How We Work

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Yesterday we looked at writers' rooms -- now let's turn to a related topic: how the actual work gets done. Rod McLaren has been posting tidbits on the creative process since 2004, collecting over one hundred fascinating entries in How We Work. It's a treasure trove of entertaining, often eccentric work behaviors. Here's an example from the post on Bill Murray:

By definition, Hollywood stars must have agents and publicists. Not Bill Murray. He has never had a publicist and, five years ago, he fired his agents. "I said I didn't ever want to speak to them again, and I never did," he says. "I like to cut my own lawn now. I don't need a landscaper."

Now Murray's only contact with the film business is through a freephone number. If people need to talk to him - perhaps producers who want him to star in a film - they have to call the number and leave a message. (Of course, they have to find the number first.) If he feels like it, he will call back. Often, he doesn't. Sometimes, he'll go for weeks without even listening to the messages. It took Sofia Coppola hundreds of phone calls and seven months to get him to look at the script for Lost in Translation. Even then, she wasn't sure he was going to make the film until he appeared on the set on the first day of the shoot in Tokyo. Other directors have apparently been told to leave scripts in a phone booth somewhere near his home outside New York, up the Hudson River. On a recent film, a production assistant who needed to contact him was told to call his freephone and leave a number for a phone that she would not pick up, so he could call her back without having to talk to her. Of course, he doesn't see this as strange or eccentric. He likes to be accessible, he says, but on his own terms.

Murray's story reminds me of a (possibly apocryphal) story about Kraftwerk, from Wikipedia:

The band is notoriously reclusive, so much so that it is rumored that their label partner, EMI does not have their phone numbers. Another notable example of their eccentric behavior was reported to Johnny Marr of The Smiths by Karl Bartos, who explained that anyone trying to contact the band for collaboration would be told the studio telephone did not have a ringer, since during recording the band did not like to hear any kind of noise pollution. Instead, callers were instructed to phone the studio precisely at a certain time, whereupon the phone would be answered by Ralf Hütter, despite himself never hearing the phone ring.

Read much more at McLaren's How We Work blog.

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January 10, 2008 - 3:01am
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