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Kenneth Lonergan On You Can Count on Me At 20: “It was always going to be a movie even though it was based on the one-act, because the town itself plays such a big part of the story—what it meant to him and what it meant to her—and it’s hard to convey a sense of a town’s outdoor atmosphere in a play. I always saw their relationship to the town and to the scenery too—I wanted it to be in a very beautiful setting that felt constrictive to him but calming and secure to her—and I didn’t know how in the world to do that in a play.For some scenes everything changes when you get to the location. I think the film follows the script pretty closely. You structure what you’re going to shoot based on the screenplay, for me anyway, and then once you get there sometimes other things occur to you. I’d written several screenplays by then—not that many, but enough to be comfortable with it. But I think one thing that changed, since this was my first film, is the number of scenes I could see clearly in visual terms. Compared to later screenplays I wrote, it was pretty small. Once I’d been a director, I started thinking much more visually. But as far as the general feel of it, all I remember is that I wanted to keep it simple visually, because I didn’t feel capable of handling anything else—I thought I’d just fuck it up if I tried to do anything fancy. And then with one of the cinematographers I was interviewing for the movie, I said, “I don’t know how anything works. I never watch movies for the shots, I’ve never noticed.” So it was wonderful for me because it ended up being a real education in cinema. I’m a big rewatcher of movies, so I started watching movies that I liked and knew very well and was suddenly like Oh shit, oh my God…I’d watch a scene and see things I’d never noticed—how two people were never actually in the same frame together, but the film would just cut back-and-forth between them. Or I’d notice that one scene was a two-shot, and that they’d somehow turned the two people around a couple times without cutting. And just that simple choreography, I’d never paid the slightest attention to before, ever, in a whole lifetime of watching movies. So that was really fun to begin to learn about back then. I was told just to watch my favorite movies and steal shots from them, because it would never look the same anyway.”

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