Vanity is My Only Child

The day to day ramblings and clumsy attempts at boredom murder by S.M. Lochhead.

A cabin in the woods. These were a few pics I took on set and a few pics taken by someone else (I’m not sure who).

howveryfrench-deactivated201308 asked: Sometimes I forget you follow me and then it's always a wonderful moment when I remember. I absolutely adored Hanna and am so so keen to see what you've got in store next. How much did your original vision of Hanna differ from the version of the screenplay that's in the film?

Hey man, you post cool shit. Keep it up!

As for HANNA and VISION, I think the stock answer would be: it is as I always saw it or it is as I always felt it should be. I was lucky enough to do production rewrites and have influence on the final product and I think my influence was felt.

Some of the details were changed, some more significant than others. I was always disappointed by the genetic engineering subplot (that came after I left the first time and when I came back and was on set it was a battle I lost in a big way due to time and people’s obsession with the mythical McGuffin… no one knows how to use it properly… it’s a thing not THE thing).

Erik was more brutal, tonally, but Mr. Bana softened him in a way that was necessary and amazing and surprising. He’s definitely an example of a positive deviation from my visionary expectations.

Isaacs (played by Tom Hollander) was also a big surprise (from a writing perspective). There was always a henchman-like character in all versions of the script, but the final version of him was built, literally, on the fly. Tom wasn’t cast until very, very late in pre-production (Niels Arestrup pulled out abruptly and Tom came to the rescue). So he was the newest addition to HANNA’s world, someone I didn’t think existed until he did. The earlier versions of Marissa were extraordinarily cruel (not that she’s a peach now but the earlier version of her got a bit more dirty). So as her hands got cleaner, there had to be a manifestation of her cruelty that existed outside of herself. I think of Isaacs as the incarnation of Marissa’s cruelty (she has so much of it she needed another character to share the load).

I guess, though, to be honest, my whole experience and “vision” is tainted with bias (for good and for bad). I can tell you where I was sitting when they shot a certain scene (or where I wasn’t sitting because I went home with two weeks left in shooting…. I can tell you who I was hanging out with on set, or when the grips let me push the dolly (I was like a little 28 year old kid). I can feel the emotion of some drama going on in the background. Or the insanity brought on by sleepless nights (I truly went insane). Or remember the conception of a certain sequence - Marissa’s flashback is a cool one because we designed it off the page and, because of budget, we couldn’t crash the car so we played it off Marissa’s face. The Erik/Marissa hotel sequence is another cool one because I got to see the production team, the day after I handed it in, debating how to make it real. I can remember a week in post-production and the fights we had over a certain character’s death. Or the reams and reams of manic emails I wrote about motivation and meaning and subtext (thousands and thousands of words!!! I should turn it into a book).

So, did it align with my vision? That’s a more complicated question than I thought it would be at first. I’m not sure it matters or, at least, I’m not sure it matters in hindsight. I had a vision, I wrote it down, and then through the filter of other human beings (director, producer, DOP, Costume, make-up, actors, stunt, etc, etc, etc.) it became what it is.

I guess, ultimately, what HANNA has become to me is a photo album of a certain time in my life. And I’m happy it exists.

So I lived in Berlin and surrounding German areas for 3 and a 1/2 months in the year of craziness known as 2010. I was there performing rewrites on rewrites of my original screenplay HANNA. It was an odd experience. I was coming back to a script I had written six years prior and that had been sifted through the filters of at least two other writers (a third writer supposedly had come and gone with his/her contributions, I was told, not making it into the draft I was to work on). The draft I read was an odd hybrid. A cut and paste job with the edges smoothed over. Part of my job was to keep beveling the edges and to adjust to the necessities of production (a rave turned into a gypsy camp, an underground orphanage turned into an amusement park, etc.).

The other part of my job, although I didn’t know it at the time, was to talk. I know that’s weird, but that’s what I did. I would do a rewrite, I would talk to BIG TIME COLLABORATOR, do some more rewriting, write epically long emails explaining emotion and feel and tone and apologizing for having to explain myself and my choices and my insanity from lack of sleep (emails of which I should publish someday… because they are epically insane). After I sent them, I would get a phone call from BIG TIME COLLABORATOR (usually before 6 am - especially during pre-production) and talk some more. Because of the time constraints (I was turning around 7-10 page scenes in less than 24 hrs [so many times], without sleep, and with only one edit on my part and maybe a read from Casey if she was awake in Vancouver). I was always paranoid about quality. So I would talk and talk and talk (showing my lack of confidence). And when I was supposed to be sleeping, I would write emails about feral children and their sexuality (or lack there of) and sociopaths and their empathy (or lack there of) and moms being dads and dads being moms. Luckily, BIG TIME COLLABORATOR was patient with me and even supportive of my insanity. I was performing verbal hara-kiri and because of that it allowed BIG TIME COLLABORATOR to wear my skin if he so needed to.

It was a pretty grueling, inspiring, emotional experience. These are some photos taken on a rare day off during pre-production. I’d flown Casey - my love partner/reader mentioned previously - out to visit me in the first three weeks because I had no clue I would be staying there for another three months. After she left, we realized it was a mistake. We couldn’t afford to fly her out again. So instead we racked up a gigantic phone bill. And I mean gigantic. A plane-ticket-to-and-from-Berlin gigantic. But I made a movie. I was there. So… fuck yeah!