Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
May 14, 2009.
Oscar-nominated actress Natalie Portman joined her business partner and film
developer/new media entrepreneur Christine Aylward to discuss the launch of
their new website,
www.makingof.com, at a special event in the Filmmaker's Lounge during
the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. As they explained, the site is meant to be a
gathering place and resource for filmmakers and fans of filmmakers alike.
Their web project hopes to transform the way people view, enjoy, and
participate in the filmmaking process.
The Israeli-born Portman, of course, is the actor who received international
attention when she landed the role of Queen/Senator Amidala for Star Wars
Episodes I, II and III. This helped her get parts in Anywhere
But Here and Where the Heart Is but she really came into her own
with films like Garden State, V For Vendetta (where she shaved
her head) and The Other Boleyn Girl. When she played the
ex-girlfriend in Darjeeling Limited she did an accompanying 13-minute
short, “Hotel Chevalier” for director Wes Anderson and offered her sexiest
performance yet. As an accomplished actress, she has performed in such
established plays as Anton Chekhov's The Seagull and The Diary of
Anne Frank, and garnered her Supporting Actress Oscar nom for Closer
graduated from Harvard University where she studied psychology. Later on she
directed her first short, has actively supported various humanitarian and
animal rights causes, and
romantically linked with various actors or musicians such as neo-hippie
Devendra Banhart. She is also an entrepreneur having started an aborted
vegan shoe line (its partner company dissolved through this econ crisis) who
is now launching this media company with Aylward as CEO. The two had met on
a film set and came up with the idea of a behind-the-scenes, insiders-look
web portal off-the-cuff during a dinner.
The following interview was drawn from the Q & A session after they
announced the launch before a small group of film professionals; it is
boiled down to Portman's remarks and her response to several of my own
questions as well.
Why did you two start this website?
Christine and I have been friends for a few years now and we were talking
one night. I said, "I wonder why there isn't a website that sort of
encapsulates the experience of visiting a friend on a film set?" Because
every time a friend of mine came to visit I was reminded about how exciting
a place it is to work and was reminded about how little we all know when
you're just a movie-goer of all the different aspects that go into making a
film. The site is supposed to encapsulate that experience and give access to
people who don't have a friend that they can go visit on a film set. So they
can say, "How did they do that?" There are jobs that exist on films sets
which people don't even know about. We can give an insight into that and
offer that experience for the serious burgeoning filmmaker. There's this
whole generation now of people who are making their own movies with YouTube
and similar sites. I'm sure that they want expert advice or the opportunity
to see how it looks up close. So that's the goal of the site, to extend that
access to everyone.
You've worked on small indie films and very large studio films. How do
you compare those experiences; the good things, the bad things, and being
behind the scenes?
The thing that unites all film experience is that it really is a team. It's
a collaboration between so many people. There's actually this [David] Mamet
line that [I think] Mike [Nichols] always quotes. So I'm going to quote the
quote. "Film is a collaborative process. Bend over." [laughs] It
really is a collaborative process though and there are so many people who
contribute in ways that are not highlighted. It's a really exciting
opportunity to get to focus on those people. Also, [filmmaking] is such an
insider industry. So many people learn to do what they do because their
parents do it. You see on film sets a lot of time that the camera operator
is the father of the focus puller and the makeup artist is the mother of the
hair stylist. It's very much like that. It's really a family business and
that makes it even more exciting to open that access because that's how
people get access. It's not like people come out of film school and get
hired on movies. A lot of times the access is who you know and you learn by
doing. You learn by being on the job. The goal of this, and obviously it's a
work in progress and we'll be amending as necessary, as we go on, but the
hope is to really let people learn by doing, learn by experiencing
site is for people who want to learn what a grip is and for people who want
hear expert advice from director Ron Howard?
Yeah. It should be, like, [for] the kid who asks, "How did they do that
explosion in the Bond movie?" to the person who's says, "What lens was he
using when he got that very specific shot?" or whatever. The goal is to have
You've talked about the vault section of the site; you'll be able to
watch whole movies or just clips of things?
It will have the making of related things with movies that are already past
being in theaters. So we're hopefully getting archival things. That's what
we want for the future on the site.
you do some of the interviews yourself that we see?
I did one interview that I think is going to be up. I didn't want it to be,
like, the "me" site. I really want it to be about filmmaking. So I didn't
want to be all over it, but I did one interview.
Did you learn anything that you didn't know before from watching some of
the other interviews?
Absolutely. The interview I actually did was with [director] Jim Sheridan
who I worked with recently and it was so exciting to get to ask him
questions. It's so formal to ask those questions with someone that you know
and to have that opportunity was really incredible. One thing he said that
was really helpful to me was about the sort of impossibility of
screenwriting because how do you describe the look on the child's face that
has just learned that his mother died, when you open the door and reveal his
face. How do you put that in there? He said that's the problem because it's
such a visual medium and to really write something that describes what
you're going to see is impossible and that's half the impossibility of
getting anything made. There have been so many things from different
interviews, but it's nice to get insight from really disparate points of
view that a lot of times you don't get to hear. It gives people ideas too,
about the opportunities that they could have on films, what are the many
aspects that go into it and what's the process behind the many aspects.
Do you see the site as connecting, say, a hairdresser with a production
company or things like that?
In terms of connecting people, I think one of the future goals for our
interviews will be to have filmmakers interviewing other filmmakers so that
they're asking the exact questions. If you're a costume designer what would
you ask a legendary costume designer? If you're a casting director what
would you ask? So in that we connect those people and have interviews in
that way too.
And what do you have planned for the future – an international version?
As I said, this is a "work in progress." We just launched this [on April
23rd, 2009] and we're very excited. There are so many opportunities, and
yes, definitely [we are planning that]. That's such a great opportunity that
the internet has brought us. One of the things that I always bemoan in the
United States is how little access we have to so many great films from the
rest of the world. In cities like London and Paris, I think you get a lot
more exposure to that stuff. So it would be really exciting to use this as a
tool for that, but not yet.
Will you be capturing content from the post-production process as well?
That'll be in the "Filming Now" section.
In your message to consumers what are the key differences that they'll
find on your site than they might not find on a DVD that they've purchased
which includes sections about the making of a film?
It's like [we are going to be] a centralized resource. So if you're a big
Michel Gondry fan, our hope for the future is that it's not just Eternal
Sunshine, but you click on it and you'll get his commentary on all of
his movies or, if you like him, then here's other directors like him, or
also people who you don't normally see interviewed on DVD stuff like
editors, cinematographers and design people. So you get insight into
different aspects of the film and also, if you're into one of those other
areas, you can again, like, see the archived [stuff]. Let’s say there's one
costume designer that you love or you just want to see all costume designers
or you want to see all action movies; the goal is that it'll be a
centralized resource with archived materials that the serious student can go
to. Obviously we're building [it now].
And specific to that person – like specific to Michel Gondry and not just
specific to the film?
Right, or it could be specific to the film. It could be specific to the
person. It could be specific to a department. It's organized in that way
that you wouldn't get just from a DVD, one alone. This is great. I love it.
It's almost like a brainstorming session. There are so many ideas.
What have you learned about the internet that you didn't know before?
Wow. It's a huge process and I've learned a lot from watching Christine lead
the way of creating the business and building a website. It never even
occurred to me, all of the elements that go into it. That could be a whole
other Making Of. It's incredible. I didn't realize everything that goes into
it and it's been very impressive to witness and learn about.
One exciting thing about the site is that it encompasses the whole
business of film, from accounting to acting.
This is really where we will expand and that's the goal. I think it was one
of the Naked Gun movies in the credits, I remember seeing this as a
little kid, that said “what the hell is a dolly grip?” You watch the credits
and if you don't know. If you haven't been on a film set you're like, "What?
What does that even mean?" So, yes, most people would be like, "Why does a
film need an accountant?"
And, if they're not an actor or director, still be inspired.
Exactly. The goal is really to give an impression of [what] everyone does.
We don't have a specific thing [in mind].
What are you hoping that people will say about the site after hearing
about it now?
Again, the goal is to give the user the experience of being a part of the
process. I think you should feel that. [As for] the end goal, as I've said,
we're a work-in-progress and just starting out, but our goal is to have
everyone feel like they're a part of the crew and that they know the
elements that go into the filmmaking process so that they can experience it
in a very personal way. That's our goal.
CLICK HERE TO READ WHAT NATALIE PORTMAN HAD TO SAY TO US IN 2006!
us Let us
know what you
Return to the features page.