With his new film “The Informant!” opening today, the famed director of “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich” treated members of the Directors Guild of America to a special advanced viewing Thursday, then stuck around to field questions for an informal Q & A session immediately following the screening.
As a member of the DGA (Directors Guild of America), I have often gone to the screenings held at the guild’s headquarters. The DGA prides itself on providing a very comfy theater visited by industry professionals who generally know how to behave themselves at a public screening, making for a very pleasant and enjoyable way to see the latest releases.
And that’s the general rule, especially with the big name productions – the films are already in release. So, it’s a pretty rare and special event when the members get to see a film the day before it opens. Even more rare is when the director shows up for that day-before screening. I mean, you’d think he’d be off at a premier somewhere.
But not Steven Soderbergh. He is, and always has been a strong presence at the DGA (currently holding the seat of National Vice President). So it was no surprise that he would schedule this presentation and stay after to interact with the fellow members of his guild. Indeed, directly following the end credits of “The Informant!” and without introduction Soderbergh simply stepped up to the front of the house and began casually talking to the audience.
Now I have never met or seen Steven Soderbergh in person before, and the very first thing I noticed about him is that he seems to be a regular guy. Even though he’s obviously very smart and intelligent and certainly knowledgeable about his craft, he talks to you like a true colleague. There is certainly nothing overtly superior in his attitude and his “regular guy” charm immediately put the audience at ease and allowed them to converse with the Oscar winning director as peers.
There was nothing earth shattering about the questions lobbed at the director (nor would you have expected there to be) for a light comedy about the failings of the FBI’s investigation of corporate shenanigans. But as benign as the queries were (ranging from the casting process to choice of Musical Composer), Soderbergh effortlessly managed to keep the dialogue intriguing, always offering insight and knowledge into his personal process without basking in self-importance.
It was a conversation you can imagine having with a friend one on one over coffee, and you ask him how he likes to make a movie. “Well, we shot this film with what was the latest Red camera… our budget was 22 million… we moved very fast, shooting in 37 days… we didn’t have a video village… I have the child size steadicam that I operate; otherwise it would be very noticeably bad… ”. And so on.
It would be nice if more directors followed Soderbergh’s lead and held similar pre-screenings for their soon to be released films. Although, those with less charisma could actually suffer from the attempt, the practice would yield a kinship between auteur and audience, attaining the ultimate goal: connecting to the viewer on a personal level. And although it’s impractical to meet with everyone on a one to one basis, I’d just like to say, Mr. Soderbergh, if you’re reading this, I’ll buy the coffee.