We bring you the last in a three-part interview series with Lara Fox, Random Acts of Romance script supervisor. When we left off, Lara was about to tell us about the connection between her job and the actors’ improvisation:
“I have to make sure that the actors say the right dialogue and, if they change it, that it does mean the same thing – that they don’t change something that totally alters the meaning.” If that happens, she alerts the director about the difference. The director then approaches the actor and says ‘I’d like it if you could say these words.’ “You’ve got to be a diplomat, too. Know when to go in and when to stay back. Because some of them, like Ted [Whittall], is very much a method actor. And so is Robert Moloney.”
Sparkjoy: Can you explain what “method actor” means?
Lara Fox: They get into the character and they don’t want to be told anything because once you tell them something, they have to come out of that character and think about it, and then go back in again.
S: So, even when the camera’s not rolling, they’re still in that mindset?
LF: Yes. So, they got to rely on me, that when I told them about their continuity, that I was accurate. And so [the actors] trusted me and allowed me to break in and talk to them, but on the whole, if you make a mistake and they don’t trust you, then you have a very hard time.
S: I get the sense that you’re very accomplished at what you do. How long have you been doing this work?
LF: I got into the union in ’82, I did five years of The Beachcombers and I came from Toronto, and I was in the studio doing television dramas with the three cameras. The script is totally different than a film script. My job was to number those cameras and give each cameraman a list of the shots that he had to get while we were rolling live. Back then, we were editing as we were shooting the show and the actors went full out. There was no stopping unless something really, really bad happened.
Usually you went 12 to 15 minutes, and I was moving cameras everywhere and repositioning booms. And so I got used to watching three monitors and an output monitor, and talking to the director, who then talked to the switcher to take whatever camera it was…plus with my stopwatch, timing the whole thing, and then taking down time code (laughing)! I very much multitasked there.
That was at the CBC, when they were doing their big, huge 90-minute dramas and 60-minute and 30-minute comedies. And then I came out to Vancouver for a visit, and…
S: Decided to stay?
LF: Yeah, got a transfer out to the CBC here. And then, with my knowledge, they put me on The Beachcombers.
S: I heard rumour from Katrin that you’ve worked on some pretty high-profile films.
LF: Uh, yeah (laughing)! I’ve worked with Sean Penn as a director and as an actor, Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Sir Anthony Hopkins. I did Legends of the Fall, which was Brad’s breakout film. That was challenging. We went from Vancouver to Jamaica, and back from Jamaica to Calgary, and we shot in Calgary the rest of the time.
I worked with John Badham, Richard Dreyfuss – I did the two Stakeout movies here, with Rosie O’Donnell on one and Madeleine Stowe on the other. I did Narrow Margin with Gene Hackman. I did The Accused with Jodie Foster…
S: You get known for the work you do and it just snowballs, I take it.
LF: Yeah. But all the directors I’ve worked with are all retired or teaching, now (laughing)! So there’s a whole new bunch and I find it difficult because they come from rock videos where there’s no continuity, they don’t care about access or eye line. My whole concept is, if you take your viewer out of the movie, you’ve lost it. Access to me is really important, because it recreates a smooth flow, and so your viewer, then, is taken into that.
But, in horror, if you want to jar your audience, then you do something like cross the axis, or jump from some other direction, because you want to jar the person’s mind. And, if you’re doing a drama, and you’ve crossed the axis, the person’s mind goes ‘something’s wrong,’ and they’re trying to figure it out – you’ve taken them away from what’s actually happening…subtly.
S: How did you get started in knowing about camera angles, and everything that you do?
LF: In ’61 – I came from Ottawa – and there was a new television station opening up. I was a secretary and I put my application in because I was bored. And the financial controller called me because I had a background in bookkeeping, and asked me to do their financial statement and he was pleased with what I gave them, so he hired me as his secretary. And then they were expanding and they put me over into the production department, and there was seven directors, but there was no script supervisor, so I mentioned to one that I was really interested in the control room. So, he took me in and showed me how to use a stopwatch, adding and subtracting time, and counting down and stuff, and…took it from there.
S: Was it something that you noticed that you were good at right away?
LF: Yeah, it was one of those. I get bored very easy. I can’t stand a desk job and I need those challenges, and every day was a challenge with something new. And that’s why I like film and the different shows, because every show is a challenge. Not one is the same. You know, you walk in and go, ‘Aw, this is a piece of cake,’ and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose, because you were too complacent and didn’t follow up on certain things, and then that snowballed into something else, and then you went ‘Wow, how do we get out of this?’ And so, no, you can’t get bored. No, you’ve got to be on top of your game all the time.
S: What was your feeling of the vibe on the set of Random Acts?
LF: Oh, fun (laughing)! Really upbeat…really upbeat. It was the most fun I’ve had on a set for a long time. Katrin is really good with actors. And she gets a good DoP (Director of Photography), and she relies on me to work out the cameras, and that’s a good director, who stays with the actors and hires people who will give you your product. Because your actors are your main product. If you don’t have that acting…you can have a good script and bad actors, and it won’t go anywhere.
Lara told us about some of the details she catches that save directors and editors grief. She told us about watching for nervous actors flicking their hair behind their ear just before the camera rolls, or messing up their make up by touching their face. “I have a little Sony Watchman that I record everything on.”
S: It’s almost like your catching the unconscious actions that people aren’t aware they’re doing. And it’s your job to manage that?
LF: That’s right. Like Drew Barrymore – I was doing a movie with her and she came down the stairs with her purse in her right hand and opened the door with her left hand. The take we printed, she had been talking to someone, purse went in the left hand, opened the door with her right hand. And I told her and she said, ‘I can’t possibly have done that!’ I said, ‘But you did.’ ‘I could not have done that!’ And, of course, I had it recorded and I said, ‘There.’ ‘Huh! Why did I do that?‘
If they don’t get distracted, then they do things the same. When they get distracted, they’ll just grab and then go. And they know that something didn’t feel right, because they’ll say ‘Are you sure that take was okay?’
S: Lara, thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us today. I’m sure your experiences have given our readers a better idea of your end of the movie business, and what went into making RAOR.
LF: It’s been a pleasure!
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Thank you for joining us for this three-part interview with Lara Fox, ROAR script supervisor. Lara is a freelancer in the Vancouver area. If you would like to inquire about her services, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up next week: an interview series with RAOR editor Franco Pante. He shares some fascinating insights from his experiences in the film industry, including working with RAOR director Katrin Bowen on Amazon Falls.
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