I like to say that I believe in 2 things: God and the Auteur Theory, which is really just one thing.
Maybe it’s because Truffaut is one of my favorite directors, or maybe it’s just an off-shoot of studying literature in college, but I think it’s a pretty hard theory to refute. And sure, there’s auteurs who aren’t directors–the early films of Charlie Kaufman come to mind–and directors who aren’t auteurs, but they’re a minority.
So it stands to reason that I end up viewing the projects in A Year Without Rent through that filter. You can see it in the titles of these posts. You can see it in how they’re laid out, with the director quite often being the main character in the narrative of the production.
But what about the actor-turned-director? Does it hold true?
For the third day of FAT KID RULES THE WORLD I’m back inside the apartment, which gives me an opportunity to be a fly on the wall for the inner workings of the production.
Maybe fly on the wall isn’t the best analogy. This reminds me more of a beehive–a hug the wall, find a corner, try not to get hurt beehive. Put a film production in an apartment and you’re always going to have some cramped corners, but FAT KID is a larger production than most, in a smaller apartment than most. The hallway of the entire building serves as a staging area and that’s crowded, but inside is even more hectic. Multiple departments are trying to do multiple things at the same time, in the same space. It feels like the house in FIGHT CLUB when Project Mayhem is in full swing.
It’s the sign of a crew that’s been working together for a couple of days. There’s a certain rhythm to it, and stepping into that cold is kind of similar to trying to hop onto a busy freeway. Basically, there’s two things you can do. You can either wait in the hall or you can find a corner in the living room and volunteer for window duty, which basically just involves shutting the windows while camera is rolling and opening them back up when it isn’t.
Window duty provides the best vantage point for watching the production. You’re in the same room as the monitor, which is obviously an advantageous place to be. FAT KID doesn’t have a video village. Instead, it’s one monitor at the director’s eye level. It’s from here that Matthew Lillard runs the show. He points out details in the image–lens flares, hot spots, and rogue cables that everyone has missed, showing stuff to gaffer Jeremy Mackie, who then relays the information over the walkie to the crew. They’ll run rehearsal, then Matt will run into the other room to talk to the actors. During takes he grips the monitor like a steering wheel, intent on every detail in the frame.
What becomes obvious after about 5 minutes of watching is that the director is taking this seriously. He’s done his homework and shown up to work. He knows what he wants, both from the actors and the crew, and more often than not gets it.
It’s great to see. Because, let’s face it, I’d be lying if I wasn’t saying I was a little worried. This is the first project in A Year Without Rent where the director didn’t have a single directing credit on IMDb. It’s a movie star best known for being in SCREAM and SCOOBY DOO going behind the camera. What’s the expectation? Will he coast through it?
Not at all. Matthew Lillard is a director whose passion for the material fills the room. The end product may be fantastic. It may be terrible. But it will be his film.
He’s become an auteur. I think Truffaut would approve.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.