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Girl With a Pearl Earring - Peter Webber/Andy Patterson Q&As



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Peter Webber

Q. Did it require a certain amount of courage, as a filmmaker, to direct a film which relied more on silence, and a lack of dialogue, for dramatic impact?
A: It's only now that people keep saying how brave that I think it was. At the time it just seemed obvious, especially with these two great actors; they can say volumes without having to use dialogue.
There is plenty of skilfully written dialogue in the film, but when you can tell the story with pictures, see the emotions, it works far better, and to create more moments I slowed some scenes down, so stuff would happen between them - the chemistry was created.
That's where the heart of the movie is. If anything, the courage was in the cutting room, and trying to make a film that was singular.
We live in a very noisy age; we're used to car chases, gun fights, MTV-style cutting, fast-food entertainment, but that wasn't the kind of film we were making. We had to be true to the script, the novel and the spirit of Vermeer, if that doesn't sound too pretentious, because those paintings are mysterious, quiet, transcendent, luminous, and it would have been ridiculous to do it in any other way.

Q. Do you get a sense of the quality of film you're making? Did it all go as you expected?
A:
Yes, it's my first movie, but it's my fifteenth film, if you count the TV stuff - and that's excluding all the real rubbish I did, like Eurotrash, we won't count that! I shouldn't have mentioned that in fact.
Rushes are always great, if the performances and lighting are good, that's exciting. The difficult thing is, once you start putting it together and trying to tell a story. You then have to take the script, a literary thing, that's on paper and have to tell a story on screen that is very different.
You watch the first cut and have a nervous breakdown; you hate it, rip it apart, put it back together and do whatever violence is necessary to tell the story. You can't be complacent, you love your rushes, but you have to get to the point where you hate the cut so much, that you forget all your high flown ambitious and concentrate on telling the story, and finding what is good in the material you've shot - not what you hoped you had, but what you actually have.
It helps having a crew and script of this calibre. At the end of the day, you've got a bunch of film, and it's a wing and a prayer.

Producer Andy Patterson

Q. What was it about Peter that made you realise he'd be able to handle this complex film?
A:
He's seen every movie ever made. We've worked together. Peter went to film school, made shorts, then became an editor, and worked with a director I've worked with before, Anand Tucker.
He edited Anand's first drama, then directed documentaries for us for a few years, then directed his first low-budget TV drama, at which point it became very clear.
Peter Webber: I saw a postcard of the girl with the pearl earring stuck on the office wall and was talking about the first time I'd seen that painting, and Andy overheard me, and the next thing he gave me the script. I was surprised at being given the job, I almost fell over.

Q. Apart from the Luxembourg film fund, what else was it about there that attracted you?
AP:
The hardest thing is creating a world that really doesn't exist. We'd scoured Holland, been everywhere and the Dutch love their gloss paint.

Q. Was it ever mooted that you might have to make it more ‘Hollywood’ and have them shag?
A:
Never, I promised Tracy we'd never change that. The power of the story was in the restraint.

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