Inherent Vice Behind the Scenes

Some of the most inspirational filmmaking stories are tales of failure. Not the sort of failure that shuts down a production, but the sort that makes people look at a scene or a problem in a new light. It’s impressive to see a film that works in a near-perfect manner, but more so to realize that it didn’t just happen that way. Making a film like There Will Be Blood may seem impossible, until you realize Paul Thomas Anderson and everyone else involved just built it step by step, dealing with setbacks along the way, and using intuition and imagination to solve problems.

Or take Anderson’s new film Inherent Vice. One scene that works really well is a long conversation between Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon — you’ve seen it excerpted in trailers and in the image above. They talk for a few minutes, and the whole thing is one shot in which the camera slowly pushes in on a dolly to add movement and a changing perspective. It works so well that a lot of people won’t even think about the shot the first time.

But that’s not how Anderson initially conceived and shot the scene. He first did it in a way that didn’t work, spending a lot of time and energy before realizing that a different, simpler approach was the way to go. He talks about the process in a new interview, which you can watch below.

Vice has this conversation, which here is queued up to the specific part of the interview in question.

There’s other good stuff in that interview, too, but I really love this bit. Some filmmakers are enshrined more than others, and Anderson is definitely among that group. It’s always useful to remember that even people whose work is consistently great have to fight and sometimes stumble through problems to get to a good end result.

Inherent Vice opens wide this Friday, January 9.

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