As Sally Potter travels around the world with 'YES'
she is keeping a diary exclusively for this web site
Sign-up for Newsletter
Like peasants

Grim and prim

The longest day

Back to Diary Index

Grim and prim

Back in the hotel I showed Simon the photograph of me which had appeared in ‘Interview’ magazine (taken when I was in New York in May).  I hated it. Grim and prim, sitting with my knees tightly together, bolt upright, an expression of stern suspicion on my face, lips pursed. I had allowed my tension in the session to show, in fact had dramatized it. Not unlike the expression my father always used to wear when photographed, as if the lens were about to try and steal his soul. Simon’s immediate reaction was that the photograph was, in effect, a racist stereotype of an English woman, the female director as repressed Victorian governess. To my relief he said it in no way resembled the person he knows. I felt bad at having somehow unconsciously offered up that momentary pose. What was I thinking of? Of course, in fact I was not thinking at all, I was anxious and defensive. Anyway, such narcissistic preoccupations are part and parcel of these press junkets, in which it is so hard to hit the mark, whilst in a haze of repetition and fatigue. And, of course, fear of judgement.

The next morning started with a photo-session for the ‘Los Angeles Times’, in which I determined to be more relaxed, or at least, in Laurence Olivier’s immortal words to Dustin Hoffman when they were shooting ‘Marathon Man’ and he was asked for his advice about acting: ‘just pretend’. So I pretended to be relaxed. We shall see what the results are.

The interviews seemed to go fine. I kept bumping into Joan and Simon in the corridors of the Beverly Wilshire as we were ushered from room to room, from roundtable to television crew to the padded quiet of the hotel suite, in and out, in and out. Apparently Simon charmed the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a fascinating and motley group of intensely individual journalists and writers from around the world, who had seen the film the previous evening. And, of course, they and all the other journalists love and admire Joan. We have all remarked that her performance in YES gets better each time you see it; her work is so finely drawn that its nuances reveal themselves, layer by layer, on repeated viewings. By now I have seen her performance many more times than any other individual, not only in its finished form in the final film, but all her takes from the shoot, which I studied, over and over again, eagle-eyed, during post-production.

The long months in the editing room for a director is where you come to understand both your own work and the work of the actors, for the camera reads more than the naked eye is capable of, and consequences of directorial decisions are everywhere.  I adore the process of finding THE moments in the actor’s work, sometimes buried deep in the midst of experiment, revealed only when cut, like a diamond. Some actors deliver consistent performances across many takes, others vary hugely. You can ruin an actor’s work by cutting badly, or you can help it to shine. It can be a thrilling search, hunting for the jewels.

Comment on this post

back next
Click to Enlarge

Simon with Italian journalist Alessandra Venezia

Click to Enlarge

With HFPA President Philip Berk

Click to Enlarge

The Junket

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Text © Sally Potter. All pictures © Adventure Pictures unless otherwise indicated