A Dreamer Walking

Clint Eastwood – An Observation – King of the Atmosphere

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Observation Series by Jacob on February 19, 2011

It is amazing the kind of atmosphere Eastwood is able create on set. There have been many actors who describe it as being like going into a Church, where everyone is focused and you hardly hear anyone speak above a whisper. Eastwood has been described as a man with a very even temper. He has said in many interviews that as a director he has the job to set a tone, if he can’t stick to that tone he can’t expect anyone else too.

When you visit a Clint Eastwood set you don’t really hear a lot of talking or commotion. You don’t hear anyone on a amplifier, you don’t hear someone screaming “ACTION”, in fact you sometimes don’t hear someone say “action” at all. The way Eastwood directs is very laid back. He wants to create a atmosphere where everyone could be in the mindset that allows for the best performance.

Eastwood believes that using a amplifier or screaming “action” takes actors out of the characters they are trying to portray. Eastwood has explained that he wants to be the last person to stop the actor from concentrating on the performance at hand. Instead of screaming “action”, Eastwood speaks gently when he wants his actors to go into motion sometimes just saying “commence”, or if he wants to lighten the mood he has fun with it by saying something like “actioni”. Because Eastwood wants to get the most out of his actors he sometimes leaves it to them to start a scene by just telling them “any time”. Eastwood has talks with the man holding the clapper board for his movies, making sure they know how to snap it in a subtle way that won’t distract anyone from what they are doing.

To maintain the atmosphere for Eastwood’s old western Unforgiven, Eastwood did not allow any motor vehicles on set. He also had the set built on location in Alberta Canada.  There is something to actually being on location that Eastwood likes. For Unforgiven Clint wanted it to feel for a brief moment as if the whole crew went back in time. He believes that if the location feels real to the actors they will act like it is real when on camera.

Eastwood has been described as a person who takes his work seriously but doesn’t feel the need to always take himself seriously. He is willing to make fun of himself and crack a joke to lighten the mood. Just because some of his films cover dark elements, does not mean the crew needs to be bogged down by the darkness. There is a light atmosphere on a Clint Eastwood set, everyone is there to make a good movie but also to have a good time. The reason why Eastwood still makes movies in his eighties is because he has fun doing it. There is nowhere else he would rather be.

One of the greatest things Eastwood brings to the table is trust. He does not feel the need to have all the answers. Eastwood is able to put trust in the crew. One of the reasons Eastwood  trusts the crew so much is because he has worked with most of them for most of his directing career.  Tom Stern, now Eastwood’s cinematographer, and Joel Cox, Eastwood’s editor, have worked with Eastwood sense 1977 (Eastwood began directing in 1972). It is a testament to Eastwood that so many crew members come back film after film. I believe it is because the crew feels like they are recognized for the talents they have.

A good atmosphere on set is one of the most crucial things to have if you want to make good films and have a long lustrous career. Because of the consistent tone Eastwood has established on his sets the actors and crew have developed a great trust in  him as a director. Everyone knows Eastwood only expects out of them what he expects out of himself. Everyone is willing to go out on a limb for each other’ because everyone has each others backs. They are all there in support of the story.

A place where you are not easily distracted from the task at hand. A place that lets you easily fall into the role and time period you are portraying. A place where you feel you can have a good time. A place where you feel like your leader trusts you and you trust your leader. All this is needed in order to create a great atmosphere. A great atmosphere on set takes a great deal of humanity from everyone involved, especially the leader. I personally don’t think you can get much better then Clint Eastwood. Eastwood’s great atmosphere is the reason why he and his team keep on making one great movie after the next.

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