Nanette Burstein to Direct Nicole Holofcener Script

by Melissa Silverstein
April 22, 2011 3:26 AM
4 Comments
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The news from the Hollywood Reporter is that Nanette Burstein (Going the Distance) will direct Unforgiving World a remake of a French film with a script written by writer/director Nicole Holofcener for Focus Features.

While I very much liked Going the Distance (more than most people), I am a bit confused as to why Holofcener is not directing the film. The woman is clearly a talent as she constantly shows through her film the latest being Please Give which won an Independent Spirit Award this past February.

Here's the description of the film:

a newlywed couple working at the same architectural film end up vying for the same life-changing position. The film shows the different outcomes in parallel storylines depending on who gets the job.

I know that she struggles to get the financing for her films and that she takes writing jobs for hire (this one is clearly one of those), but still. Why couldn't she direct this? I'm not taking anything away from Burstein but it's not like Holofcener doesn't have a track record making solid films about relationships. That's exactly the movies she makes.

Anyone have thoughts on this?

photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America

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4 Comments

  • Linn D. | April 22, 2011 6:34 AMReply

    Melissa, I'm back, with more to say. :)

    I remember back when Catherine Hardwicke chose not to direct the 2nd Twilight film you were very concerned and I think even upset. At the time it wasn't public knowledge that Ms. Hardwicke chose not to direct it. She had a Right to First Refusal in her contract, and she chose not to. (by the way, that's a pretty standard clause in all director's contracts)

    I've been working in the film/TV industry since 1999 and the majority of my friends do, too. From what I can tell, every director has to realize when signing up to direct a film, this is possibly the last film they'll ever get to direct. If everything goes wrong, they may never be given the opportunity to direct a studio film again. (I'm not talking indie world) Do people fail "up"? Sure, all the time. But there are also hundreds of directors who litter the ground of Hollywood who got to direct a couple of films only then to see their directing career die. (and sometimes for reasons completely out of their control) Men and women.

    A great read is the book "It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here: My Journey Through Show Business" by Charles Grodin. While he's an actor, the blizzard story especially sticks in my mind as a warning - you just never know.

    So when a director is presented with opportunities, as Ms. Hardwicke was after the 1st Twilight film. Part of her thinking has to be: if I never get to direct another film, which one would I rather have the experience of? Which one would I rather devote 2 years (or more) of my life to?

    And if the director has the luxury of not being saddled with personal debt/responsibilities (thereby basing their decision off of which one pays more) they may choose based on which one feeds their artistic soul. Which one sounds more satisfying. So they'll never regret at least trying. Film is a crazy business where much of the final outcome is completely out of the artist's control. Including directors. Producers and studio executives control them. And mother nature controls studios. (I believe it was the Columbine shooting that ruined "Boondock Saints" opening. A giant blizzard ruined Charles Grodin's "big break" to be a super movie star - see his book. Etc.)

    It is often said by people in the industry - just getting a film made is a miracle. Getting a good film made... is an act of God.

  • Jen | April 22, 2011 6:18 AMReply

    This is a remake and not an original idea -- so I think Holofcenter chose not to direct as she's known for just wanting to direct (original features) she writes. Believe me, she could have easily gotten this job if she wanted it, esp at Focus.

  • Linn D. | April 22, 2011 5:38 AMReply

    Melissa, I think you haven't taken into account a lot of the behind the scenes aspects. Such as, time committment. Writing is a very flexible job, directing is NOT. It will require at least 2 years of someone's undevoted focus, full-time. If you have any other projects you want to work on, be it personal or professional, they will be greatly affected. It also usually means a hell of a lot of traveling because unlike TV shows which often shoot on one set the majority of time, you may be all over the place. Even if your film is set only in one city. (tax incentives, actor availability, etc.)

    Another aspect is which project speaks to you. Nicole may enjoy writing the film, but realize she'd rather focus her directing energy on another project. Meaning she'd rather spend 2 years of her life running around the world shepherding a different story and just answer phone calls/email rewrites for this particular story. You only have so much time in a day (unless you're strung out on uppers) so the artist has to choose wisely. Think of how many films/TV shows are shepherded by Stephen Spielberg or JJ Abrams but they don't actually direct it.

    And last, sometimes it takes collaboration to bring the project home. That's often why rewrites are done by another writer. Think of relay races. To win you have to succesfully pass the baton on to the next runner. I attended a public discussion where a mediator who works with WGA disputes said in their opinion the majority of time, the new writer did indeed improve the film. Same goes for directing. Sometimes even writer/directors need to acknowledge they cannot be the only one shaping the story. Another voice needs to be added. Films are created by collaboration, unlike an oil painting, for example.

    I think this speaks more to Nicole being respected in the industry. The producers possibly approached her begging for her help, whatever she was willing to give. I think celebrate the fact that another female director is being given the chance to direct. I'm sure Nicole will continue to grow and succeed as an artist.

  • Sayer Frey | April 22, 2011 5:23 AMReply

    I agree, it doesn't make sense. Will we hear why? Even so, I think we need to hear the answer from Nicole. Can you get an interview?

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