| Drama, Short
Five people's lives that are curiously intertwined happen to all be at a diner at the same time. An old man (Hall) gives advice to a young man (Baltz) about his cheating wife and best ... See full summary »
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From a 2008 'Esquire' article by John H. Richardson about the early work of Paul Thomas Anderson: "....Then Anderson got another PA job on a PBS movie about an English professor who was accused of racism by his students. The star was Philip Baker Hall, the man who played Sidney in Midnight Run (1988). "He seemed about sixteen," Hall remembers. But Anderson said he loved his performance in Robert Altman's Secret Honor (1984) - a movie few humans had seen - and asked him what it was like to work with such an innovative and brave director. So they got to talking. Anderson would bring him coffee, and they'd smoke cigarettes and chat. And one day Hall asked him what he wanted to do with his life. "Write movies," Anderson told him. "Incidentally, I've written a twenty-eight-minute minidrama, and there's a good part in it for you. If you're interested, maybe I can borrow some equipment and we can shoot it." Not long after, Hall received a script called "Cigarettes and Coffee". The main plotline was about a young gambler who thinks his wife is having an affair, so he goes to an older gambler and asks for advice. It had a lot of clever twists and turns and some serendipitous crossovers that were similar to the opening of Magnolia (1999), connecting multiple story lines through a twenty-dollar bill. But the most impressive thing was the writing. It wasn't just good, Hall says, it was dazzling. The gangly little kid who delivered his coffee had written something great. "I was wondering, Who was the first actor in the 17th century to see a Shakespeare script, and did he know what he was reading? I certainly knew what I had in my hand." Shane Conrad [a friend] had some connections at Panavision, so Anderson asked him if he could borrow a Panaflex camera for one weekend - a $6,000 rental to civilians. Conrad's friend said they could borrow it if they returned it on Monday morning. "I remember going to Kodak with Paul to buy the film," Conrad says. "He had researched exactly what kind of tungsten he wanted." Then he tapped his network to fill out the cast with more professional actors - Miguel Ferrer ("Twin Peaks"), Scott Coffey ("Ferris Bueller's Day Off"), Kirk Baltz ("Reservoir Dogs") [, Philip Baker Hall ("Midnight Run")]. The legend is that he financed the shoot with his NYU tuition, but Conrad says Ernie [Anderson's father] put in a couple thousand and he put in a couple hundred and they got some more from Wendy Weidman [Anderson's girlfriend]. They slipped onto the Disney lot to hit up the mother of one of the Freshjive guys for a donation, and she cut them a $500 check on the spot. Conrad handled the money. "I'm not sure Paul even had a checking account, so I was writing checks for the film-production expenses." The father of one of Conrad's friends helped arrange a stay in Las Vegas so they could spend a day shooting on the Strip. Anderson hired a professional cinematographer and rented a Fisher dolly, and Conrad found a camera operator, and they loaded all the equipment into the back of his Bronco and drove to the cheap diner Weidman had rented in the Gorman Pass. Things were a bit chaotic at first, Hall says. The crew hadn't worked together before, there wasn't a strong producer or cinematographer running the show, and Anderson still had a lot to learn about working with real actors. "Miguel and I were not sure where we were or how we got there. We talked a couple of times, not exactly, Who is this kid?, but we weren't sure what was going on." Anderson was about twenty-three then, still very young for a director. But he was assured where it counted. He had a very clear vision of his characters. He knew what he wanted from a scene. He understood all the technical details. He knew what to expect from every member of the crew, even knew enough to challenge their expertise. He didn't even have to do a lot of takes. "He seemed to have an almost instinctive knowledge about this kind of stuff," Hall says. And he had a laser intensity with actors. "A lot of directors shoot from the monitor, or even from another room. He will get as close as he can, just out of camera range. Sometimes just inches away. At first I found it a little distracting - he's always right there, with such intensity. But if it doesn't unnerve you, it probably gives your performance a little extra buzz." That year John Cooper was booking short films for the Sundance Film Festival. He remembers Anderson showing up in New York with Cigarettes & Coffee (1993), looking like he was twelve years old. But the movie was beautifully shot, and the dialogue had a subtlety and tension that reminded him of David Mamet. "I usually would take notes and go back to my office," Cooper says. "That one I took on the spot. I remember not wanting someone else to take it."
...and then, then we will talk about making sense of the matter. Once the coffee is poured, and the tip of the cigarette is lit, and placed in the ashtray, then, we will address the matter. We focus our attention when the time comes. When the coffee...