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The A-List: Peter Bogdanovich on directing ‘She’s Funny That Way’

By Iain Blair

The legendary director/writer/producer/actor/author and film historian Peter Bogdanovich hit Hollywood like a tornado when his 1971 masterpiece, The Last Picture Show, scored eight Oscar nominations, winning two of those golden boys. He followed that up with more hits, including What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon. The latter won the Oscar for then 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal.

Since those heady days, Bogdanovich has had his ups and downs, and he’s largely spent most of the last 15 years working in TV, both behind and in front of the camera — he was a regular on The Sopranos and also directed an episode. Now he’s back with a new film, She’s Funny That Way, a screwball comedy about the interconnected personal lives of the cast and crew of a Broadway production, starring an ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Will Forte, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans and Imogen Poots.

Peter Bogdanovich and writer Iain Blair during their recent meeting in LA.

Peter Bogdanovich and writer Iain Blair during their recent meeting in Hollywood.

I met with the director — whose films include Mask, Texasville and Noises Off… — recently in Hollywood to talk about making the film, the challenges of posting it, and his take on cinema today.

The film was co-produced by some real heavyweights, including Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, and in addition to the A-list cast, you also got cameos from Quentin Tarantino, Tatum O’Neal and Joanna Lumley. Did you just call them up?
Wes and Noah are good friends and helped me get this made, and with Quentin I called him. But he’s the most impossible person to reach on the phone, and I usually leave many messages before he finally calls back, but this time he just picked up the phone, said “yes” immediately and that he’d love to be in a Peter Bogdanovich film.

You shot and posted in New York?
Yes. We had a great time shooting it in New York. And while I like post and all the editing, I think my favorite part of the whole filmmaking process is the shoot itself and working with all the actors. I don’t like preproduction, and in post you can get into problems — you disagree with the producer or you don’t see eye-to-eye with the editor and you have arguments. So it can be very frustrating sometimes.

Was the post on this frustrating?
(Laughs) No, not as bad as some films I’ve done! We did all the post work at Harbor Picture Company in downtown New York. They’ve worked on a lot of great movies, like The Hundred-Foot Journey, as well as TV shows like Game of Thrones, and they did all the sound editorial, ADR and mixing as well as the DI. They did a great job. Robert Hein was our supervising sound editor. [Bobby Johanson was the ADR mixer and the ADR recordist was Mike Rivera.] For the DI they worked with the DP Yaron Orbach, as it was pretty straightforward. [Joe Gawler was the main colorist, with additional help from Roman Hankewycz. They both used DaVinci Resolve.]

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You used two editors on the film: Pax Wassermann, who has cut a lot of documentaries, including “Knuckleball!, and Nick Moore, who cut Notting Hill, About a Boy and Along Came Polly. Tell us about that relationship and how it worked?
Well, Pax was in New York and then we hired Nick when we came out to LA to finish the film, so they didn’t work together at all. Pax was there while we were shooting and did virtually the whole picture. So we had that cut, and we felt it needed a bit more work, and I was coming out to LA, so it just made sense to get another editor then, and we made some changes and shifted stuff around.

I quite enjoy the editing, but I shoot my films so they’ll cut a certain way. So the only thing that’s really left to argue about is what scenes should be in or out. Sometimes you win the fight, other times someone has a better point.

Did you get into fights this time in post?
Not with the editors. The producers disagreed a little bit, but it all worked out okay in the end. It’s just a natural part of the process.

There are a few visual effects shots in the film. What was involved?
There aren’t many… mainly those super-impositions at the start when Imogen’s talking about Tracy and Hepburn, and Bogart and Bacall. They were all done by The Molecule, which is based in New York and LA. Luke DiTommaso was the VFX supervisor. I’m not that big on VFX work, but they did a great job. [The Molecule provided around 15 shots. Effects created include set alterations, such as sign replacements, speed ramps, split screens and one shot where they connected a guy’s fist to someone’s face. The mostly used Nuke and Mocha Pro.]

You’ve been doing this a long time. What are the biggest changes in post — and movies in general — that you’ve seen since you started?
I figured out I’ve been in showbiz for 60 years, since 1955, and digital has been the biggest change. That’s made post – and shooting – so much easier, and faster, so I’m a fan. Digital editing systems were a true revolution.

I’m not a fan of all the superhero comic book movies they make now. They bore the shit out of me! If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all, but Hollywood’s always been, “monkey see, money do.” Remember when Jim Cameron made Titanic? Everyone said it would be a disaster, with this huge budget of $150 million. “What’s he doing? He’s crazy! Out of his fucking mind!” Now, that’s Hollywood’s solution to everything — spend $150 million on some cartoon superhero. That’s why I don’t go to the movies much anymore. There’s so few I want to see, which is a bit sad.

Check out the trailer for She’s Funny That Way:

Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

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