Magazine article Screen International

'Phantom Thread' Producer JoAnne Sellar on Paul Thomas Anderson: "He's Mellowed a Lot"

Magazine article Screen International

'Phantom Thread' Producer JoAnne Sellar on Paul Thomas Anderson: "He's Mellowed a Lot"

Article excerpt

Veteran producer has worked with the director since ‘Boogie Nights’.

JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Somner

London-born, Oscar-nominated producer JoAnne Sellar began her career in the late 1980s making music videos, before producing Richard Stanley’s first two features Hardware and Dust Devil. She moved to Hollywood soon after to produce Clive Barker’s Lord Of Illusions and George Sluizer’s ill-fated Dark Blood, which River Phoenix had been shooting when he died in 1993. It was around this time that Sellar met a young writer/director named Paul Thomas Anderson who was making his 1996 debut feature Hard Eight, aka Sydney. The co-producer on Hard Eight was Sellar’s now-husband Daniel Lupi, and all three hit it off to the degree that Anderson showed her and Lupi the script for his next film, Boogie Nights, “which I flipped out for”, and she was asked to produce it.

“I think he had a really hard time with Sydney and he got locked out of the cutting room, so he’d gone into Boogie Nights being kind of, ‘It’s not going to happen a second time,’” she recalls. “It took a lot of time for him to build his trust with me; that I wasn’t out to screw him. It was quite the opposite. I had huge respect for him as a writer-director, and all I wanted to do was make the best film possible - his film.”

Since then, Anderson has written and directed Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice and Phantom Thread - with Sellar producing them all. Their collaboration, she says, begins at the development stage, continues through production, and extends to marketing and release.

“Paul will talk about the project early on,” says Sellar. “He’ll show me rough drafts. He’ll show me scenes. I’ll comment. We’ll go back and forth on stuff. We’ll start doing research together. And when he’s got a draft we all feel is good enough to send out to financiers, usually between him and his agent we’ll come up with where we’re going to send it.”

Long shooting schedule

The partnership is based on trust and familiarity. “Half the time I know what he wants without even talking to him, or he knows I’m taking care of something without even having to say to me, because it’s just what I do,” says the producer. “Once you work with someone for a long time, there’s a shorthand. My job, and my husband’s job, is to get as much on the screen for Paul as possible. He likes a long shooting schedule, he likes to take time filming stuff, doing reshoots and retakes, and we build that into the way we put the project together, which is a luxury a lot of directors can’t afford. We make our films very fiscally [responsible], knowing that any money put aside is for Paul to do these extra days if he needs them, or reshoots. Because that is part of his process.”

It is a process that has evolved over time. “He’s mellowed out a lot,” says Sellar. “He’s gone from being a very young director to becoming much more confident in his directing, as the years have gone on. For his first couple of movies, he was so clear on exactly what he wanted, in terms of every shot. He was very, very structured. Whereas now he’s completely different. …

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