AS: And start making notes…
MF: Visual notes.
AS: And breaking it down?
MF: Not breaking it down. Visual notes. I try to rewrite the words and create a script of images that tell the story of what I saw. Usually I pull photos and art, rarely do I use movie references. I usually don’t like to reference movies with movies. Although in this case the Taxi Driver reference is built into the script.
AS: Taxi Driver, King of Comedy…
MF: Yes, Todd and Scott [Silver’s] script directly referenced those films. So does casting De Niro in the Jerry Lewis role. But the real reference for Gotham was my childhood in New York City at exactly this time.
AS: So you read the script, make some notes, then you meet with the director…
MF: I read the script and I try to write the story again in pictures. The quick pass. Boom, boom, boom- that’s what I saw. And bring what I saw to the interview.
AS: Pictures you collect from various sources…
MF: What’s in my brain is pictures. I live in pictures.
AS: Are you sketching anything yourself or are you just finding pictures at this point?
MF: For the meeting with the director I’m not drawing the sets yet. Sometimes I pull out a pencil in the meeting if it helps to illustrate a point. Once we get going we start to do a lot of concept art. But in that first conversation I’m looking for the tonal. Spacial and tonal. And cultural. I’m an American History major. And in a story like this cultural history is completely relevant. In most stories it’s relevant. What’s the culture of the world you’re making? To me the culture and the way the world looks go together. And it’s more interesting if it’s a visual world built on ideas and considerations rather than just, what does it look like? In this case the culture was dissonance. The social fabric was torn. Cops were corrupt. Subways don’t work. Rich are getting richer and being horrible. There’s a meanness in the world.
AS: Trash is out on the street.
MF: Social services aren’t working. Garbage as a metaphor and as a reality. It happened. If you look at pictures from the 70’s they look worse than my sets. And my sets were pretty bad. So that’s a visual thing but it’s also culture. It’s part of that world and in this case it’s also story. And Arthur says it, Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?
AS: That’s another reason this movie resonates in our current political climate.
MF: The protesters in Beirut are wearing Joker masks! Certainly in this country there’s a meanness, whether it’s the polarized politics or how we’re not civil with each other. Or how the wealthy are taking everything and the dream is dying.