By Ray Pride

Michael Mann To Bilge Ebiri On Process

Michael, that ties in to the idea of what you do as a filmmaker. You have to understand people, and then figure out the next step that character needs to take. 

MANN: There’s a similarity of process. What these [DEA] guys are doing is trying to discover what he wants. When you know what he wants, and then if you’re very, very crafty and very, very good — and these guys are — then you can put things out there that can track him. Now he’s on your terms, and he’s moving in a process, and you trap him. Set him up through stings.

In drama, an actor says, “What’s my character’s action in a certain scene? What does he want?” When I’m writing and directing a scene, and in fact a whole movie, I have to know what every single character wants. I have to choreograph what they want to collide with each other. And sometimes what they say they want isn’t really what they want. What they really want is the subtext. And you do that for lots of scenes and lots of acts in the whole movie.

There’s also probably a mutual understanding of process because I kind of use the inverse of police action. They have a perpetrator who’s motivated, that motivation compels him to do something. He commits a crime, he leaves evidence, and he goes on his way. That’s what I’ll invent. What they do is they’re starting with the remains of an event, and trying to work backwards to what motivated this event, and then maybe if you can figure out what motivated this event, you can start to predict his behavior.

~ Michael Mann To Bilge Ebiri On Process

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