Daily updates from the first annual AFI DALLAS International Film Festival presented by Target, founding sponsor Victory Park, March 22 to April 1, 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ten Burning Questions: Eva Aridjis, THE FAVOR

Eva Aridjis (THE FAVOR)Crash, boom and bang. These are three things that could not be further from the screen when Eva Aridjis' THE FAVOR (screening Thursday, 3/29 at 7:45PM and Friday, 3/30 at 5:00PM) is playing. The finely tuned drama of a lonely man who finds himself entrusted with the care of a troubled teen, does all of its careening inside the hearts of the two lead characters as they fight their own circumstances and limits to create a world that might have just enough trust and support to see them through. Cable TV and big budget movies don't do this kind of real, honest emotion. Quiet, little films like Aridjis' THE FAVOR do.

1. Frank Wood's character takes the adage "patience is a virtue" to a nearly unbelievable level. How close do you personally approach that?

None of the characters or events in the film are autobiographical, and I always try to create characters that are different from myself. Regarding Frank Wood's character, Lawrence, I was interested in exploring how much a genuinely good and patient person could be pushed before losing that goodness and patience (and whether or not they do). But I think people like Lawrence definitely exist in the world, and complicated human relationships can lead people to find themselves in all sorts of roles and situations. I think loneliness, love, and compassion can lead people to put up with a lot.

2. You wrote the script as well as directed the film. Did anything in the performances and/or staging of your shots cause you to rethink what you had written?

If you mean during production, not in any major way. The scene where Lawrence and Johnny argue at the police station was originally set in a moving car, but it became a logistical nightmare and we decided to change the scene's location. But I'm not a big fan of improvisation when it comes to changing scenes and lines while filming. I think it's important to work really hard on a script and to continue making changes when you rehearse with the actors, but then to stop once you get on the set. At that point you need to focus on getting what's in the script. The atmosphere on a set is always intense, so it's better not to start changing the story around at that point. That will of course happen later on, in the editing room, when there's time to think and try out different things. Of course there were scenes that were cut out in the editing room because we concluded that the story didn't need them, and shots that we never got to film due to time restrictions. There was a lot of extra dialogue in several scenes that got cut out, but it's always best to have more footage than you need, and then to whittle it down.

3. Paige Turco - best kept secret in Hollywood?

I think Paige is extremely talented, as are all of the other leads in the film. I was very lucky to have access to such good actors, and I will be very surprised if they do not go very far.

4. What is the best thing about having your film at AFI DALLAS?

I could probably answer that better after the festival, but I think the exposure will be great and the lineup of films seems really strong so I'm proud to be a part of it. I also think it's exciting to experience a festival in its inaugural year.

5. Frank Wood is a Tony Award winning actor. How many times did you have to remind him that he wasn't playing to the back row?

Never. I think it's true that acting in a theater has to be bigger due to the live audience, whereas acting for film should be more subtle as the camera is right there. But Frank had done a lot of film work too, and he has the ability to float back and forth between the two mediums easily and gracefully.

6. At various points in the film, characters make decisions or react in ways that are more thoughtful or (at the least) run counter to how we routinely see things portrayed. Was there a conscious thought to doing this in either the writing and/or the direction of the film?

I think that maybe this impression comes from the fact that the characters in my film are never overshadowed by a fast-paced action-packed story, or a heavy visual stylization, or special effects. The audience has more time to think about the characters and the decisions they're making. It is a film about human relationships, and the characters and dialogue are everything. Not to say that the cinematography and production design weren't important tools in telling the story, but I knew from the beginning that it was going to be a low-budget film and we had to keep things simple. I like to think that the characters I created seem real, and I think that the characters we often see in films are not very realistic. Hollywood teaches us that a character should be one thing from start to finish, and that a big change can only take place in a character after he or she undergoes a long and trying journey. In the real world, people are often inconsistent, unpredictable, and many things at once. They can change pretty quickly, or perhaps it is simply different sides of a person surfacing depending on the circumstances or revealing themselves over time.

7. What's the most underrated job on the set?

There's many, but I will say craft services. It is extremely important to a hardworking and exhausted crew and cast to have good food available, all the time.

8. To protect the teen girls, did you use a special filter to limit Ryan Donowho’s dreamy-ness?

No, on the contrary. The more excited teenage girls are about the film and Ryan, the better.

9. What was the last film that made you cry? Laugh out loud?

I recall tearing up a few times while watching PAN’S LABYRINTH. The last film that made me laugh out loud was probably BORAT.

10. Popcorn or candy?

Popcorn, without a doubt.

By John Wildman, Staff Writer