Interview with Ray Lawrence
Talk to us about the very beginnings of
After I finished ďBlissĒ, I was reading purely
for pleasure and there was a story I thought would
make a good film. I ran into Paul Kelly. We had
common interests. We didnít become fast friends
then, just interested in similar things. I started
to tell him about the story, and he introduced me
to the writings of Raymond Carver. One of these
stories was ďSo Much Water, So Close to HomeĒ, which
had at its heart the most fantastic moral dilemma.
I thought maybe that would be better than the one
I was planning. That was almost 20 years ago.
What was it about the story that made you
stick with it?
I tried to do other things. It sort of came and
went. It was the same with ďLantanaĒ. Thereís just
one little thing in a story you like and sometimes
you forget everything else. Itís just that one little
piece, like a hook, it catches you. With So Much
Water, So Close to Home, it was the difference of
opinion that promoted very strong discussion between
men and women.
There was a time when it wasnít politically
correct to talk about men and women being different.
Whereas now, especially with this film...
Theyíre really the only dynamics there are. Politics,
the sexes, even if theyíre the same sex, itís still
somebody playing a male or female role. I donít
know who it was, but somebody said there are only
three stories: man, woman and Godówhichever God
that may be. Iím fascinated by how people stay together,
why they break up and when they choose to or not,
why some people have kids. There doesnít seem to
be much else.
Can you talk about the first visits to
the Jindabyne area, to the Snowy Mountains...
I used to go there all the time to fish, fly-fish,
so I knew the area. That was part of the fascination
with the story, the outdoors. I really wanted to
do a film outside. So when Beatrix [Christian] and
I decided we were going ahead I said, ĎLetís do
what Raymond Carver did. Letís go where we want
to set it and see what happens.í Thereís a story
about the lake. It was starting with a germ, like
a short story writer. We just walked around, saw
a river and wrote about the river. Years later when
we brought the key crew to the location they said,
ĎItís very similar to the script isnít it?í So,
that was the script. We knew where we were going.
Tell us about the first week of filming
down at Yarrangobilly, in the river...
The logistical problem of the film was that everything
was at least 45 minutes away. So, 45 minutes there
and 45 minutes backóit cuts down on your shooting
time. When we started we were shooting in daylight-
saving time so that was good, but we were still
only working with a ten-hour day. Having daylight-saving
just meant I didnít have to get up so early. Our
head grip [Dave Nichols] has done all sorts of big
films and he said Yarrangobilly is probably the
hardest location heís ever worked in. You can drive
to the area but then youíve basically got to walk
in and itís quite dangerous. It took forever to
get the stuff and the people in. And we had to get
them out before dark, so we had to light the path.
It was about two or three kilometres in on a winding
Shooting there was really beautiful, and the beauty
of the place made the logistical problems facing
us all seem a lot easier. It was slow walking in
the water, a lot like fishing except I didnít have
a rod. We spent all day in the water. I think everyone
really enjoyed it. It was the desire to embrace
the landscape. The challenge for me was the beautyóthereís
so much of it, and there are so many meanings in
this landscape that I was always tense about whether
I could capture it.
Can you talk about why you use natural
It radiates out of my desire and hope to get as
natural a performance as possible. I think itís
easier to get good performances without lights.
Lights introduce a style to the film, they impose.
The cinematographer has a style. Things he likes,
even if theyíre subconscious, get imposed onto a
film. On this film, except for the night sequences,
where itís pitch black, we havenít used one film
light. Theyíve all been domestic bulbs or daylight.
I turn more lights off than I turn on. I think the
actors subconsciously react to it in a good way.
So itís not a style thing, itís a practical choice
that Iíve made to try and get rid of the paraphernalia
that goes with making a film. Iím not the only one
who does it, itís just that I really do push it.
In the setting up, there was a lot of talk
with the actors about how it was okay to stumble,
okay to make a mistake, it was okay to just...
Be. It is. Ultimately, thatís what theyíre trying
to do, just be there. Itís like giving them permission
to work towards a particular goal a particular way.
In the main Iíve chosen actors that embrace that
Can you talk a little bit about the cast,
and working with them?
I always seem to end up with ensemble casts. Itís
difficult because, even though theyíre all working
basically the same way, they all have their needs.
I donít like seeing anybodyís work. I donít like
Ďhearingí the words, I donít want to know someone
has written them. I want the words to sound like
theyíve just fallen out of their mouths. I donít
want anybody to see my work either. I much prefer
to be like wallpaper. And they wonder what Iím doing.
Thatís good. It takes away a lot of the pressure
that I think is fake on a film. After a while the
film starts to make itself. The notion of that happening,
in the three times that Iíve done it, has never
let me down.
Youíve also worked with a lot of the people
around you for many years...
I go to the same restaurant, sit in the same chair
and order the same meal. I find it very comforting
not having to explain things. I think I work in
an unusual way, or Iím told I do. When I find that
I work with people that arenít used to working my
way, itís just slower, because then Iíve got to
get them up to speed and they donít always like
it. So, all the people that I work with, in the
main, are ones that Iíve worked with for years.
What would you like the audience to take
away after theyíve seen the film?
The root of all this is to confirm peopleís lives.
I donít like the aspirational thing, Iíve said it
before. Itís odd, having spent so much time in advertising.
In the stuff that I do, I always try to take the
aspirational dimension out of it, and put in some
sort of confirmation. Aspirational is just a way
of controlling people. Itís okay to be human. You
look at some of the magazines, and some of the shows,
and some of the products you seeónot very average
is it? Itís hard to feel sympathetic for somebody
who gets out of a Porsche.
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