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It took me a while to warm to the ’20s costumes on ‘Downton.’ I love it when women accentuate their curves, and that era was all about hiding them. The shapes they wore then were in tune with female empowerment. Cutting off their hair and hiding their busts was a way of saying, ‘We’re equal to men!’
One thing that is very different technically is that you don’t get a lot of coverage in television. Not like you do on a film. I know we don’t have time for separate set-ups, so I will design a scene where I’m hiding multiple cameras within that set-up. That way, if I don’t have time to do five set-ups, I can do four cameras in one set-up. It’s a different kind of approach for that. For the most part, a lot of television, in a visual sense, lacks time for the atmosphere and putting you in a place.
When I was trained as a journalist, as a race-relations reporter in Nashville covering the end of the civil-rights movement, we were strictly forbidden to use the first-person pronoun. There was kind of an electric charge around it. To come out from hiding and use the word ‘I’ carried a lot of fright for me.
I think when things happen in our lives that we can’t truly understand why they destroy us, it’s because we can’t truly understand or communicate it to anyone else. And that is what is destructive – you can’t communicate it to the people that you love and it makes things deteriorate. Or you’re hiding from yourself, or you’re hiding from somebody else, and that was really fascinating to me… that life isn’t like the movies and you can’t always point to one thing and explain why you did things that ended up hurting you.
I was thinking about the generation before us, like John Barth and all of those pomo dudes who had that idea of, instead of hiding the structure and making it look organic and natural, we’re going to put the structure on the outside. But most of the time, at least for me, all I could attend to [in Swing Time] was that act of structural self-consciousness.
Ira [Gershwin] was the shyest, most diffident boy we had ever known. In a class of lower east side rapscallions, his soft-spoken gentleness and low-keyed personality made him a lovable incongruity. He spoke in murmurs, hiding behind a pair of steel-rimmed glasses..Ira had a kid brother who wore high stiff collars, shirts with cuffs and went out with girls.