March 19, 2024
Fellini was asked once if he ever used improvisation with actors. He replied, “Yes, if it is something that helps the actor or the scene, then of course I will use it. The only requirement on a film is that everyone is willing. That means everyone is open to trying whatever it takes to make something work.”
Willingness. It’s actually a beautiful word. And it is absolutely true. The challenges of making a film are so complex and intense that the last thing you need is ego, either yours or someone else’s. Ego prevents problems from being solved. Ego is ultimately all about the fear of losing control. Willingness is all about courage. But it also implies something alive and joyful.
Willingness is not about losing ownership of your Self or your own ideas. It’s about being strong enough and generous enough to offer them to the great current of creativity that is flowing through the film.
On Living in Oblivion, I needed some reaction shots of the crew during Steve Buscemi’s on-set freakout. These shots are tough, especially when the actors have nothing to respond to. So, I asked Steve to stand just off camera and re-enact his meltdown. To everyone’s astonishment, he singled out each member of the crew and hurled specific outrage at them. It was he who came up with the line for the dolly grip, “Hey Bob, you creaky motherfucker!”
The response from the actors was incredible. I instantly turned the camera around and asked Steve to do it again. He did, this time on film.
That is Willingness.
One day on Delirious, we arrived at a location in Brooklyn at 6:00 a.m. I was a little anxious. We had a big scene with a lot of actors and a lot of pages. At 6:30, no one had shown up to unlock the door. The entire cast, crew, trucks, and truck drivers stood waiting while the Location Manager frantically made call after call. At 7:00, I was no longer anxious but Officially Deranged.
And then some activity started around the large, double entrance doors. Two ladders went up; the Key Grip on one and his Best Boy on the other. The shriek of screw guns and the sharp wrench of a crowbar and moments later, the entire doorway fell off. Instantly, we all rushed in and went to work. It was only at the end of the day that I found out the Key Grip had acted all on his own. No one had asked him to remove the doors.
That is Willingness.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician