Every subculture has its own jargon, supposedly devised to allow rapid communication between its members (‘A semiotic analysis of post-post-modernist fiction? Right, gotcha.’) But outsiders can’t help suspecting that the main point of jargon is to keep them outside.
During the five years it’s taken to bring ROOM to the screen, I’ve enjoyed learning some of the magnificently obscure jargon of the film world, but I know I’ve only scratched the surface. Particularly in the development stages of a project – meaning, everything that has to be brought together before any cameras can roll – they seem to make up new buzz words every week. Is a screenplay particularly plotty? What will the talent cost, and should the script go out to (be shown to) so-and-so given that he hasn’t really popped since the bump he got from his big breakout? How much of the funding will be soft money or hard? (My understanding of this distinction is that soft lenders such as national film funds will forgive you if you lose money, basically, whereas the hard ones will pursue you into bankruptcy or break your knees.) My favourite contractual phrase was most favored nation status, which sounds like something granted by the UN but seemed to boil down to getting business-class flights.
I’ve been going to the cinema since the age of three. (The re-release of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.) Also I was an extra on a terrible thriller when I was about fourteen, but all that taught me was that a film set can be a very boring place. So basically film-making is a new and alien world to me.
As I approached the studio in Toronto for the first day of production of ROOM, last autumn, I felt deeply excited– at last, a film being made of my script, based on my book, and in a city near enough that I could visit often! – but also painfully ignorant of the protocols. I knew enough to know that blunders could cause (a) irritation in many of the skilled professionals going about their business on set, and (b) delay, in a world where every lost minute costs an amount of money it would make you nauseous to consider. So I stared at the door of the sound stage, fearing that if I barged in while the cameras were rolling I might wreck the best take of the most important scene… I stood frozen there in paranoia for several minutes until a kindly person-with-walkie-talkie- and-ipad-in-a-hip-holster happened by, pointed up at the large light over the door and said, not ‘Duh!’, but ‘If it’s green, it’s OK to go in.’
Four and a half years ago, just months after my novel was published, I got this letter from a filmmaker called Lenny Abrahamson. ‘ROOM imagines an extreme case to illuminate universal truths about the parent-child relationship,’ he wrote, ‘and although its discoveries are not always comfortable, at heart this novel is a celebration, both of parental love and of the resilience and resources of childhood.’
Ah, I thought, this man gets it.
Hi there, this is Emma Donoghue. I’ve found the process of making ROOM into a movie so interesting, I wanted to share some highlights from the journey. I’m going to be blogging twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) on the film’s official website sharing thoughts from before, during and after the shoot. Each post will include a never-seen picture or video from behind the scenes. Enjoy!