I had no idea that was a strategy to putting together a puzzle, at least professionally. I always thought it was about getting the border done first and filling in the middle.

Who knew? In fact, that doc tells you a lot about strategy.

What do want people thinking about when they leave the film?

I like to leave people free to think what they want, but if there was something I’d like them to take away it’s that regardless of what age you are, there’s an opportunity to find your true voice, your authentic self. I don’t want it to sound so highfalutin because it’s an entertaining movie, but it is about a woman of a certain age and she is finding who she is and not just in relation to her husband and her children. To me, it’s interesting that that can occur at any stage of life.

Speaking of when this takes place, it took me a while to figure out when this took place. The decor of their home and the way Kelly dresses makes it difficult at first to determine what time period this is set. Then of course, she gets a iPhone as a birthday present, but I suspect you were deliberately vague about the time period at first.

That was intentional. I was trying to create that in the opening couple of minutes. It felt to me that this is how she was raised, this is the house that she’s been in all this time. I wanted to get a sense that she was stuck in time. So we shot those opening sequences in silhouette; I dressed her in a dress that mirrored the wallpaper, so she kind of gets lost in her environment, and again, that was intentional. Then at a certain point, a few minutes in, we see her take out the iPhone and we realize this is now. But you’ve already established a feeling, even if it’s not conscious, that this is a woman from another time. But you aren’t the first to wonder that.

You cinematographer Chris Norr has a great array of previous work, including Sinister and a couple dozen episodes of Gotham, which is a beautiful-looking show. There’s such a textured look to this film, especially in that house—it feels lived in. Have you worked with him before and what did you two talk about in terms of the film’s visual sense.

I had never worked with him before. I sat with Chris, who is massively talented even though he hasn’t done an enormous number of features, but a lot of TV work. He’s really good. As we began discussing references and looks for the film, you realize when you’re resonating with someone and you’re seeing things the same way. We just hit it off beautifully. Some of the best shots in the movie came out of Chris’s imagination. I’ll work with him again and again.

What does taking on the role of director do for you artistically that maybe producing alone does not?

That’s a great question. It flexes different muscles. When you’re a producer, you’re often influencing many of the same areas, but you’re influencing them indirectly. You’re working around the margins, talking to the director, maybe talking to the editing, helping with the casting, but you’re doing it around the margins. Where you might be alone, before the director gets involved, is in the script stage, and my producing partner Peter Saraf and I do a lot of work with young, first-time directors—not exclusively, but we’ve done a lot. I think of Safety Not Guaranteed as one of those movies with a first-time director [Colin Trevorrow], and there were a number of others. In those instances, we get involved in making sure the director has the right cinematographer, somebody who’s experienced; the right production designer—again, working around the margins. In the directing capacity, you’ve got your finger on everything, as you know. And if you’re smart, you start listening to other people.

I want to talk about a specific scene in Puzzle, the birthday scene at the beginning. There’s a moment when you realize she’s baked her own birthday cake; no one has bought or made one for her; and you assume she’s making it for someone else, until she brings it out and everyone sings to her. It’s heartbreaking.

I thought that was a really great moment. That scene was originally in a different place in the script, but we put it in there because we felt like it was the perfect way to tell her story in just a few moments.

On the production side, what else are you working on?

On the production side, I’ve got that Hanks guy working on the story of Mr. Rogers.

I just saw the documentary this afternoon.

The doc is really good. In September, we begin shooting with Tom and a director named Marielle Heller, who did Diary of a Teenage Girl, which is a great movie. That will be a fun one. It’s a renaissance moment for our company. Pete and I started out hoping we could do one film a year, and this year we’re shooting four films and three TV shows. We’re shooting in China, in Tunisia, in Norway, and Pittsburgh. One of our TV shows just went on the air this week, called Vida [on STARZ], and it got great reviews. So that’s where we are.

Marc, thanks for taking the time to talk.

Of course. Thank you.

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