Ron Burnett: Moving on then, what made you decide to make a film about the family?
Atom Egoyan: I think if you look at the themes that are presented in the film, some are inherently social, and I think that any film which deals with the family is dealing with the smallest social unit in our societyand in a sense it is a question of scope: when youre working with a smaller budget I suppose one of the things that has to be in your mind when you are writing is that you have to keep the characters down to a minimum; you have to be able to deploy the themes that you want to address with a minimum of means, otherwise you arent going to be able to get it made. So I suppose I had these concerns but I really felt that I had to keep my scope very, very concentrated. So working on the themes I was interested in, through the context of a particular family, was a very economical way of dealing with a lot of the issues I was concerned with. Also I think it is a great starting point because you are able to deal with the central archetypes in our society. They can be reduced to Father Figure, Mother Figure, Figure of the Child, the Figure of one generation against another generation. That ties in so neatly with the generational textures I was trying to use in Family Viewing, you know, different generations of video image, film stock, and so on. So, at a certain point, it all came together and it was quite intuitiveyou plot it to a certain extent but at a certain point it finds its own momentum and you just lose yourself in the process.
RB: Id like to take that notion of intuition a bit further because, when one works in mainstream (its a bad word but, for the purposes of the discussion ) film, obviously it is the intuitive side of the process which is the most difficult to maintain because of the preplanning that goes into the production. How do you deal with that? To me, it is not only a matter of overcoming a whole production infrastructure that tends to push you more and more, because there are so many people involved in it, towards an over-determined process, where the flash of insight you might get when two characters are suddenly interacting in a manner that is different from what you imagined, well, that flash of insight just doesnt have a space to develop.
AE: I suppose its important to keep that conflict in mind when you are planning the film. As a producer, I think one of the most important decisions you make is not necessarily the material you are working on but the production apparatus that you choose to develop the project with, and that determines what funding organizations you go to, it determines so many factors. With Family Viewing, I think the film is about control; its about how other people exercise control over others but, on the other hand, I wanted to make sure that the environment of the shooting itself was not that controlled, and the way to go about that course was to work with as small a crew as possible.
RB: Did you improvise?
AE: No, we improvised a lot during rehearsals and there are certain key moments in the film which were improvised, but they were improvised not in terms of the actors but in terms of the design of the film, the choreography of the various shots. Especially, once we were in the studio, we realized we were getting certain effects through the shooting of the dramatic scenes on video, shooting off a screen and then getting wave patterns and stuff like that. But in terms of the drama itself, its very precise, it is a very stylized reality, so there wasnt room for much deviation. And it was shot very quicklythe film was shot in 15 days, so it was important that a momentum be built up and that it be maintained.
RB: How many people were in the crew?
AE: The size of the crew was about 15, I suppose. I think the situation in Toronto is such that there are funding organizations which make it easy for a film to raise more money than it needs and very often that works against a film. It becomes very obvious that it wasnt a lean production, that the focus did not have to be precisely honed because of budgetary limitations. I think thats one of the real joys of working with a small budgetthat you have to determine exactly what it is that you need and want to say. The biggest problem with the independent film sector in Toronto is that they find themselves having to make that budget show on screen.
Next Page: Atom Egoyan: An Interview, Part 3 (of 4)
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