As presented here, I don’t think the scene fits the film (CINEMA PURGATORIO).
It gets too whimsical for straightmen Neil and Liz. Plus, when looked at within the context of the full film, the scene takes too much time. All we need to know here is that Jen’s in jail and the Shaws can’t do anything about it…sucks for them. I think that point comes across in the short version of the scene, which is in the finished film.
But I still like this version…it makes me laugh every time.
A couple of nights before shooting the film, Traysie Amick and I sat in with a local improv comedy group (Alchemy Comedy Theater) to get warmed up for the two weeks of filmmaking that would follow. She and I have a background in improvisational comedy, and being out there on stage together felt both comfortable and challenging. It was good to get comfortable with each other in a stressful situation, but it was also challenging as we started to find each other’s sense of humor, of comic timing…what made each other laugh.
Of course we both knew that CP was going to be a comedy. But what I didn’t know was how the funny would look on our set…like, how does a director know that his actors are being funny in a way that plays on screen?
My experience with this film is that the funny must be in the screenplay to start with…then, played with total honesty, conviction, truth.
Kinda like all acting.
I am reminded of how Dr. Phil Hill explained comedic acting to me in a 1990 Furman University production of Joe Orton’s “What the Butler Saw.” Hill said that our characters all had blinders on…we could only see what we wanted or needed in every scene. He said that each character was completely blind to the needs and wants of the other characters, to the “real world.” That’s where the funny was. And he was right.
That is also how I approached directing the actors in CINEMA PURGATORIO. Every man for himself, so to speak. And here, we see both Liz and Neil with their blinders on…reaching absurd conclusions. And in turn, making us laugh.