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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.
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Virginia

Sisul's cut also eliminated a character -- Connelly's son tells his story to his imagined father, a race-car driver in the original cut. "It made people feel like they couldn't trust the narrator at all," Black said, "because you have this dueling narration, and they both seem a little bit mad. And then you're at sea." By removing this aspect, Black felt that the son became a reliable narrator, "in direct contrast to the more delusional perspective" of Connelly's character.

"Beatrice brought clarity and objectivity," Black said of editing the film (you can see the new trailer here) "She made me feel brave and confident that this was more the movie I was trying to make."

Virginia

Black said that he's learned a lot from the Toronto experience, including not to bring a non-finished product to a film festival. "But wasn't that the tradition, in the past? You did the best you could with the independent money you had, you premiered it at a festival, and the distributor looked at it for its potential so you can make improvements," he said. "I think the Weinsteins still do that. But it's more difficult to distribute a movie like this, so a lot of people don't want to make that investment of time and money."

The writer/director also doesn't expect critics to make an investment of time by seeing the movie a second time around, even if it is different now. "There are some people who won't give it a second chance," he admitted. "And there are some people who just don't like this kind of film, the boy bloggers. I'm not sure if they'll ever connect with it, and that's okay. I'm sure there are films that they love that I don't."

But even with those barriers, Black said the New York premiere this week of the re-titled film -- now called "Virginia" -- gave him new hope. "It went really well," he said with a sigh of relief. "Thank God. Thank goodness. It's such a different gauge for this film." And since he plans to direct again, he promises he's learned a lot from the experience and won't make the same mistakes the next time out: "Unless I'm barred from the business!" he laughed.

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


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