Friday, March 27, 2009

Rachel Cline's “My Liar”

Brooklyn native Rachel Cline lived in Los Angeles from 1990 to 1999. During that time she wrote screenplays and teleplays, designed interactive media, and taught screenwriting at USC. Her first novel, What to Keep, was published in 2004.

Here she shares her thoughts about the above the line talent for the film-within-the-book-within-the-movie of her latest novel, My Liar:
My Liar is about the struggle for dominance between two women who are working on a movie together in Los Angeles. One of them, Laura, is the director and therefore the boss. Annabeth, a young film editor, admires Laura from afar and then befriends her in the hope of getting hired to cut her next film. And Annabeth gets her wish, but of course things don’t turn out the way she expected them to. Annabeth is an outsider, she comes from northern Minnesota, is too pale to genuinely enjoy the sunshine, and too “nice” to let her ambition and competitiveness show. In my dreams, she is played by Lauren Ambrose—the redhead who was the daughter, Claire, on Six Feet Under, and also the shrewdly seductive literature student in Starting Out in the Evening with Frank Langella. (That was such a good movie!)

Laura’s character is in many ways Annabeth’s opposite. She is urbane, forthright in her drive to succeed, and almost as contemptuous of weakness in others as she is when she sees it in herself. She also spends more money than she makes and lies about her age. I like to think of Famke Janssen playing her. Janssen is probably best known as one of the X-Men (she was also a Bond girl), but she’s a tremendously intelligent actress, which she demonstrated in the 2005 independent feature The Treatment. She has a vulnerability that makes her extreme beauty fall away the more closely you look at her.

Because it’s about working filmmakers, My Liar often required me to describe the making of the movie-within-the-novel, Trouble Doll. There are passages of Laura directing multiple takes of the same scene, of both characters watching the same footage more than once, and of Annabeth re-arranging segments of film in different ways to achieve different effects. These were difficult to write. Wondering how to convey the sensory experience without getting bogged down by technical jargon, I often thought back to films like Antonioni’s Blow-Up and Francis Coppola’s masterpiece The Conversation, both of which make technical activities (photography, audio surveillance) part of the story in elegant ways. I also read two books by Walter Murch, a mad genius who was Coppola’s editor on The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.

So, on the day it occurred to me that Sofia Coppola might be looking for a new project right around the time the book was going to be published, I felt her involvement with My Liar was destined. Totally. With her exquisite sense of the relative scale of emotions and events, her subtle wit, her bombastic genius father, and feminist-writer mother, I knew she would see the possibilities inherent in my novel. I was even willing to let her write the screenplay!

I went to some length to send her the galleys. As the author of a book about the inevitable disappointments of Hollywood I should have known better, but as a dreamer who sometimes gets obsessed with talented women, and who secretly believes she’s written something pretty great, well, let’s just say I haven’t given up hope. It’s only been a year!
Read an excerpt from My Liar and learn more the author and her work at Rachel Cline's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Liar.

--Marshal Zeringue