Paige P. Parvin
Making a Scene
Todd Field: ‘Improv is overrated’
By Paige P. Parvin 96G
As a kid, filmmaker and actor Todd Field practiced magic in front of the mirror, endlessly working his patter and sleight-of-hand until he could impress his earliest critic—his dad. But his father would watch him perform only if Field promised to share his secrets afterward.
On a recent visit to Emory, Field didn’t exactly share all his tricks, but he did offer some insight into the magic of moviemaking. Field appeared in September along with New York Times film critic A. O. Scott in a panel dialogue hosted by the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship, the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and the Center for Creativity & Arts.
Field, who directed the award-winning 2006 adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel Little Children, emphasized the importance of planning and prepararation in filmmaking. “Improv is overrated,” he told a filmmaking class, “and 99 percent of the time it’s a bad idea.” He also waxed nostalgic about his time at the American Film Institute. “I miss my first year at film school because I didn’t have time to think,” Field said. “You have a certain amount of freedom, and the stakes are personal, not public. The validity is in the doing and not in the pretense of the reception, and that’s really powerful. What you’re doing is important. Don’t ever ghettoize it by putting the word ‘student’ in front of it.”