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‘The Vast of Night’ | Anatomy of a Scene

18

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“I’m Andrew Patterson, and I’m the director of ‘The Vast of Night.’ So the actress here is Sierra McCormick, and she’s playing Fay, who is all by herself with the 500 members of her town all at a basketball game. So the movie is set in November of 1958, and the setting is in a fictional town of Cayuga, New Mexico.” [STRANGE SOUND] “And the first thing that happens in this scene is you hear a very new sound. We wanted the sound in particular to be new in cinema. And so we worked pretty hard at mixing a number of elements together, and then Fay responds to it in a way that initially is— it frames it as a viewer. Like you see that she doesn’t understand it, and even though she’s not threatened by it, she certainly starts taking immediate action.” “Hello? Hello? Hello?” “Listen, ma’am, can you disconnect and then try again? It’s all—” ””— calling, and it’s a strange, large object holding over my land off and on, like a tornado. Please send the police.” “Ma’am, is this an emergency?” “All of that frames your relationship to the sound. All of that kind of creates a tension that is a setup in this scene. And hopefully as a viewer you’re looking for the resolution just like Fay, the switchboard operator, is. And what we were aiming to do was, in her performance, not go to the extreme that you would probably expect in this scene from if you were watching a horror film or you were watching a different kind of genre. We wanted her to be very grounded and continue to be the stand-in for the viewer. And we worked on that by heavily rehearsing her performance. This is actually the scene Sierra chose to audition with. And from the time that she auditioned with it to the night when we got this shot, we pulled it way, way, way back because we knew that the film itself, we didn’t want to steal away the magic of where the film was going to go by having a large performance here. On set, there is no sound being played. The sound was a year away from being created at that point. And so she’s just playing to an AD reading lines very dryly in the room but not necessarily in a way that you can play off of as an actor. So it truly was both the sound and the people on the other end of the line were yet to be cast and yet to be created. So there’s no— Sierra had to very much do this on her own, reading against someone that has no training in acting.” ”—went away. I just wanted to see if it—” “Just call Everett” “Well, I don’t want to disturb—” “I think the only thing I told her as a director was this is something that is entrancing. It’s mesmerizing. It’s not scary. It’s not threatening. And if anything, it’s the thing that’s going to take you down the rabbit hole.” [STRANGE SOUND]



www.nytimes.com 2020-06-01 14:30:26

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