Field decided to try his luck behind the camera and enrolled in 1992 as a Director Fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.After writing and directing several short films, Field, 42, made an auspicious feature directorial debut with the intimate 2001 drama "In the Bedroom," which he adapted from a short story by Andre Dubus, who was one of his mentors.
Field's' latest movie, "Little Children," revolves around am unhappily married suburban mother (Kate Winslet) who enters into an illicit affair with an equally troubled husband and father (Patrick Wilson).
Adapted by Fields and Tom Perrotta, who wrote the novel, "Little Children" also has caught the attention of the motion picture academy. Winslet is nominated for an Academy Award for best actress; Jackie Earle Haley, who plays a pervert recently released from prison, is up for supporting actor; and Field and Perrotta are in the running for adapted screenplay. The scribes are also nominated for a Writers Guild of America award.
Would you talk about how you pick your material?
I am drawn to things that interest me; why they interest me is not important to me. It is because I can't stop thinking about them. When I start on a film I am going to be on it for a very long time because of the way I want to work.
The big danger for me is if I lose interest and that would be a tragedy. I try to find something that interests me enough to where I can't stop thinking about it and I know that there's more there to mine. That hopefully, I can enjoy through a long process.
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Since you have received your Oscar and Writers Guild of America nominations for writing, instead of for direction, do you feel you are more of a screenwriter who directs?
Quite the opposite. I write because it's a practical way to work. I just always have. When I started my directing fellowship at the American Film Institute, when I arrived they aid you are going to have to shoot three short films and you are going to have six weeks in between each one roughly, so you might want to show up with some material. I took them at their word.
My wife Serena was about to go away for the summer on vacation and I decided to stay home to do this. Her father is one of our greatest screenwriters, Bo Goldman. So I called Bo and said I have to write these scripts for school. Can you give me some kind of advice? This is fairly daunting.
He said, you know, good writing comes out of good work habits. You just have to show up every day. If you show up every day you'll make a deal with yourself and pretty soon it will become real for you.
Once it becomes real for you, you will be writing all the time. You'll wake up and go straight to the desk. That's the best advice I ever got.
I wrote all summer. I realized something -- this is really important to me. This is what I love doing. I'll always write whatever I make.
Have you ever directed something you didn't write?
The only time I haven't done that is in my thesis project. I wrote a script that was based on a story I was lead to believe I was going to be able to option, which turned out not to be the case.
So at the last minute with my wife having just gotten out of the hospital after having our second child two days earlier, I kind of forced her - standing over her to write a story - that she had been telling me for a long time. So she wrote the last script that I did for school.
I don't mean to be coy when you ask if I consider myself more a writer. I don't separate the disciplines. I worked with a favorite director of mine who said something I thought was apt -- when I am working on the script I think, gosh, this is terrific. Then I get on the floor and say, what was that screenwriter thinking?
Then I get into the editing room and think, god that director was an idiot.
With "In the Bedroom" and "Little Children" did you make changes in the script when you were on set?
You are constantly revising material. You are revising material in rehearsal and revising material in prep where you change an idea for how you are going to construct a set or find a location that presents more possibilities potentially. You haven't stopped writing.
That is the hard thing if you write a script and it takes years to get it on, you don't have the same dynamic if you do if you finish a script and go right into prep. The great thing about that is you really haven't stopped. You haven't left that space. Everything in the life is informing the film and informing the script because you are living and breathing it.
How did you work with Tom on the screenplay?
I didn't know Tom. I had never read him, which I am really grateful for. The manuscript was sent to Leon Vitale who is my production partner and he called me and said you have to read this right away. I am not going to tell you anything about it. This plain manuscript arrived.
That was my introduction to Tom. When I sat down with Tom, he expressed in interest in working on the script together, which thrilled me to no end. I knew he had a partner that he did write scripts yet, so it wasn't like he was going to be a novelist with a script behind his back saying "'don't touch it."
Basically what I did was check into the Eliot Hotel in Boston, because Tom lives in Belmont outside of Cambridge and we had a room there where we would work every day. We sat for the first few days and basically talked a lot and through out ideas on how to frame it and we just dove in.
We wrote pretty quickly. We were able to get through a draft pretty quickly in a few months.