Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Dustin Lance Black Talks Re-Editing & Taking A Second Stab At His Directorial Debut 'Virginia'

The Playlist By Jen Vineyard | The Playlist May 18, 2012 at 4:40PM

Dustin Lance Black had a rude awakening with his directorial debut "What's Wrong with Virginia?" when it first premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2010 -- critics hated it, including The Playlist. Even though he'd won an Academy Award for his screenplay of "Milk," Black discovered that the goodwill from his Oscar acceptance speech only went so far. But if it had been up to him, he wouldn't have shown the film before he was confident with what he had shot.
0

Dustin Lance Black, Virgina
Dustin Lance Black had a rude awakening with his directorial debut "What's Wrong with Virginia?" when it first premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2010 -- critics hated it, including The Playlist. Even though he'd won an Academy Award for his screenplay of "Milk," Black discovered that the goodwill from his Oscar acceptance speech only went so far. But if it had been up to him, he wouldn't have shown the film before he was confident with what he had shot. "We were out of money, and out of time, in a big way," he told The Playlist. "I was being told, 'You're finished,' and so it was a bit of a cross-your-fingers situation, which is never a good way to show your film."

People were not kind -- and the headlines mirrored the film's title. Even though Black expected the criticism, "it didn't make it hurt any less. It hurt."

Dustin Lance Black, Virgina

After Black went through "the stages of grief," he said, he decided that despite distribution offers, he should take some time off from the film, go earn some money from a "nice-paying studio job," and then use that to re-edit the film. "That was dangerous," he said. "I heard warnings, 'You have distribution offers, and those might not be here in a year. You have heat now, and you want to move forward.' But I wanted the film to be the best it could be."

So Black read the reviews, even the "nasty" ones, and the critics confirmed something that he'd been wondering about. "There were some that talked about tone and narrative and how it wasn't finding its way or walking that line well," he said. "And I agreed."

Black found a new editor in Beatrice Sisul, who didn't like the film any more than the critics did, but was at least open to reading the screenplay. Black said she told him after reading it, "I love this. Why didn't you make this movie?" She encouraged him to go back and rediscover the simplicity of the original story, which on the page did not have a lot of the "incredibly unnecessary" voiceover that had been added in post-production "out of insecurity." For instance, instead of just meeting Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly's characters, seeing their "lovely and strange" relationship evolve while figuring out that he's got some other life with his wife and realizing she's not quite sane, it was told to you.

"That was no good. It was all this talking, talking, talking, explaining, explaining, explaining, and it gave the movie a dramatic tone," Black said. "It took you out of the occasional farce it should have been, the dream world you live in when you're poor and in the South. It must have been awfully confusing for an audience -- they didn't know what movie they were in."

This article is related to: Dustin Lance Black, Jennifer Connelly, Virginia


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates