Natalie Portman – Oscar-nominated Actress Launches Into the Making of Film Web Portal Makingof.com
by Brad Balfour
Originally posted on May 14, 2009.
Oscar-nominated actress Natalie Portman joined her business partner and film developer/new media entrepreneur Christine Aylward to discuss the launch of their new website, www.makingof.com, at a special event in the Filmmaker’s Lounge during the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. As they explained, the site is meant to be a gathering place and resource for filmmakers and fans of filmmakers alike. Their web project hopes to transform the way people view, enjoy, and participate in the filmmaking process.
The Israeli-born Portman, of course, is the actor who received international attention when she landed the role of Queen/Senator Amidala for Star Wars Episodes I, II and III. This helped her get parts in Anywhere But Here and Where the Heart Is but she really came into her own with films like Garden State, V For Vendetta (where she shaved her head) and The Other Boleyn Girl. When she played the ex-girlfriend in Darjeeling Limited she did an accompanying 13-minute short, “Hotel Chevalier” for director Wes Anderson and offered her sexiest performance yet. As an accomplished actress, she has performed in such established plays as Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull and The Diary of Anne Frank, and garnered her Supporting Actress Oscar nom for Closer in 2004.
She also graduated from Harvard University where she studied psychology. Later on she directed her first short, has actively supported various humanitarian and animal rights causes, and has been romantically linked with various actors or musicians such as neo-hippie Devendra Banhart. She is also an entrepreneur having started an aborted vegan shoe line (its partner company dissolved through this econ crisis) who is now launching this media company with Aylward as CEO. The two had met on a film set and came up with the idea of a behind-the-scenes, insiders-look web portal off-the-cuff during a dinner.
The following interview was drawn from the Q & A session after they announced the launch before a small group of film professionals; it is boiled down to Portman’s remarks and her response to several of my own questions as well.
Why did you two start this website?
Christine and I have been friends for a few years now and we were talking one night. I said, “I wonder why there isn’t a website that sort of encapsulates the experience of visiting a friend on a film set?” Because every time a friend of mine came to visit I was reminded about how exciting a place it is to work and was reminded about how little we all know when you’re just a movie-goer of all the different aspects that go into making a film. The site is supposed to encapsulate that experience and give access to people who don’t have a friend that they can go visit on a film set. So they can say, “How did they do that?” There are jobs that exist on films sets which people don’t even know about. We can give an insight into that and offer that experience for the serious burgeoning filmmaker. There’s this whole generation now of people who are making their own movies with YouTube and similar sites. I’m sure that they want expert advice or the opportunity to see how it looks up close. So that’s the goal of the site, to extend that access to everyone.
You’ve worked on small indie films and very large studio films. How do you compare those experiences; the good things, the bad things, and being behind the scenes?
The thing that unites all film experience is that it really is a team. It’s a collaboration between so many people. There’s actually this [David] Mamet line that [I think] Mike [Nichols] always quotes. So I’m going to quote the quote. “Film is a collaborative process. Bend over.” [laughs] It really is a collaborative process though and there are so many people who contribute in ways that are not highlighted. It’s a really exciting opportunity to get to focus on those people. Also, [filmmaking] is such an insider industry. So many people learn to do what they do because their parents do it. You see on film sets a lot of time that the camera operator is the father of the focus puller and the makeup artist is the mother of the hair stylist. It’s very much like that. It’s really a family business and that makes it even more exciting to open that access because that’s how people get access. It’s not like people come out of film school and get hired on movies. A lot of times the access is who you know and you learn by doing. You learn by being on the job. The goal of this, and obviously it’s a work in progress and we’ll be amending as necessary, as we go on, but the hope is to really let people learn by doing, learn by experiencing firsthand.