RS: Do you mean literally, or figuratively, or both?
SF: Well, you have to be able to literally hear it, of course, but I’m talking about the tone of the conversation. You know, (Director) John Ford used to turn his back to the actors, so he could really concentrate on their tone, while eliminating the visual.
RS: Do you insist that all the actors memorize their lines literally before they arrive for the shoot, or do you encourage some improvisation?
SF: No improv. The screenplay has to be just right. You know, the graphic novel, upon which this script was based, was precise, economical, and just beautifully written. The actors don’t improve on a great script by merely approximating the dialogue.
RS: If you don’t mind the analogy, I feel the same way about preaching. I like to preach from a manuscript, and rehearse it several times, so I can have the structure, the word usage, and the tone just right. Extemporaneous preaching doesn’t allow for that.
SF: You’re a preacher, really?
RS: Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.
SF: Really? Where is your church?
RS: About an hour east of here.
SF: That’s extraordinary. In all my years of doing this (conducting roundtable interviews with members of the press), I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone on the other side of the table who’s identified himself as a preacher.
RS: Well, you probably expect me to comment on the morality, but I did notice that there was a certain kind of justice involving most of the characters.
SF: Oh, in that they kind of got what they deserved?
PRS: (laughs) Well, for the most part, anyway! How do you decide how to direct certain people to play particular characters?
SF: Well, I think you have to be engaged and detached at the same time. You have to know them, but you also have to be able to take a step back and see them as if from a distance. Sometimes you literally back up the camera to do that.
RS: If you don’t mind another analogy, that’s not unlike a pastor relating to his congregation. You have to be engaged to care about the individuals, but at the same time, you have to be able to take a step back and analyze, as well.
SF: These analogies between your work and mine would never have occurred to me.
RS: I really did enjoy the film.
SF: I’m glad to hear that! (laughs) Now tell your congregation to go see it!
PO: (laughs) I will, definitely!
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor of Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.