Oscar-winning director Marshall Curry on his film The Neighbors' Window which delivers a fresh take on a voyeurism
The Academy Award-winner for Best Live Action Short Film this year is New York-based filmmaker Marshall Curry whose film The Neighbors' Window is one of the most stressful things you can watch this year. This was Curry’s fourth Oscar nomination and first win; he got his first Oscar nod when he made the political documentary feature Street Fight chronicling Senator Cory Booker's 2002 campaign against Sharpe James for Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. As diverse as Curry’s range is, his process is rather naturalistic. And the director attempted to explain it to us. Excerpts:
Tell us how The Neighbors' Window was conceived
A few years ago I heard a story on a podcast called Love and Radio in which a woman named Diane Weipert described seeing a young couple move in across the street. The story was beautifully told and really stayed with me, and a few years later it became the inspiration for my script. When I finished writing, I began to pull together a terrific team – cinematographer, producers, actors – and we shot the whole film in just four days in the apartment owned by very generous friends.
Do you think documentary/fiction shorts are more appealing now, in the digital age?
I think that all kinds of shorts – fiction and non-fiction – have become much more accessible with the rise of streaming on the internet. It used to be that a short film would play in some festivals and then largely disappear, but now it’s possible to reach millions of people all over the world over the internet. Also I think that short films might be more appropriate for today’s shortened attention span.
What has been one of the biggest challenges for you in documentary filmmaking?
Making documentaries is always hard – finding stories, capturing them in real-time. When you are making a documentary you are always fighting against chaos. Everything wants to be chaotic, and you have to wrestle with it to impose narrative and emotional structure onto it. With fiction, everything wants to be a cliché, and you have to push hard not to have the dialogue or plot feel predictable or flat, like something we have seen a thousand times before.
Tell us a little about how you approached the cinematography and the visuals for The Neighbors' Window. What was your focus?
The Director of Photography, Wolfgang Held, is an incredibly talented cinematographer who shoots both documentaries and fiction films. I had worked with him on documentaries before, so we had already established a relationship and a way of communicating that was invaluable on the set. We wanted the film to be beautiful, but to feel naturalistic, so we used a lot of practical lighting and tried not to be too tricky with the shooting.
The film will be available to stream in India via ShortsTV.