There’s very little respect for screenwriters in the industry. Productions cycle through writers like mad, often not giving them credit for their contributions. For a screenwriter to actually be invited to come to set to observe production is far rarer than you’d imagine, as they might have pesky “ideas” about how things should be done. As it happens, Damien Chazelle was invited for a few days to the set of “Grand Piano,” and as he told /Film’s own Ben Pearson, those few days were invaluable in learning more about the directing process, particularly for a film heavily reliant on music:
“The one time I got to go on set for a script that I’d written was ‘Grand Piano.’ I went to Spain for a couple days while they were shooting that. Eugenio Mira was the director on it. And I’ve got to say, I learned a ton. I stole a bunch of tricks from him on just — it was great training for me, actually, before shooting ‘Whiplash’ or even ‘La La Land’ because it was all set to music. The music had been pre-composed. Camera moves were timed to the music, and it was a mix of live music and playback. That whole thing. I feel like I just sat there, not even knowing necessarily how I would use what I was learning, but just soaking it up.”
So much of “Grand Piano” is Elijah Wood playing the piano, and finding ways to make the consistently visually dynamic is enormously challenging. Chazelle got to see Eugenio Mira, who still hasn’t been able to make a follow-up feature, use trial and error before he had to do the same thing — but with drums — for “Whiplash.” It’s nice when someone is open to learning.