Mark AlbrechtSnackboy's Words of Wisdom
july 1998 guest
The decision to base both his feature directorial debut, Citizen Ruth, and his upcoming (fall1998) release Election in his native state was not a difficult one for 1979 Creighton Prep graduate Alexander Payne. Simply put, Payne loves Nebraska, especially his old stomping grounds--Omaha.
"Writers write about things that push their deepest buttons," Payne told his July 13 audience at the Hollywood Salon. And for Alexander Payne, one of those "deepest buttons" is his dedication to seeing that the Midwest and its people are more accurately represented in film.
Setting his features in his home state and filming there are two ways Payne brings such a flavor of Midwestern realism to his work. Another is his insistence on supplementing his more experienced casts with local actors, some of whom have played major roles in his films and have received critical acclaim.
Payne, who received his Masters in filmmaking from UCLA in 1992, said the positive reaction he received from his final thesis project was a highly significant point in his career as a film director, saying that reaction "opened doors" for him. And when his first feature film (Citizen Ruth) was deemed a critical success at the Sundance Festival, more doors, and job opportunities, were becoming increasingly available. Citizen Ruth was released approximately one year after the festival.
At one point undecided on whether to study for a career in film or in international journalism, Payne said his experiences in graduate school were highly beneficial to him. He added, however, that there was no uncategorical answer to whether pursuing a graduate program or immersing oneself into the art first was the best choice. For Payne, graduate school allowed him to"submerse himself into the medium," to "think and live film" for an extended time.
In comparing his two films, CitizenRuth, and Election, Payne said the process of creating each "felt the same," but that the "track record" and critical success of the former made filming Election in some ways easier. He noted that the personalities involved in the process of creating a film, especially the actors, have a great effect on the outcome and production of that film. He complimented the central figures in his previous films: Laura Dern, who in Citizen Ruth portrayed a pregnant solvent-huffing woman; and Matthew Broderick, featured actor in Election. Working with experienced actors such as these, as well as Hollywood veterans like Burt Reynolds (Citizen Ruth) along with ahost of untrained or lesser-trained up-and-comings provides a challenge crucial to the success of his films.
While Payne has co-written both his major projects with Jim Taylor, he said he would enjoy separating himself from directing only what he has written, saying that directing and editing are where his strongest interests lie. Still, he said, it is the writing of the script which allows the greatest self-discovery and also causes one to "pull out from within yourself what you never knew was there."
Alexander Payne’s branches may have spread far from his home in the heartland, but his roots are firmly planted in his native state. He said he is upset to hear people who don’t know or appreciate the Midwest speak of it in derogative terms or misrepresent the area in the media, and he said he is especially disappointed when Nebraskans themselves (or former Nebraskans) downplay their native area or seem almost apologetic or embarrassed to admit that their roots are tied to the area.
"I increasingly love Nebraska, and Omaha," he said. "Returning there allows me to ‘reconnect’ with a certain space and time that is very important to me." And at theJuly Hollywood Salon, the audience learned why Alexander Payne and his successes are very important to Nebraska. --JLK
So, you're tired of sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Let's face it, it's not what you know, it's WHO you know, so why don't you come get to know us? The Hollywood Salon is movers and shakers, celebs and wanna-be celebs getting together over a beer and a memory of a faraway place.
We're not all Nebraskans - some of us just like to hang out with Nebraskans - but we're all part of the magic of Hollywood. Join us at 7:30 on the SECOND Monday of every month at the Culver Hotel, 9400 Culver Blvd. (@ Washington Blvd.) in Culver City, California 90232.
Just ten bucks Just TEN bucks...includes one drink and a raffle ticket for fabulous Nebraska prizes. (Ten bucks too much? volunteer some time to the NCC and get in free.) There is a fully stocked bar, with cocktails, draft beers and good wines. ĘThere is also a great restaurant at the hotel serving wonderful appetizers and full meals (you can eat early in the lobby/bar or bring your food up into the Salon conference room).
There's a VIP guest almost every month--check out the list of recent ones and see who you've been missing. You'll have a chance to share your news and needs in our Show and Tell. But the best part is all the friends you'll meet--old friends and new friends. Most of them will know where you come from. And all of them are bigwigs (or tomorrow's bigwigs) in Hollywood.