Jim Plannette: You know, sometimes when you’re working like on E.T, if you had any sense at all, you knew that it was going to be a special movie. It just there was no question and then when I was working on Braveheart, it was of course very difficult because so much of it was exterior but you knew it was special.
Mike Battle: Hello, and welcome to Red Carpet Rookies. My name is Mike Battle, a film production Junior working for Studios in London. Each episode I bring you advice and stories from film, TV and content professionals to help demystify and democratize the industries for juniors and fans alike. Thanks for joining me. Let’s get started. Today’s guest is Hollywood gaffer gentleman Jim Plannette. With over 100 movies to his name and 50 years in the business. Jim is a certified Lalaland legend having worked on Braveheart, E.T, Magnolia, The Ocean’s 11 trilogy, Traffic Legends of the Fall, the Fisher King, Behind the Candelabra, and A Single Man to name but a few. If you pull the name of a Hollywood great out of a hat, Jim has probably worked with them. And it’s a privilege to have him here on the show. How are you, Jim?
Jim: Very good. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Mike: So to me, it’s a Londoner, a gaffer means, the boss. So for the uninitiated, listeners, what is a gaffer in the film industry in your words?
Jim: Well, that’s very interesting, of course, you know the definition of gaffer, but nobody over here does, but I looked it up. And it also means the old guy, which I fall into that category, but a gaffer in the movie business is a person who supervises the lighting, in collaboration with the director of photography, and you work your way up from the bottom, and then when you feel that you can do it, you advanced to becoming a gaffer. And I’ve been doing it for 50 years. So I’ve done a lot of movies.
Mike: Fantastic. Where does the line stand between yourself and the cinematographer?
Jim: It varies. I think of it as a collaboration, I think, as you’re prepping, and you’re looking at locations and sets talking about the look you want to have for the movie, which he is discussed with the director, then you come up with the ideas of how to light this movie. To me, the whole business of making a movie is so complicated, that no one person can do it. I don’t agree with the Auteur theory, that’s just ego mania. It’s a collaboration between the director of photography and the production designer, and the director and the gaffer as far as the lighting goes, and then if you do that properly, you can move quite quickly through the script and through the shoot. And that’s what’s important and if the director photography is going to point to every light, then who’s setting up the shot? Or I’m gonna do that later? Well, yeah, great, that’s fine. But we’ll be forever. And what’s fun about collaboration, because even the director and the editor collaborate it, not all the editor who makes these decisions, nor is it all the director and it’s, you each have ideas about how to do it. And then after it’s done, you don’t even know whose idea it was. Because it’s a little bit of this person, a little bit that person. And together you make this wonderful movie or whatever it is, you’re shooting.
Mike: Fantastic definition. So to take you back, you were born into a movie making family as your father was legendary gaffer Homer Plannette, who among many moments lit the star making hair flip. I’ve Rita Hayworth, did he ever share any stories of you with his experiences on set with people like Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart, Grace Kelly, Elvis Presley, etc.
Jim: Actually, my father started in the business in 1919. And he worked until 1969. So together we have over 100 years of working in the movie business.
Jim: And he loves to tell stories. And luckily he, as he got older, he told them more than once, and so now I’m able to remember them. But some of his great projects. One of them you mentioned Rita Hayworth, my father did a movie called CoverGirl in 1943, with Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly, and they shot on three strip technicolor, which was like ASA 25, that the most, maybe 12. And so it required a tremendous amount of light. But if you look at that movie today, which I have, it is one of the best looking musicals you’ve ever seen. There’s a sequence in it called Alter Ego, that Gene Kelly and the other choreographer of the movie, Stanley, Donna and came up with, it’s Gene Kelly walking down a street looking at a window and seeing his reflection, and then the reflection talks to him, and they talk back and forth. And then eventually, the reflection jumps out of the window and they dance together. And the director Charles Vidor said, “That’ll never work. I’m not gonna do that.” But Harry Cohen said, “Give it a try.” And it’s on YouTube alter ego, and it’s one of the most fantastic things you’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t be today, but in 1943 it’s almost unbelievable. So and he did the Diary of Anne Frank at High Noon. And the Greatest Story Ever Told, he had quite a career.
Mike: The one that stands out on his CV to me is, It’s a Wonderful Life, I hear that you perhaps attended the rap party as a child, am I right?
Jim: Well, they had a rap picnic, because it was such a family film. Not only did the crew come, but all their families came, and it was at a park in North Hollywood. And it was just a wonderful experience. And they had three legged races and races. And I was not very athletic. But I ran in this race barefoot, and it came in third. And Jimmy Stewart gave me a $1 for coming in third, and he said, “And you ran in your bare feet, you know.” And then they got us all together for a group photograph, there was about 200 or 300 people. And I was six years old at this time. But I remember watching the camera on a tripod that must have been 10 feet high. And the photographer climbed up the ladder and started to turn a crank. And I saw the lens going across the group. And so it was like the first version of the wide luxe camera. And Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra were on the left side of the picture. And when they sense the lenses off of them, they ran around behind. And so they’re on both sides of the image, which is just incredible.
Mike: Wow, I’d love to see that picture. You’re noticing cameras there straight away at a young age. But you then turned away to be a lawyer, briefly. Was your dad disappointed by that to follow that for a brief time?
Jim: Well, actually, when I was about 19, or 20 years old, I said to my dad, “I think I want to get in the movie business.” And he said, “You don’t want to do that.” And I said, “Why not?” He said, “There’s no security,” which of course, is true. And I said, “Well, you’ve done pretty well.” And he said, “Yes, but some people don’t.” And so that’s why I decided I was going to be a lawyer. One of my oldest friends was going to be a lawyer. And so I will too. And, but then I took off a semester to earn some money. And the quickest way was in the movie business. And, ah! more than 50 years later, I’m still here. So it was almost accidental. But it was, I think meant to be. It’s just a business that I just love. And I’m 80 years old, I’m still doing it. But only because I still enjoy it. It’s still a challenge. And I still come up with, with obstacles that I’ve not encountered before that I have to figure out. And for me, that’s really, that’s what makes it fun.
Mike: That’s fabulous to have such a love for it. Speaking of you moving into the business through your father and knowing being a Hollywood boy actually growing up lots of our listeners, once again into the industry. For those who maybe weren’t born into a Hollywood family, what would be your advice, maybe for getting that first foot in the door?
Jim: Well, it varies from place to place. I’ve worked with British crews a few times. And I was quite amazed at how many of my crew had been to film school. In the United States, a lot of people go to film school. But once you do, and then you get into business, you realize that in the first week of being on a job, you’ll learn more than you did in three years of film school. So, we have unions shear, which are quite strict. But when it gets busy, they hire people that aren’t members of the Union. And once you work for 30 days, then you can join the union. And sometimes when you work on non-union projects, you meet union people, and they help you to get jobs and perseverance probably is the key.
Mike: Do you think your demeanor, having been known as “Gentleman Jim” has certainly helped you in your career? And also, I’d love to know how you got that nickname? Who do you remember who gave it to you?
Jim: I do actually, in the very beginning, I was doing a series of commercials with a director, cameraman producer. And the key grip was the president of the grip, local. And he used to wear a T shirt to sit grips his trash, which I thought was pretty funny. And but we finished about five days ahead of schedule. And so this producer, director cameraman made a lot of money. And he threw a wonderful rap party at his house in Malibu. And at that party, the key grip gave me a belt and carved in the belt was Gentleman Jim. And that was the first time anyone had called me that and it’s stuck. And it’s a wonderful kind of nickname. I also used to be known as “the Gucci Gaffer” because I used to wear Gucci loafers to work all the time. That’s not quite as good as, Gentleman Jim, but it’s fun.
Mike: I like a bit of both glamorous Gentleman Jim.
Jim: There you go.
Mike: So from what I can see from your IMDB and your CV that you seem to go almost straight in as a gaffer without much time in the junior roles. Is that how it went or am I missing the hard graft in between?
Jim: No, it did go very quickly. And I look at guys today that work, or seven or eight years before becoming a gaffer, and I just, I don’t know, the difference. I think certainly my name helped. It got me in the door, but it didn’t keep the job. Some recommendations and things kind of get you in the door, but you have to deliver if you want to stay in the room. But I started, you know, in the old days, when we were shooting film, we would see the dailies at lunch. And no matter if I was the fifth electrician on a show, I would ask the gaffer or the DP, may I go to dailies? And they always said, “Of course!” And so that enabled me to remember what I’d done on Wednesday. And then on Thursday at lunch, I could see it up on the screen, and I could see what worked and what didn’t work. And so I was really, and visiting my father on a set, I once asked him, “How in the world you know, where to put all the lights?” And he said, “Well, first you have to learn to look at light, and see the reality of it. And when you’re driving in a car, you see what the light does on people’s faces, or when you’re in a room with sun coming through a window” and which was the best advice I’ve ever had. But working with people that were willing to share their knowledge with me, I’m sure it helped me advance quite quickly. And my first job as a gaffer was with a DP named Richard Klein. And his MO was hire a young gaffer that doesn’t know anything, and then you can, he could tell me what to do. And I saw that I worked with him on a couple of shows, not as a gaffer, and I saw, that’s the way he worked, but he offered me this job. And I took it. But that’s not the kind of work I want to do. And so then he offered me another job. And he said he was doing a movie a 20th Century Fox, and he had to use a fox gaffer, but what I be the best boy. And I saw that as my opportunity to say, no, and I said, “No, I’m a gaffer now.” And that’s all I’m gonna do. So I turned him down. And so then in the beginning, I was working with newer DPs, that, luckily didn’t know as much as I did. And I kept working and working. And then I worked with better ones. The first really good DP I worked with was John Alonzo. And he was a guy who had been an actor. And one of the things he told his crew was never asking an actor to do anything to make your job easier, like, absolutely true, they have enough to worry about. And I did six or seven movies with him. Some of them he was the DP director on two or three TV movies. And John Toll was the operator and I was the gaffer. And he would rehearse with the actors for two or three hours, and the assistant director would get so nervous, what are we going to do. And then when we were ready, John, and I were ready as well, the lighting was done, the camera was in position, and each one of those we finished the day early. So, again, having a good crew to support you is what a director needs. Again, collaborating and when I’m prepping, and we’re scouting locations, or looking at sets, talk with a DP about the look he wants for the movie that he’s already talked about with the director. And then while they’re setting up and rehearsing, I’m roughing in the lighting. And what’s wonderful is sometimes actors just gravitate toward the light. What a surprise but and so then when we actually get the shot, it doesn’t take too long to smooth it out and make it work. And this is something that’s kind of a thing with me, I like to have actors look to the side of the camera that the light is on. So that means the fill side is what the camera sees the most. And that’s what sets the mood. You can either make it very dramatic or comedic or whatever. But if you’re looking at the side that the key light is on, then it is just boring.
Mike: You mentioned a few legends there, John Toll, Alonzo. And one of the things I’ve noticed with your career is you seem to have worked with basically every legend going Spielberg for Francis Ford Coppola. Ridley Scott, you’ve just missing George Lucas for that trio. Is there anything about all of those legends that you’ve worked with? That’s maybe a trait between them? Did you learn something from them that you remember?
Jim: You learned something from everybody. What I learned from Steven Spielberg is I did a movie called Night Shift with Ron Howard and Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler, and one of Michael Keaton. His lines in that movie was I’m an idea, man. Well, I steal that. And I’m an idea man. And you don’t have to take all my ideas, but I want you to consider my ideas. And so with Steven, I would sometimes make a suggestion to him, maybe not about lighting, but about something else. And his response always was, “No, no, no.” Because then he’s a very smart guy, he would think about it, it wouldn’t take very long. And he’d say, “Yeah, no, let’s do that.” And so what I realized was, he was so focused on what he was doing, that any suggestion was kind of a distraction, that he would kind of wave off. And so not only did I realize that about him, but I realized that about myself. And because I was focused, and so then I change that attitude. If somebody makes a suggestion to me, I don’t always take them, of course, but I always consider them. And sometimes, they’re really good, something I haven’t thought of or hadn’t considered. So that’s really an important thing I learned from him. Also, I think directors are somewhat, I have three sons. There’s someone like kids, you set limits for them. But then you have to remind them of those limits. And boy, that’s a director too. “Remember, we’re not going to do that.” “Oh, that’s right. Oh, you’re right.” And then I also, I think OCD is the director’s disease, obsessive compulsive disorder, because that means they’re looking for perfection. And of course, there’s no such thing. And so take 60 was really good. No, but 61 maybe would be perfect. Let’s go for one more. And you see that all the time. And it’s upsetting because it hurts the movie, because then all of a sudden, now you have no time at all, and you got to rush, rush, rush, just and I was working on a movie, and we were finishing up the set, the set dressers are bringing stuff in it. We were pre lighting, the director was walking around, and he pointed to the baseboard. And he said to the production designer, “Gary, that baseboard needs to be a shade lighter.” And the production designer said, “You really think so?” He said, ‘Yep.’ And so I went up to him. And I patted him on the back. And I said, “You saved the movie.” It’s just come on. Let’s get our priorities straight. But he would do 30 or 40 takes and anyway.
Mike: That’s a very good point. You mentioned Spielberg there. What was it like working? You’ve most notably worked with him on E.T when he was quite young director? How did you go about lighting, the famous little alien?
Jim: I was not young. But it was early in my career. I had been working on a movie called Cannery Row and Alan Dabio came over to meet me because he was looking for an experienced gaffer. Because it was his first feature. And it was called this boy’s life at the time. And I said, “Sure, it sounds great.” And so again, I would rough it in the lighting and then Alan and I would discuss it and make a few changes or none. And we had a limited budget, and Steven had signed the completion bond. And so things were going kind of slow, he would say, “Come on, guys, I’m going to lose my furniture,” which you knew wasn’t true. But it just worked out really well with kind of realistic lighting, which is what I tried to do is make the lighting invisible, and not go to the point of saying, “Hey, look at me,” it just helps tell the story. But if you look at that movie, so much of the lighting is three quarter backlight which is my favorite angle. And it was a lot of fun.
Mike: I’m sure. Speaking of E.T, you’ve worked on many legendary movies like Braveheart and E.T that became these huge famous things historically recognized, is there ever a feeling on set that this is definitely going to be something like that? We’re not definitely. But that feeling that this could be something great? Or is it just feel like another day at work?
Jim: Well, sometimes when you’re working like on E.T, if you had any sense at all, you knew that it was going to be a special movie. It just there was no question. And then when I was working on a Braveheart, it was of course very difficult because so much of it was exterior, but you knew it was special. And so that you do and then other times. There was one other movie that I really thought was going to be special, and it wasn’t, which was upsetting. It was a movie called for the Boys with Mark Rydell was a director and it was Bette Midler and James Caan, but it was kind of about somebody like Bob Hope who entertained the troops. And so it started with Bette Midler being very old and telling the stories of what that was like. And the old age makeup was so overdone that it took you right out of the story. They just, again, it was almost like look at me, look that I can do for the makeup artist. And so it wasn’t very successful, but it is a good movie.
Mike: Speaking of Mrs. were there; I imagine there probably are any films that became legendary that you turned down?
Jim: Of course not. Luckily, I don’t think so. There was one movie that I worked on, that I quit. And obviously I was right, because it only grossed $400 million. And at that time, it’s probably like $800 million now because it was quite a while ago. But I couldn’t get along with a DP or the director. And I realized I had a one jerk limit. So I explained that to the DP and I said, “I just I’ll see you find somebody but I got to go.” Working with Whitney Houston was just so wonderful. And we actually filmed her singing one of her songs that just brought me to tears while I was watching her sing it. And it’s a wonderful movie, but it’s just ridiculous.
Mike: Speaking of more positive times, you’ve had an incredible relationship with Steven Soderbergh, who famously does his own cinematography as director, how does that affect the set? And also, what makes your relationship work so well?
Jim: Well, I’d heard he was going to be shooting his own movie. And he was interviewing gaffers and key grips and but then I was really surprised to get a call to go in and meet him. And a producer that I’d worked with had recommended me to him. And so I went in and met him. And we were talking and getting along, and we seem to see things the same way. And then he asked me if I had a style, which I had never ever thought of before. And I said, “Cinema Minima.” And he said, “You’re my guy.” And what that really means to me is that I don’t spend money that I don’t need to spend. I don’t order equipment, just in case. I think I know what I need. And that’s what I order. And the reason for that is that sometimes something comes up at the end that you hadn’t anticipated. And if you keep ordering stuff you don’t really need, you’re out of money. And then what do you do? But the first movie we did was Traffic. And you know, he wanted it to look like a documentary. And so we would look at locations, not with a thought of where to put the lights. But do we need to use any lights. And in the scene that introduces Michael Douglas to the movie is a huge courtroom in Cincinnati, Ohio. We didn’t use any lights, because they had a whole wall of windows that face north. So they had nice soft light coming through those windows. And that’s all we needed. So it really was and with him. He was operating the camera as well as directing the movie. And so I did the lighting and he set up the camera. And when he was ready, I was ready. And so we would shoot. And I really think he was watching what I was doing and learning and now he doesn’t need me anymore. But because he’s a he’s a wonderful cinematographer. But he wanted it to look real. And he did a movie on an iPhone for goodness sakes, but and his movies now, are wonderful. I would like to work with him again. But we’ll see.
Mike: Do you think your cinema minima ideal of film comes into its own when you’re doing true stories? Maybe like Behind the Candelabra?
Jim: Generally, you want a movie to look like real life, whether it is or not. So I really think invisible lighting is the key. If the audience is noticing the costumes that are noticing the music or the lighting, they’re not noticing the story. And so you want them to just become involved with what’s going on in front of the screen without drawing attention to yourself, but even with music, I think that’s important. It should generate emotion, but not say, “Hey, listen to this. No, listen to the people and watch the people.”
Mike: Definitely. So you’re living the movie as it were, I think to go back to yourself and Steven Soderbergh, I think your favorite moment between the two of you is, for me is the fountain scene at the end of Ocean’s 11 is one of my favorite films. I think I just love the glamour of everything. The famous scene at the Bellagio at the end, did you have much of a hand in the magical lighting? Or is it actually primarily what was already existing there?
Jim: That moment is just wonderful. And of course, they’re all lined up looking at the Bellagio and the fountains and so there’s a lot of light coming off the fountains, except for the black characters. And so that’s who I had one light for each of those, but no other lights. And Stephen’s direction is quite subtle. And so he just told the guys to leave when they felt like leaving. And there at the end is called Reiner, which is perfect. And he’s looking, and you can read his thoughts. He’s thinking to himself, it doesn’t get better than this. And then he departs, but it’s just a wonderful scene. But it’s interesting that you mentioned that because there’s a book called Film L, that this guy from Cal Arts interviewed a number of cinematographers and gaffers. And he asked them all the same questions. And then what was interesting, he would only use three or four of the answers on each one. But the answers were different, which really tells you there is no right answer. But one of the questions he asked is how do you light black people? And I said, “Simple, more white, I said, it’s like lighting a white wall or a green wall, the green wall takes more light.” And I can’t believe it, today, I’m sitting at home watching a lot of movies, that people don’t understand that. And so you have a black character in a movie, and you can’t see him, because he’s got the same amount of light on his face as the white person he’s talking with. Well, that doesn’t work. And especially today, with HD when you see the monitor, can’t you see there’s not enough light on his face, or her face. So it still surprises me that people just don’t get that it’s simple, more light. It’s not the angle, it’s not the color. It’s the intensity, the amount of it.
Mike: I love the way that you speak about that magical moment at the end of Ocean’s 11. And I’m slightly scared to ask, but was it the great fun that it looked the film to work on?
Jim: Without a doubt! Absolutely! It was great fun. I had people ask at the time, “Oh, that must have been a nightmare with all those actors, the egos” and I said, “Look, if the number one actor George Clooney is not a jerk, nobody else can be either.” And that’s the key. And he’s a fun guy that at lunch, we play basketball with a crew. And it was just, he’s a wonderful guy. And so everybody else had to be that way too.
Mike: If it’s your only one jerk the system. And then and then yeah. When I was reading about your career, it seems like it was quite a smooth journey from film, to film to film to film all the way along. I’d love to know if you did have any struggles along the way, or was it as smooth as it seemed?
Jim: I think it was as smooth as it seems. I mean, of course, a defense mechanism for everybody is to only remember the good times. And when you think about that, you go “Yeah, that’s right.” And so what that does, is it causes you sometimes to make the same mistake more than once. So you work with somebody and you it doesn’t really work out too well. And you say, “I’m never gonna do that again.” But then six months later, they call you and you say, “Oh, yeah, sure. Great!” And then as soon as you get to go off, “Now I remember.” So as I look back at my career, it seems very smooth, but I’m sure it wasn’t. You know, I, wife and children and support and I didn’t take every single movie that was offered, but I was inclined take them because I had to support my family. And I did. It was a time after night shift when I just did commercials, which paid pretty well at the time. But then I was watching television one morning and I saw a director talking about a movie that he just made and how wonderful it was, and I went I got to get by movies. And that’s when I went back to working on movies. And so glad I did. And now I’m at a point where I can only take the movies I really want to do I read the script first. And if I don’t like the script that I’ll do the movie, and if I don’t like the people involved, I don’t do the movie. But I’ve been doing low budget movies lately. And the reason is that people are there for the same reason to make a good movie not to get rich. And that’s what I like, I really wouldn’t be inclined to do some $100M movie with green screen, to me, that isn’t much of a challenge. And it’s not something I want to do.
Mike: The way that you talk about the film industry is very energizing. And it’s really great the way you support the youth, for example, me and my listeners, and I’ve heard you on other podcasts, what is it that keeps you positive about the future of the business?
Jim: Well, it really is the people I work with, not only the people above me, but the crews and everything, quite often are so enthusiastic, and so happy to be on a movie and, and I work all around the world. And so I work with different crews all the time. And I’ve never had a bad experience working out of Hollywood. I really haven’t. You mentioned Braveheart, six weeks ago, that was in Scotland, with a British crew. And then we went to Ireland, and had a wonderful crew in Ireland. It’s a lot of fun to meet new people and the people that are in the movie business. They’re not there to make a lot of money. They’re there because they love movies, and they love making movies. And that’s what’s the fun part. And I can’t imagine working on a job where you were doing the same thing every day over and over. It’s just, that’s why you start counting days to your retirement is because you hate your job. But my job is so different all the time, with different places with different people and different stories, that it’s always fun. It’s that’s why I’m still doing it.
Mike: That’s fantastic. Is there anything that you might like to change about the industry and the way it is at the moment?
Jim: You know; I really don’t think so. I did a one more story. I got a call from a production manager. And he said he’s doing a movie in Chicago. And the DP wanted me to be the gaffer. But he said, “This isn’t your kind of movie.” I said, Well, what do you mean? He said, “This is low budget, he said, we don’t have money for BB lights or Musca lights.” I said, “I can do low budget.” I said, ‘Okay,’ so he hired. And on the first Scout, were this house on Lake Michigan. And the scene calls for the drapes to open and revealing like Michigan. And so when they showed the drapes opening, and that happened, I thought, boy, we should have hard gels on those windows to keep the balance correct. But those are expensive. And he turned to me and he said hard gels are in the budget. I said, “Oh, and then we went outside and the director said we had this a night shot, we’re going to bring them up to the house. And then we’re going to drive him more. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, you’re gonna have to have a couple of condors and extra men and extra generator.” This guy turned to me and he said, “Two condors an extra generator, two extra men, they’re in the budget.” So what I learned from that is that if the person who is preparing the budget knows how to make a movie, then you’ve got no problems. It’s when you get people in that position who don’t know anything about making movies, which sometimes happens. And then you say, I need two condors and I go, “Well, that’s not in the budget.” Well, but it shouldn’t be in the budget. If we’re doing a big night shot, you must know we’re going to need that. Ah, that’s what’s upsetting. But there’s so many smart people now that are running the shows that it’s a pleasure to work with them. And they’re, again, trying to make a good movie for a reasonable amount of money. And because of my reputation, and because they know me, if I asked for something they know I need it. And they almost never say, ‘No,’ because they know I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need it.
Mike: That’s a fantastic, honest place to be for honest gentlemen, Jim. Now, before we wrap up, I like to do a little quick fire questionnaire, which is my Ode to any Actor’s Studio. Right. So I’m gonna ask you a few little questions if that’s okay. I think you might have answered the first one. So just say whatever comes into your head. Are you ready, Jim?
Jim: I’m ready.
Mike: Fantastic. Number one, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Jim: Well, as you said, I mentioned that my father had told me, “Learn to look at light,” it’s something I think about all the time, and I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever had.
Mike: Fantastic. Number two, do you have a favorite film?
Jim: Yes. My favorite film to have worked on and maybe my favorite film is the Fisher King that I did with Terry Gilliam in New York and Los Angeles. And Roger Pratt, a wonderful British DP. A year and a half ago, I went to London for a BAFTA tribute to Roger Pratt, which was just so wonderful to see him again. And Terry was there. And that’s so that’s, that’s my favorite film.
Mike: And the secondary part I asked that is which one of your movies would you recommend our listeners watch tonight? Would it be the Fisher King?
Jim: Well, it would be the Fisher King. There’s a scene in there that takes place at Grand Central Station in New York. And when we scouted Terry was walking around and he said, “What would be great is, you know Robin is following Amanda Plummer. And when they get to the main floor, we’ll have everybody waltzing around the information booth.” And the two producers’ jaws dropped. And they went, ‘What,’ but that’s what we did. We shot at midnight. But the scene was supposed to be at five o’clock in the afternoon.
Mike: I think I actually read about that in Lynda Obst’s book, did she was the producer, right?
Jim: That’s right. She was one of the producers whose jaw dropped, it was just unforgettable. And of course, Robin Williams was so wonderful to work with. And Jeff Bridges, the most skilled actor I think I’ve ever worked with. And he takes wide luxe photos of all the movies he works on, and then gives you a book at the end of the movie. And he makes sure that every member of the crew is in one of his photos. So you’re in the book. And he talks, talks about what seen the photograph is of and then he has done a couple of hardcover versions of his photos, and he sells those and gives all the money to charity. So, it’s really nice.
Mike: That’s incredible. Number three, what gives you a reason to get out of bed every day for an early call time?
Jim: Well, the challenge and the fact that I’m going to probably encounter something I haven’t encountered before that I’m gonna have to figure out how to fix or work.
Mike: Fantastic. Number four, which job in the industry would you do if you weren’t doing yours?
Mike: Number five, if you could work with one person living or dead? Who would it be? And you’ve worked with most of them?
Jim: Well, my first person that comes to mind is Robin Williams. I did a couple of movies with him. And it was just such a pleasure to do and he was really, I rarely use this word, ‘Unique.’
Mike: It was really so that’s a fantastic answer. very touching. Number six, what is a book that everyone should read?
Jim: Well, there’s a wonderful book called making movies by Sidney Lumet.
Mike: I’ve got it right here.
Jim: Oh, do you have that Mike? And you can see it’s not a very big book. But he covers pre-production, production and post production in such a way that it’s so clear, his style is a little too much. You go on to Scotland, him and he’ll go 40 millimeter lens right here, and you go back to shoot. And that’s exactly what you do that to me is a little too planned. I think a director should have a rehearsal with the actors without telling them anything, and see what the actor has to offer. Because you may be surprised. And I did a movie with David Mamet. And on the very first day of shooting and the first rehearsal, he said, ‘Action,’ and then he said to “Alright Gina, at this point, you go over to the window,” and Gina Hackman turned around, and he said, “Why are we calling this a rehearsal, if you’re telling me what to do?” So the assistant director said, “Okay, guys, take 10 get some coffee, we’re gonna have a little meeting.” But I think there’s such a thing is as too planned, because actors are, and they also they want to contribute. So if you keep telling them what to do, they feel like puppets, and they quit contributing. And so the way to make it again, a collaboration is to let them show you first. And then after that, they’ll do anything you ask, but let them show you what they have in mind.
Mike: Fantastic answer. And my final one is, if you want an Oscar, who would you thank?
Jim: Well, I would first of course, thank my father, and then I would thank all of the gaffers and camera men that I’ve worked with before becoming a gaffer and all of the crew that I worked with, because, again, nobody does it by themselves. It’s all joint effort, and there’d be so many people to thank.
Mike: And that’s a lovely answer. And that brings us to the end of the episode. Thank you so much to Gentleman Gucci, Jim, joining me, a fantastic career that we could only dream of, and certainly lives up to the name of Gentleman Jim, thank you so much, Jim, for being here.
Jim: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.