Laura Dern directed “Grace” one of the five short films which comprise CALL ME CRAZY: A Five Film. It airs on Lifetime Saturday April 18 at 8 p.m. This is the second film that Dern’s directed [her first film was a short back in the 90s]. She said she’s been contemplating directing for quite some time. Some of Dern’s films include Citizen Ruth, We Don’t Live Here Any More, Jurassic Park, Blue Velvet, Rambling Rose and October Sky. Most recently Dern starred in the fantastic series Enlightened on HBO.
Amy Steele: Hi Laura.
Laura Dern: Hey.
Amy Steele: I loved Enlightened by the way.
Laura Dern: Thank you Amy. That’s hilarious. Not that I’m saying there are any similarities, but every time I meet an Amy now I feel so close to them because I love the name so much because I love that character.
Amy Steele: So how did you prepare to direct?
Laura Dern: You know, I mentioned earlier it was really run and gun. We actually were finishing Enlightened in the middle of this, so it was a really insane time for me. It was literally a matter of days.
I got the call and they needed to start immediately. Mine was the first one up. So it was literally a matter of –I think– five days between, “hey can we send a script over” and needing to be on a set with a cast, a crew and a vision. So good news and bad news is I think I didn’t have time to even figure out what I needed to know. I just had to go for it.
I love working with actors. I’ve done it my whole life. I’ve been raised by them so I don’t have a lot of fear about that. It feels quite natural to me, I guess. I felt surprised by my awareness of where the camera should be. That seemed natural too oddly and luckily for me I had the brilliant DP, Gail Tattersall, who came and shot it. He and I were in sync about the vision as he supported me immensely.
The part that I think was hardest was just, you know, scheduling the day (time management), making sure actors had the time in something this emotional and shifting locations and all of that. Just the real producerial managing of getting your work done in a very, very short window is probably the area I learned the most from and had the most to learn about.
Amy Steele: There’s a clear difference between the manic and depressive scenes. Darker when she’s having depressive episodes and real quick scenes, brighter colors during her manic scenes when she takes the girls shopping and everything. What approach did you take for the different scenes?
Laura Dern: You know, relying on a totally brilliant actor like Melissa Leo. Really spending time talking through it before we started and spending time speaking to specialists and someone I know who has the disorder. Making sure that Melissa felt comfortable with really understanding the highs, the lows, and the in-between. You know, the medicated version which was important to me that when we did the un-medicated version, it’s not healed.
It’s all about degrees with the disorder and really trying to stay true to that, when someone comes off a manic episode like how they come down off of it. So in a very short time, there were scenes which dealt with every single one of those things, so I think it was more spending time with Melissa and making sure we knew exactly what that was and hoping to capture that in at least one take in each area so that people could really feel the differentiation.