Prior to her film's premiere at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, writer-director Tracey Hecht found time to answer a few questions about her film and her process for Cinematical. Life in Flight stars Patrick Wilson as a successful architect with the "perfect family" who, after a chance encounter with a young urban designer (Lynn Collins), begins to second guess his entire life. We published our review of Life in Flight this morning, where Joel had the following to say regarding Hecht's direction: "Hecht does a nice job invoking a sense of place in Life in Flight; she must know New York well, because she shows or mentions aspects of it that most visitors just never see, like the birds that fly out over the BQE. The visuals suggest a filmmaker who not only is in love with New York, but insisted on making sure there was no doubt that the film was made there instead of somewhere in Toronto."
Cinematical: You previously said you wanted to make a film about fear. Seeing as this is your feature debut as a director, I imagine making this film brought about a certain fear from within you?
Tracey Hecht: Yes, definitely. But I'm less afraid when I'm doing something than when I'm waiting to do it. So I think the leading up to making the movie was worse for me. Once I was actually in there, I really had a amazing time.
Cinematical: What do you think people are most afraid of these days?
TH: Oh, wow, I have no idea. I imagine that list is long. But I think the trick is to really find and know what it is inside of you that makes you afraid, and not let yourself just project your fears out onto other things.
Cinematical: Alternatively, what are you most afraid of?
TH: Trust me on this -- if I answered that, it would completely freak you out!
Cinematical: How did working for so long in the design business factor into the look of the film?
TH: I'm mildly aesthetically cursed. I just sort of naturally art direct everything in my life. Though eventually you've got to let go -- let things also emerge on their own. Also, I really believe in collaboration and I had a great team -- John Nyomarky as head set designer, Kitty Boots on wardrobe, great locations people. And my cinematographer, Harlan Bosmajian, has a beautiful eye.
Cinematical: This takes place in New York, where a lot of people are very successful. How much did you use the city as a character in the film?
TH: It's a big part of the film. The definition of success is pretty linear in New York and the environment here can be quite unforgiving to those who try to expand that definition. I wanted both the text/story line as well as the visual of New York to feel a bit like a bully, which I think actually did translate. People say the city feels looming and lonely in the film, which I'm really glad about.
Cinematical: How did Patrick Wilson, Amy Smart and Lynn Collins get involved?
TH: There's a balance between searching for the right actor and having the right actor find you. I didn't write the part of Will with anyone in mind, but looking back I don't think anyone could have done it more powerfully or with more insight and nuance than Patrick. I just got really lucky getting him. And with Catherine I knew I wanted to cast against type, so Amy was a perfect fit, and she plays the part with such heart and depth. And Lynn had the passion, energy and classic training to give Kate real complexity. Because the cast is so vital to the success of communicating the story, I really took time finding the right actors.
Cinematical: How collaborative are you on set with your actors? Do you allow them to tweak the script; do you encourage their input?
TH: Absolutely. When you work with actors who are smart and talented and committed to their roles, there really is nothing better than that collaboration as they let the characters become their own. There's a fine line in ensuring you keep a singular focus and maintaining the integrity of the story/character archs, but having your actors care enough to work with you is the greatest thing as a director.
Cinematical: What do you hope audiences will take away from Life in Flight?
TH: It's not a big or loud film -- it doesn't 'hit you over the head' so to speak. It's meant more to provoke in you thinking about who and what you are, and how you exist in the world. I hope the film encourages people on some level to have a little of that self reflection.
Cinematical: Is there such a thing as a "perfect life"?
TH: Yeah, sure. In that way that it's layered with imperfection upon imperfection.
Cinematical: What are you working on next?
TH: I'm working on a new script and reading a few others -- in particular, one script I read I'm finding particularly hard to resist.
There are still two more public screenings of Life in Flight. Check out the film's Tribeca fest page for more info.