Film Independent’s Director’s Close-up Series gives audiences an informative night of how to make movies from some of the industry’s top executives. The evening I attended included special guests Ruben Fleisher, director, and Alan Baumgarten, editor, of Gangster Squad, Zombieland and Mary Zophres, costume designer, for Gangster Squad andTrue Grit.
The night was a true learning lesson for anyone in attendance. We were given a first-had look into the influences that inspired Ruben Fleisher in the making of Gangster Squad. It was amazing to see some of his original inspiration boards and studio presentations. Ruben started out the discussion of the night talking a great deal about how he convinced Warner Brothers to hire him and go forth with making the movie. He said “I put together a presentation and pitch to the studio.” He made a point of saying that when you are convincing people to give you money, and give you a job, “I thought it would be cool to show a presentation, one I had made for the movie. I had to sell myself to get this job and there were definitely a lot of other people in the mix and competition.” Ruben’s message to the audience was one of inspiration. It felt as if he was telling aspiring filmmakers that dreams really can come true, that if you push hard enough and are persistent, people will take you seriously.
Ruben went on to discuss how Warner Brothers selected him for the job, and his own commercial and music background. He also discussed how he used old photos of Los Angeles on his inspiration boards and these became the influence for his creation of old Hollywood, everything from the set to the costumes, to the film’s music and themes. Editor Alan Baumgarten talked about taking the director’s vision and using his skills to bring this vision to life in post-production. Mary Zophres showed some of her storyboards and designs and through her conversation it was clear she puts her heart and soul into every costume. She also shared what is what like to work with Emma Stone recalling she looked “absolutely beautiful” in the costumes. “I wanted her to look like a woman,” said Zophres, and she said Emma paid her the biggest compliment when she told her she “looked and felt different” in her designs.
The evening was about soul, heart, and hardcore belief in your vision. It was about having the guts to follow your dreams and make a movie and it was a theme that resonated with the crowd of industry elite and aspiring filmmakers alike.