Esther Peres [auteur]
What is your specialty? Production, direction, something else?
I write/produce/direct and edit unique works. My 35mm film, 11:11, is an award winning short. I'm technically very savvy so interface well with all phases of pre-production, production and post production. Besides making interesting, award-winning films, I work for a major Hollywood studio in the ancillary division, editing feature films for after-market. I make films longer, shorter, and cut them for content. I have worked on many A list films. I work from dailies and keep the movie commercial and so keep directors happy. However, although I love editing (I also cut great trailers and promos and docs), I prefer to direct as I have the auteur gene... not the temperment, just the vision and the quirky world view.
Is there a link to a site where we can see references to your work?
How did you begin in this field? Who introduced you to it?
My brother and I made Super 8 films when we were kids. I was very influenced by films of the 70's and certain foreign films. I took filmmaking courses at MIT while I studied at Wellesley College. I have a master in Film Production from Boston University and I worked in education TV in Cambridge, MA. I worked for AVID Technologies in Tewksbury, MA. I moved to the Hollywood Hills in 1996 and ever since have worked in tinsel town.
Do you work for a client, for the audience, or for your own creative adventure?
All three. Keeping the audience engaged and happy makes the adventure creative and always keeps the client happy.
What should a good script have in order to interest you?
Great characters. Great dialogue. And a difficulty factor of 10 on a scale from 1 to 10. I love challenge.
Name three contemporary directors or producers that you admire.
Curtis Hanson. Martin Scorsese. Pedro Almodovar.
What movies or television shows inspired you to work in this field?
Ingmar Bergman's Persona. Scorsese's Raging Bull. Truffaut's Jules et Jim. Bertollucci's The Conformist. Woody Allens' early work. Too many to mention. On TV, I admire Six Feet Under. Deadwood. The Wire.
If an actor delivers the lines but is not believable, how do you direct him/her?
First, best to get the actor out of his head. Get them into their body, into the reality of the scene but don't barrage them with lots of words and nonsense that will further confuse the actor. Find ways to make the action/dialogue playable. Keep the actor comfortable and confidant. Find out what it is about the lines that are not clicking for the actor. Work with the other actors and find out what they can give the actor who is having trouble to help him/her find the emotion, the reality of the scene. There are also more drastic/manipulative ways of squeezing a particular truth from an actor, but you don't bring the big guns out until you are particularly desperate or are running out of time. It's always better to get a more organic performance out of an actor... and also, you want to earn and keep the trust of an actor. The actors are the most important element of a production. Even though technical issues are fascinating, one must keep the focus on the folks in front of the camera.
What actor would you love to work with and what type of character would you propose to him/her as a challenge?
So many... but I would love to see Robert Downey, Jr play the cross dressing head of a phone sex company in a script I'm working on...
Are you the type who instantly knows when a take is good, or one who does another three takes to be safe?
I employ a really small shooting ratio and dislike directors who hose down the set from every angle. Big waste of money and time. They don't know what story they are telling or how to tell it. I know when we've nailed a take and will only do a safety because one should always be safe or I will do more takes if the ACTOR really wants another go at it to try something else. I don't have all the answers and so much happens by accident or through experimentation so I always say at the start of every shoot, there are no accidents on this set only experimentation. Don't worry about making mistakes. I like them." This talk is especially directed at the actors...
What type of direction are you used to giving the director of photography?
Very specific. I hear nightmare stories all the time of directors (that studios hire) who are simply NOT prepared and leave it to the DP to make it happen. Transitions in a film are very significant, that first and last shot of a scene. These should be planned out, along with everything else. When you are well prepared, you can make room for happy accidents. There are many approaches. I admire the work of Mike Leigh and Robert Altman, but also the work of Martin Scorsese. You can block with your actors present and see what physical/emotional reality they bring to the scene and use that as a starting point for your shot list... but you must also understand the value of your scene in the first place and story board from there. If you don't know what I mean, watch Casablanca -- every shot carried the exact emotional/plot point within it.
How interested are you in image technologies such as robotized cameras, special effects, etc.?
Very. Again, I love techology. I'm a (sexy) woman who loves toys...
Which has been your experience with conflicts between direction and production?
Do you enjoy post-production, or do you prefer to leave that in the hands of other professionals?
Actually, I am the post production professional.
Do you approach an editing session with a clear idea of what you want to do or with an attitude of experimentation?
What is the best movie than you have seen in the last year, and why did it seem especially good?
Slumdog Millionaire. Casting. Direction. Camera work. Pace. Themes.
Do you eat popcorn at the movies?
Yes. In feel good popcorn movies. I'm well rounded. Love art films and enjoy good tent pole films too.
What do you think of public subsidies for cinema?
Y not. Of course, French cinema, for the most part sucks and suffers from subsidies. So I guess it depends... up for discussion.
What respect does the reality phenomenon deserve? What experiences have you had with this genre?
One of my heros/mentors is a big reality TV guy, Paul Coyne. At the end of the day, character is all that matters, if that character is real, so much the better. Reality TV has to be cast just like narrative... And doc is fantastic. Vernon Florida by Errol Morris (and other Morris films) big thumbs up!
What works best for you when selecting an actor: an audition, seeing some of his/her previous work or having a long conversation with him/her?
My gut. All those neural cells down there tell you everything you need to know. I know right away. After that comes the audition to be sure... and a long conversation always happens as the connection and dialogue grows.
Do you like to have a second unit or do you prefer to control every still of a production?
I haven't directed anything that big, and I imagine, if you are dealing with something enormous, a 2nd unit person is necessary...
Do you change the dialogue after selecting the actors in order to adapt the characters to them?
Sometimes. Generally you cast to fit the character in the first place. But filmmaking is an organic experience and things change as the production evolves. And they get better! A film has three births and 2 deaths. When it's being written, it is born but then dies on the page. Then as it is being directed it lives and dies on the set (on tape or on film). Then in the editing room, it is given new life and dies again, until it is finally re-born in the imagination and heart of EACH viewer. So, yes, to keep it alive, you sometimes rewrite! In every stage of the process.
Which do you like more, large budget or small independent productions?
Do you like to experiment with new technology immediately or do you prefer to wait for it to develop?
Experiment and break ground.
Is the future of cinema the Internet? Mobile phones?
Yes. But the screen in one's living room is NOT going away. It's the hearth. People are still watching. Just a bigger variety and on smaller and smaller devices.
Does the concept of interactive video stir up creative thoughts for you, or does it leave you cold?
I have a lot of interactive video ideas. My film 11:11, the backwards movie, is interactive, in the sense that if the user wants to, they can watch the movie forwards... It is 2 movies for the price of one.
What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to break into in the industry?
Make a film.