Monday, July 4, 2011

One word.

Dave Trott has a post today about shooting, early in his career, with the great director Alan Parker.

It made me think back about a decade ago, when I had the great good fortune of shooting a television campaign for IBM personal computers with the director Tony Kaye.

There wasn't much of an idea behind our spots. We were trying to capture that moment when people actually hold a ThinkPad and see how wonderful it is. Accordingly, our spots were unscripted, though my partner and I had formed a list of a couple dozen questions to elicit reactions from "real" people.

Tony and I, for whatever reason, hit it off. He would barely talk to anyone else on location but he kept me literally by his side for 12 hours a day.

We were shooting film in those days and you had to change the film magazine about every seven minutes. That meant Tony would talk to me every seven minutes. "What do you want them to say," he would press me.

"The machine is beautiful," I would answer, "it feels more solid, more elegantly put together than I expected."

"One thing," he would reply, his nose just inches from mine, his eyes staring unblinkingly.

I would again attempt to answer in a sentence.

He would cut me off.

"One thing."

As the four days of shooting wore on, I began to get the hang of answering him. I would answer in one word.

There's nothing that forces you to reduce and eliminate the extraneous like having to coalesce it into a single word.

When we were done shooting, Tony thanked me for my one-word answers.

I thanked him for making me work harder and think better than I ever had before in my life.

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