My Five Favorite Moments From
Making ROOM

(5.) My first visit. The moment I first stepped onto the sound stage and saw the set for Room itself: a wooden shed, but with big square ‘blacks’ (to vary the light through the skylight) angled above it so it looked like a weird little Noah’s Ark, dwarfed by the huge space. Inside, the shed was so much more shabby and grubby than I’d imagined it, and I realized one important way the movie would be different from the book: in the novel, we only see through Jack’s eyes, but the film would have to pull off the trick of showing us how things really looked in that prison cell as well as the rose-tinted way Jack saw them.


What was Unusual About Making ROOM

Even though I went into adapting ROOM for the screen in an excited spirit, in the back of my mind I couldn’t help thinking: Watch out for the knife in the back. Just about every film or TV show I’ve seen about writer-goes-to-Hollywood, from Barton Fink to The Player to the hilarious Episodes, replays this darkly comic plot of a naively optimistic novelist or screenwriter being seduced, then destroyed, by a voracious film industry.


The Craft of Film Acting

My only experience of acting is in theatre, and only at the school/university level. But I think theatre professionals would probably agree with the following description of the job, at least for conventional plays that don’t include improvisation or audience participation: in rehearsal you try all sorts of things, your own ideas as well as the director’s, but by opening night you need to settle on the best possible version of your performance, and then repeat that every time.


Making ROOM, Part III:

When your film is in the can (not literally, anymore, of course – more like on the hard drive), it’s time for the screenwriter to get even further out of the way.  Of course I was one of the people consulted and shown rough cuts of the film, but basically the editorial process is an intense submersion of the Director and the Editor in the footage, and other people should interfere with it as little as possible. Anything you saw filmed, or glimpsed in the rushes, can still be thrown away, or cut together in a way you may not recognize.


Making ROOM, Part II: Production

When production (actually shooting the film) starts, the jargon gets even more unguessable, but because much of it is specific to a given department – sound recording, or make-up, or lighting – I mostly let it roll over my head. I had no clue what they meant by proposing to ‘boom Brie’ or ‘maintain saturation’. (Rickshaw Dolly, however, is a phrase I like so much I’m determined to use it for a nineteenth-century prostitute’s name in a future film.) It took me a while to figure out that the schedule would tell me what they were hoping to film next Tuesday, but only the call sheet released late on Monday would say what they were actually planning to get through the next day, and on Tuesday what I needed was a side which would include not just the call sheet but the relevant script pages.


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