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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Café Society

by costume designer Suzy Benzinger

After the armored truck has dropped off Woody’s latest script I try to read it without the thought of designing it. It’s a plan that has worked for me over the years. It is the only time I allow myself to read the script without thinking of all the work it will take to make his words come to life. I can laugh and cry and enjoy it like any civilian might. Let’s just say, I started reading Café Society with an iced coffee in hand and ended with a vodka.

Until the script is in our hands we never know what year the film will be set in or whether or not it is a comedy or drama, has 100 extras or 2000, large or small cast. We just know that one is arriving every year. How Woody accomplishes this none of us know. The superhuman activities of writing, directing, editing and scoring a new film every year would kill just about any other director in the world, but as we lie dead on the floor at the end of every film, he is already jauntily onto the next. I sometimes get the feeling that in the midst of shooting a scene he has already cut and scored it...as though the actual shooting of the film is just a necessary evil to his process.

He knows what he wants. He is extremely generous and forthcoming. Most meetings are proper yes and no sessions and Café Society was no exception. Once Woody has the casting done (and there is much agonizing over that), he will plead with me not to destroy the quality of the actors he has hired. Sometimes I succeed.

I love doing research on Woody’s films and Café Society was a special treat as we covered both Hollywood and New York in the '30s. There is never enough research to suit me and I am always left with a feeling of missing something. I amass photographs, music, magazines, hundreds of books, thousands of fabric swatches...why does Woody always write about the one thing I can’t seem to find in my research? He has a way....

But I was lucky on this one. A nicer, more professional cast could not have been assembled. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively and Steve Carell and Parker Posey. No one complained about being fit at 1:00am or changing in a questionable location in an even more questionable trailer. How does one even find an actress who says in a fitting, “Whatever you think” these days? I had three! Such lovely gals. All pros!

I could talk about the minutiae of my job, how I do color plots, breakdown characters, work with Santo Loquasto’s sets or Vittorio Storaro’s lighting but oh...let me not bore you to death. Enjoy the show!