all sorts of daft practicalities about advertising and all the rest of it. But there's a fantastically lively culture about the short film, there are now a number of organisations in our country: the Short Film Bureau, and lots and lots of festivals, as a way of people both experimenting, as a way of people introducing themselves as talents in the film world, whether in a small or large way. It's a world that in my limited experience is a world of great companionship - I've been in two or three short films and I've directed another short film, about 10 years ago. I find it an exciting way to watch other people's work. You do see a fantastic amount of experimentation. You see a great deal of derivative things as well, but quite a lively interchange. They do become, as well, calling cards for people, a way of showing your work and sometimes working on an idea that may be become a feature or developed in some other way. There's a tremendous amount of creative energy around the short film, and now actually, there's a number of places, certainly in America, that are devoted to short film, exhibition places. So I think it's always going to be pretty healthy.

SM: Certainly there are lots of people aspiring to make films out there. And there's no shortage of places to show them, provided you don't expect to earn a huge amount of money from them.

KB: Yeah, that's the thing, the exposure.

A: Did you consider making it without any dialogue? Not since The Ghost and Mrs Muir, which I found really emotional, still do. I was really welling up, and found (the dialogue) really jarring.

KB: I think I agree with you. One of the reasons it took a long time in post-production, basically there was more dialogue in the film - and some of it came out when we were shooting. There was more explanation from the Nanette Newman character, the warden of the retreat about why and what kind of a retreat and that seemed unnecessary. And then at the end, Frances had more to say which was more, a bit too on the nose, in terms of wrapping things up. And I think we did try without once, but I think in the end, rather like her arrival, both with the sound, we mixed it so it smashes in a bit and surprises you, the re-introduction of words and that grating quality, I suppose I wanted, because it de-romanticised and in a way makes prosaic, as soon as you start to speak, although we have say as little as possible, it becomes pedestrian and mundane, so this rather special moment which words could not quite describe and where even the complications have been engaging because of the vulnerabilities that are involved are reduced as soon as you start to speak, even if it's only to say "Don't speak. Don't say anything." So I think in the end, I agree with you, but in the editing, I felt that yes, that's right. Plus it's also a way back into the real world, where you end up falteringly saying things that will sound clichéd, because it's very hard to convey what you mean with words without suddenly becoming meaningful and laboured in everything you ever say because everything has to be precise and from my heart and truthful. And they'd found for a moment this way of communicating, by accident, that was more meaningful and more various, more mysterious, because you could have a sense of what it meant but part of the difficulty of that was that for the both of them, nervously they weren't sure whether it was much, much more. So she dares to take the trip to his room, and he, in this sort of confusion, daren't, by the time she's about to leave, feels it's inappropriate to hand that note over. Because again, it somehow reduces it.

KB: Well, I don't know. Well, I certainly found it more than just an exercise. It wasn't just a kind of exercise to do it. I felt that I might make some discoveries and I felt that in my small way I did, for me as a filmmaker. I think you could, I just think that, as with all great simple ideas, which is what that is, as you were talking about, you have to do them really, really well. I think you have to earn every moment you have on screen and I think you have to find some new kind of language and possibly, I wouldn't be clever enough to do it off the bat, you'd end up shooting an enormous amount of material, in order to reduce something to tell the story without words, and in terms of a feature film, it would be one of those things you'd have to go and do yourself, finance yourself, because I can't imagine getting that past anybody, unless it was for a beautiful movie star.

SM: You wouldn't get anyone to fund it.

A: Given your interest in previous eras, who would be your ideal cast from the past?

KB: Ideal cast from the past? I would love to have worked with Cagney, Spencer Tracey. yes, Spencer Tracey, Katharine Hepburn, that would do it for me.

A: Is your approach to a film that you're directing and acting in different?

KB: Yes, directing and acting in a film requires much much more and a different kind of preparation and you have to allot time or a period of time where you essentially do as much work as you can on your own performance and with, in my case, sometimes another person who will help or in some of the Shakespeare films, I've played the part before on stage and that's been an enormous help in terms of the preparation. I have found anyway that you need to make sure you have a system in place, either with, there was a guy called Hugh Cruttwell, now sadly departed, who used to particularly watch my work when we were, he was I suppose you'd call an acting consultant. He was the principal of the drama school I was at, a great student of acting, very brutally honest, so he was helpful. But once you get going, at least I've found, you do it with the other actors. There's a great sense of camaraderie. I would expect if you were in a scene, if you're not directing the film, when you've finished the take, more often than not actors will have something to say, you'll have some comment about "Did that go well? Was this quick? Was that slow? Did you believe that?" Some give or take, so I encourage quite a lot of that when I'm directing. The main difference is you have more time when you're just directing. It's sometimes very very irritating when you're directing and acting to realise that you have to go back into the scene that you'd really rather like to watch. So I don't know how much more of it I'll do, actually. Famous last words.

A: What projects are you working on now?

KB: Two or three different things, I don't know what sort of fruition they'll reach. I'm reading a lot, which I find is a great prompt to writing, across the mediums really. Simon and I are developing a couple of, a romantic comedy, from a British novel, that we're developing - it's just about to be a first draft of a screenplay. Another novel that's a murder mystery and some other things. I'm actually doing a lot more active development, as they call it, than I've done for a while and enjoying that, both writing myself and working with writers, not necessarily immediate results but with the idea of enjoying the process of researching, reading, we seem to be forever having script conferences - we had one on the way down in the car today.

SM: Personally, I feel rather superstitious about saying too much about things before they actually happen. Because I always think if you talk about a job that's coming up, it's bound to fall through. Things are in very early stages

KB: And it's happened many times.

SM: Things are in very early stages. But I think it's fair to say that the film indicates a slight change of tack.

KB: Yeah, I would say so, I would say so. Umm, yeah, I would say so.

SM: No more.

A: Did you learn anything about film-making, during that film?

SM: That's a leading question, isn't it? Do you know anything about filmmaking, Mr Branagh?

KB: Did you say "at last" at the end of that question?

A: Did anything come up ?

KB: I think lots actually - about different kinds of story-telling and I think, um, I'd say it may not seem like much of a departure for anyone watching who's familiar with my work, but actually just to take the time over the first two or three minutes of this film was important to me. Because even tonight I was watching it and I haven't seen it for a while, and I think "Christ! It does take a while, doesn't it?" And you know, you're aware, you can kind of hear how an audience reacts and it's not a criticism, but I could feel a few people thinking "Jesus! If it's 25 minutes of this, I'm out of here! I'm a fan of silent films, but get a move on!" Umm, but I wanted to do that, and for me, because I feel terrific pressure, I like sort of strong openings, like to grab people's attention, and there are lots of ways to grab people's attention and this is one way as well, I think and so I was encouraged by that and then things that I quite like, the sequence where after she's been upset and he asks her to burn the letters and she becomes upset again, and then we had a scene and I had written it differently and I thought, "Well, you can't do it this way - this is too prosaic in this film about this subject matter to have this scene, I think I had her coming and making a sort of sign-language to say 'Let's go and burn these letters', and it was during the week we were shooting it that I thought, "Well, why doesn't she write it down, and look, we've got him on that staircase, and she can put 'em at the hole of that thingy?" Things like that, I thought were helpful to me, plus as I was talking to the gentleman earlier on, the whole way of dealing with actors, about how to talk with them, how to help them, being aware of that as an actor myself, I think that changed quite a lot. I think I found myself, encouragingly, to be much more adaptable, so that there was this balance. You would talk a lot through a take - quite unusual - and sometimes hear yourself saying pretty stupid things and then there you wouldn't say anything, or you just try and find the word that would be helpful, that would ignite the imagination. And I've sometimes in the past, in directing, just talked way too much. You see an actor's eyes glazing as you confuse them, so I think it encouraged me to be more economic and I was much more aware, I wanted - I don't think it's achieved, to be perfectly honest - but I did want, I went out thinking I would like every shot to be beautiful. I'd like every shot framed and composed in a way that is itself a pleasure to my eye, anyway. I didn't want in the end a normal close-up, I wanted compositions that pleased me and compositions that actually weren't quite, I also I think across some of the work I've done, I get quite symmetrical, you know, you use doorways, you put things in the middle of the frame, and I think, although God knows I do a bit of that here, there was a greater sense of just being more tailor-made to the moment. I had a bit more time to think and I didn't have anybody ringing me up at midnight and going "I've just seen the dailies, this is terrible", well, nobody from the studio, obviously. Friends did that, but nobody from the studio.

KB: Well as I was saying earlier, you care about it as much so that there's this constant desire to do as well as you can, and that sometimes means that you're quite hard on yourself and you can erase a bit of the enjoyment, but I would say, definitely on balance, yes, it was hugely, hugely enjoyable. There was a sense from everybody - we had some really fantastic technicians who have worked on enormous movies - some people who had just come from the Harry Potter film, you know from the sublime to the ridiculous. They're on this bloody 12 month, 1500 people on the crew shoot and all the money in the world to the much more, although this was luxury short films land to have no doubts about that, but by comparison, it was different. I think they all, in that situation, it's much more possible to do what I do enjoy which is just make sure, encourage, invite everyone to be part of it. I mean, without being phoney about it, if you're going show up, it's good to enjoy and love what you do and so I want you to be included and involved and not just show up for the cash, what little cash there was. I think we had a very good, it sounds twee, but a good communal experience, we had a great week working together.

KB: All over the place. I like to, these days I've got a dog, for about three years, so the dog-walking is a good way to do it, or dog-playing, throwing a stick to the dog - watching the dog actually is quite a good way to develop films, walking, it's a very clever dog, and uh, I don't know,
holidays, actually. Even when I have a holiday where I say I'm not going to think about anything, it takes about 90 minutes before you know, you're, whatever, whether you're stuck in a terminal somewhere, whatever, and you go back to things. I don't why the other day, Sunday, I picked up a copy of Shakespeare's play The Winter's Tale, for no good reason, I mean absolutely no good reason, I just went to the bookshelf, took it off, sat and read that for the afternoon. I have no agenda to making a production of it or whatever; I just wanted to read the play again. You find you think both about that and you think about other things. There's a kind of an ongoing sort of, whatever you call it, marinating thing that happens, but it has no pattern. I'm not very disciplined when writing, I'm not a natural writer at all and so, I don't have that discipline. I usually have to be in a different place every time I write, rather than start at 7, 8, 9 o'clock of the morning. I have to be in a different room at a different time of the day or be outside or go somewhere else or work through the night or whatever. I seem to have to avoid routine actually, is what I need to do.

SM: Last question - it's going to be the killer, isn't it?

KB: Well, I'd understand where that instinct comes from. As I say, obviously I've done lots of work where there's lots and lots of dialogue. I mean if it's great writing, I've had the privilege of being involved with great writing, it's a pleasure to do, although many would argue that in a
form like cinema, too much dialogue is anti the centre of the art which is about image. But I can understand why, if you say more as an actor, I suppose you're potentially more exposed in the wrong way. You can end up doing lots and lots of acting, lots and lots of visible acting, as you try and vary and colour and whatever. I see, and I speak as one who's been guilty of it on more than one occasion, but I see it when I watch television now - and I'm not going to name names, because I'm not trying to have a go at anybody, because as I say, I've definitely been guilty of this, you see when you watch some television drama of certain kinds, and yes, they speak. They speak, but it bears absolutely no relation to the way people are in life, but it has the illusion of being so. I suppose this is true of many forms. I sometimes see films that have so-called method performances where I find it just as mannered, just as lifeless as if it were a more obvious kind of, affected kind of performance. And there's a sort of very clever illusion in certain kinds of drama, particularly on television, I think it's true of film and I've certainly found myself doing it where you're almost being completely lifelike and truthful, but in fact if you listen to it closely, it's completely and utterly phoney. A lot of times that is related to literally how much you say, and the kind of things you say. So I can understand the instinct to say less, because obviously on film, one of the things this intended to do, was to with a couple of interesting faces, to say the very least but really, to my mind, tremendously interesting and charismatic people, in the form of these two actors that within a story that was inviting you to think beyond what was there, to have an impact on you that you might feel bogus, with so little said, quite a lot can go on in the imagination of the audience, and if as much potential for that is conveyed by actors who really are saying a great deal through not speaking, then that's very interesting. I mean, some people would argue it's all a bit of bluff anyway. I'm doing a play at the moment at the National Theatre by David Mamet who is, I think, one of those people who really does believe that if the actor happens to be thinking about what they did at the supermarket that day, but it enlivens the eyes, then audience member can think, "Ah, all the pain of human existence going through those features", or you know, the sort of classic film school lesson of woman at window, goes to window, cut to view of man cutting something, back to her, face is distraught. Recut the same sequence, woman at window looks out, people are playing and running about, cut back and there's a twinkly compassionate look in her eyes. It's exactly the same shots counter pointed through a different kind of intercutting and if you follow that route, you think it really doesn't matter what the actor, it's what the director does. But I understand the instinct for no dialogue and I reckon I'm probably in some way intrigued and headed that way.

Estelle
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elio



Joined: 16 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know where I should to write it but if anyone wants to watch this film I can help you;) Let me know in pm:)
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Time Traveller



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, elio Smile
This is a great film, although the story is incredibly sad. I cried a little at the end...
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elio



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Katy wrote:
I cried a little at the end...


Oh, yes. Me too Sad
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scribble



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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Links to watch 'Listening' on YouTube. Posted by fulltea81.

Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41vigJeGp9Q

Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-Olyd8jO_k
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emay
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

scribble wrote:
Links to watch 'Listening' on YouTube. Posted by fulltea81.

Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41vigJeGp9Q

Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-Olyd8jO_k


Thanks!! I previously tried to upload my copy of this film to youtube and was told it was too long.

Estelle
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Frigate



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the links Scribble - and I love your pic by the way! Wink
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Mikoto



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh my God ... heartbreaking. Beautiful ... but (or rather AND) heartbreaking.
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VirgoGirl



Joined: 20 Nov 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After almost a year with out a computer, I'm back!

Is there another link for this somewhere? I've been wanting to see this for the longest time, but the channel has been removed and the videos are gone. Sad
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elio



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

VirgoGirl, yes, here please
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VirgoGirl



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elio, I think I love you. No, no, I *definitely* love you!!!

Thank you!!!
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elio



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

VirgoGirl, my pleasure, dear Wink Very Happy
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scribble



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For those unable to download but still want to watch this beautiful little film (..and of course you do! Wink):

Listening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfK68bk2t0s

via Swanee27
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