The Power of NICE

Love is All Around...Indeed!

I had dinner with a director friend of mine this week.  We first met a few years back when we were brought together to work on a hybrid live-action/animation project that was…um…a challenging undertaking to say the least.  We bonded instantly over the shared chaos and unexpected hilarity of the experience and we’ve remained friends ever since.

Let me take a moment, dear readers, to note that while I understand and appreciate the benefits offered by the transparency of this social networking thing, I do want to be mindful about the “real names” I mention and at what point during this process they should be discussed.  Of course, I’ll gladly embarrass friends and family with blog mentions (until they tell me to stop it – I’m talking to you, Mr. Awesome), but when it comes to writing about some of the folks who might actually work on the film, I don’t want to attach anyone prematurely.  I don’t want to presume that just because I’m friends with someone in the biz they’ll even be remotely interested in working on my movie. (Although I’d then accuse them of utter insanity since I have every intention of producing an amazing film that will be analyzed and feted throughout the cinematic ages!  But I digress…)

So, in the spirit of protecting the innocent, let’s just call my director friend Mr. Coppola for now.  Anyway, Mr. Coppola read an earlier version of my script and he liked it.  I’ve given him the latest leaner, meaner version, so he is going to peruse it and offer his thoughts.  Through the course of our dinner at Café des Artistes (no, I’m not kidding – that’s actually where we ate…and it was delicious!) we talked about films we’ve seen recently and liked (Inception for him, 500 Days of Summer for me) and discovered our shared affection for Hal Ashby’s classic, Harold and Maude.  I definitely trust Mr. Coppola’s taste-level and directing abilities.  And I admire him.  I’ve seen him in action on set and he’s energetic, decisive, and organized.  But, more importantly, he’s kind.  And fun.  The cast and crew genuinely like Mr. Coppola and have confidence in him – so things get done.  The impossible becomes possible.

Which is why I have a cast photo from The Mary Tyler Moore Show gracing this latest blog entry.   I really love The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I’m amazed at how it still holds up when you watch it.  Not only is it exceptionally funny and well-written, but it is grounded in real, accessible characters.  What also strikes me when I watch the show is the feeling of good will that permeates from each episode.  Okay, I know I’m projecting here, but I just get the sense that every person involved with that production was so grateful to be a part of it.

In the book Love is All Around: The Making of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, by Robert S. Alley & Irby B. Brown, series co-creator James L. Brooks reflects on Mary Tyler Moore’s edict about casting the show: “It was very important for Mary to cast nice people.  We kept on talking about that.  She had had that experience with The Dick Van Dyke Show and she wanted to continue it…It wasn’t on our list of priorities the way it was with Mary – that people should be nice.”

I realize that the “nice” factor is a big priority for me.  HUGE.  As I assemble the team for this movie, I recognize the responsibility that comes with it.  An independent film is automatically saddled with the pressures of shooting for long hours with a ticking clock and very little money.  We can choose to be stressed out and negative about it or we can be thankful that we even get to make a damn movie in the first place and try to have some fun doing it.  The on-set leadership establishes the tone for the entire cast and crew; if we build a production based on collaboration, respect, and good humor, then I truly believe the positive results will come.  Bottom line: I don’t think quality and compassion are mutually exclusive.  I am determined to have a NICE set.  (And one that kicks some celluloid butt, too!)

NEXT UP: Did I Mention that I’m Moving?

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