Archives for posts with tag: Film


Steven Soderbergh is the Academy Award winning director of Traffic, Erin Brokovich and Ocean’s Eleven. At 26 he was the youngest winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Sex, Lies and Videotape. As a writer, producer, director, cinematographer and editor on many of his projects, the success of his films is to a huge extent dependent on his ability to make efficient and effective decisions.

When in Australia for Tot Mom, Soderbergh’s STC play about media attention in the case of the missing toddler Caylee Anthony, he generously answered some questions about his decision making processes for our UNSW College of Fine Arts, Masters of Art Administration, Organisational Psychology class. This is an excerpt from that interview.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

How do you make efficient decisions?

Well, I think the most important thing is to remember what your goal is overall, in the case of a film, what the overall intent of the film is. You have to have a 30,000 feet view of the entire project in order to successfully filter out all the potential parallel answers. You have to be able to filter out the ones that are not going to get you to your goal.

I think that efficient decision making becomes difficult when you are in a pressurised situation and you may be leaning towards a solution in the short-term, one that is going to get you to the next step but in the long term it is going to actually disrupt the overall piece.

Staying calm is a big part of it. There has never been a situation in the history of the world where panicking has helped. Sometimes I will slow everything down and send people away so I can think on my own and not feel the pressure of the external factors. I have done that a lot.

Film-making involves many thousands of decisions. How do you reduce the amount of decisions that you need to make?

What happens in a film is that there are 10,000 little questions that get answered in the pre-production period. If you have chosen correctly, that will result in a situation where a lot of potential questions have already been answered.

In my experience decision-making really becomes important when things are not going well, when you have to make decisions about how to get the piece back on track. That is where having a really good support system helps a lot. Being surrounded by people who also understand the film and make suggestions that tip you in a certain way. It is actually where my philosophy about how people are treated comes into play. If you do not treat people well and they are not having a good experience on the movie, they would just clam up and enjoy watching an arsehole wallow.

I also tend to work with the same people a lot and that also makes the decision-making easier.

Have you ever found that you have had to prioritise the project over people’s feelings or needs?

There is usually a way to handle a situation with humour: even when you have to move quickly, move people in a very different direction or correct them in a way that might seem severe. You do not want the way you have made or communicated a decision to affect the execution of that decision. If people feel they have not been diminished in any way by your decision or the way it was made, then they are more committed to its’ implementation.

How do you know when your decisions are satisfactory?

Usually, the indication that you have made the right decision is that things happen very quickly. The solutions to everything are right in front of you. When that is not happening it might be an indication that you did not make the right call.

That is why I am willing to slow things down when it is not working. I had a two-day scene once that I had such trouble shooting, that on the first day I sent everyone home – we did not shoot anything. I figured out that night how I wanted to shoot it and the next day we had finished the scene by lunch-time. So we actually saved half a day. It was better choice than trying to grind through it.

You seem to have a lack of angst when making decisions. Why is that?

It just does not help. Worrying is not going to get you to the solution. In my experience of problem solving, I need to be in a relaxed state. I also do not want to create anxiety around me. It is infectious and it really locks people up.

Another reason is that I had a mentor when I started making films, a documentarian, and he worked in a very similar way. If you had seen him work and then watched me work, you would see where I get my approach.

Interested in more on decision-making?


Photo: courtesy of IMDB

Felicity Price is an Australian actress with a long list of television, film and theatre roles. She recently co-wrote and played the lead role of Alice in Wish You Were Here, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2012. The screenplay is her first collaboration with husband, Kieran Darcy-Smith, and was filmed shortly after the birth of her second child. Felicity discusses the process of making their first Australian feature film under such potentially stressful circumstances.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

What were some of the most stressful parts of making the film, Wish You Were Herepre-production, filming or post-production?

When I look back on it all through my rose-coloured glasses – once we were financed and in production – I don’t remember it as stressful. It is such a big deal to get a feature film up and running in Australia, and I was just so happy to be making our film and to be telling this story. The writing process (about four years prior to this) was fantastic, but the sheer effort of spending a number of years writing a project and earning no money from all that effort was at times stressful.

I do know that while we were shooting I lost a heap of weight and got very used to having about two hours sleep a night – it was taxing. When we started shooting the film, our baby was five and a half months old and our son was a two. We had a live-in nanny, but because my husband was directing the film the most difficult thing was that both of us were away from the kids so much. Both of us were on set everyday and after we wrapped Kieran was going off to view rushes and prepare for the next day’s shoot – so for him it was a 22 hour a day job. I was still breastfeeding as much as I could AND we took the kids with us to Cambodia when we shot there – so the shoot was pretty chaotic!

In what ways did having your family together help the process?

Because film is such an all-consuming job I think it was wonderful that Kieran and I got to experience making our first feature together. This was the first feature he directed and I loved being on set to experience that with him. This project was our baby and we were bringing it to life. The whole experience -including the writing – has been wonderfully enriching for our relationship.

Often people will ask, “Wow, how could you do that as a couple, weren’t you fighting all the time? But it was exactly the opposite. We loved having this project that we were all-consumed in together. We’d love to do it again. And with the kids – they will always be part of the experience. They have grown up with us making this film, they came with us to Cambodia and we’ve all moved over to LA now – the film has made their lives more adventurous.

Were there any times where you felt like giving up? When you thought that you faced insurmountable obstacles?

I never felt like giving up, but there were tears. With our fourth or fifth draft we were accepted into the Screen NSW Aurora script development program. That was a real turning point for the film’s development and after that program we got financed pretty quickly. But previous to that, we were knocked back from a couple of similar script development programs and funding rounds, and at times like that it all felt very hard. But we always picked ourselves up and got back into it – usually with more vigor!

What strategies do you use to keep life in balance?

I’d like to say – yoga, meditation, good cardio exercise, regular day spas, massage – but who has time for any of this with toddlers?? In reality, I eat pretty well, try to drink lots of water, try to get good sleep, try to get in a good long walk a couple of times a week, try to have a stretch every once in a while and occasionally get in a dinner out with hubby and friends. But sometimes I don’t do any of these and I am a frazzled mess!

Finally, what is more stressful being busy or not being busy?

Hmmm… Such a good question. For me personally, I struggle with not being busy. That’s when my mind goes into overdrive. When I am busy, I am focused and all those other petty little worries fly out the window.

To find out more on Wish You Were Here: