Daniella Cuencas ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Creator of the hit show The Sopranos, which has won 21 Emmys, has made his first feature film Not Fade Away. He held a private screening at Loews Theatre on December 4th and answered some of the audience’s questions.
How did you move on from a series like The Sopranos to this? And was it tough to move from en episodic format to a feature length film with a self-contained story?
It wasn’t tough at first. I was tired from working on that show; I had done it for ten years. But as time went on I began to miss it.
This is a really personal story?
Yes it is.
And you were a drummer in a band once yes?
Yes I was. Well I was a drummer, but I don’t know if you would really call it a band. It was a garage band. It was half-assed. We never played for anyone. In the four years we never played a gig. We played in the basement at my friend’s house only for each other, and we mostly talked. We’d listen to records a lot and try to copy what we heard and we’d talk talk talk about music.
But I’m sure you had grand ambitions?
We had huge ambition. We were delusional.
So how exactly did the writing come about?
Well the writing came about because around the same time in 1960’s the band wasn’t going anywhere and I transferred from a school down south to NYU and once I was in NYU I started seeing different kind of movies than I was used to. Even though I had seen some in my school in the south. They had Friday night film programs. I would sit and watch. I saw 8 ½ there. I don’t know what it was doing there but . I moved to New York and started going to the movies a lot, and that time it was a lot of European cinema in New York City. I got very interested in it. I had always loved movies, but I didn’t realize that they were the work of a person that someone thought about all that. I thought they came from a factory like cars did. 20th Century Fox whatever that is, Paramount whatever that is. It was seeing those European movies, and specifically those Polanski movies that made me think.
Which Polanski film was it?
Cul-de-sac. And I think that the reason cul-de-sac made such an impression was because it was simple. It was one location and five characters, and I began to see that’s what a movie is about. I thought that maybe on some level I could do something along those lines. Not that I would be the director. I was interested in camera first
But this is not really your first time directing a feature, but you directed both the first and the last episodes of The Sopranos?
I directed those two episodes yes. I’ve directed before that too. I’ve directed for TV before.
Was this much of a departure from that?
No the process is the same. It’s just that this takes more stamina. Doing an episode of television takes anywhere from 8 days to 16 to 20 days. And that’s a lot different from shooting 50 days. Just in 50 days is a lot or even 45 days.
Did you stay on schedule?
No. I’m sorry to say.
Questions from the audience:
What was it like working with James Gandalfini again?
It was a real treat. Throughout the last season of The Sopranos, it got hard. Everybody was tired and he especially I think. He had the biggest weight to carry. Playing that character, really seven days a week because he would get a script on a Tuesday night and have to start memorizing it. Then every night when he finished work, he would have to go memorize the next faze and he was working lke 16 hour days. So he was like tired of it and tired of me. When it ended we were all kind of glad to go our separate ways. But then we began to miss each other a lot, I did. And when he said he wanted to do this, I was overjoyed and we fell back into a really good rhythm again. We got the band back together.
How did you decide on the topic of the movie?
When I was in my late teens, the British invasion happened, the Beatles, the Stones, the Kings, and it changed my life, the way I thought, the way I thought about everything. Obviously it changed a lot about society. It changed America and it changed the world. I wanted to do something to explore that time.
Where there any difficulties with any of the songs? And where there any contingency plans?
There was no contingency plan. We started talking with A Business Knowledge Organization (ABKO) that owns all the Stones music from this time, before 1971. After 1971, the Stones own it. We started talking with them and with Apple, who owns the Beetle songs. Probably a year or a year and a half before we started shooting and we told them number 1, we didn’t want to use any of the big hits and that we couldn’t afford to send a million dollars on a song. This is another example where Steven van Zandt was very helpful. He knows people in those organizations and we were able to negotiate a deal. Whereby if we stay within a certain level we got a certain number of songs for a flat rate, still, a lot, a lot, a lot of money, but not a thousand dollars per song. I mean a million dollars per song. A thousand would have been great.
Were you trying to make a point with all the cigarette smoking?
No, there was a lot of smoking back then. And it turned out that all those actors smoked so they were more than happy. I wasn’t trying to make a point about it. That was just the way it was.
The transition from tv to film, how did you decide you wanted to make this a film rather than a miniseries?
Well it was kind of like my life story. I went to film school so I could be a film director and make movies and that never happened. I got sidelined into television. My heroes were filmmakers. I was making a nice living doing that. I sold out. Really I sold out for the TV money and I became too scared to go out there in the movie world. I kept writing movie scripts but none of them sold. Some of them were even assignments, that I got payed for. After The Sopranos I knew that I had accumulated enough capital in the business that I would be able to make a movie.
Would you make another crime drama?
Yes I would like to. No I don’t want to make a sopranos movie, but I would love to make a really taught crime drama. I would also like to make a psychological thriller.