I never went to film school. I learned most everything I know by working on failed TV shows I created. A lot cheaper for me, but a whole lot more expensive for the networks that funded those misses. In retrospect, Fox and NBC should have just sent me to NYU and saved themselves millions in production costs. And that way I might have taken a class in how to direct a love scene instead of finding myself in virgin territory (ahem) on the set of my new movie, Friends With Benefits. Whether I did it right is for the ticket buyer to decide — hopefully on the opening weekend of July 22. The other movie opening is Captain America, which, if you think about it, is really just a retread of No Strings Attached. But I did learn a lot and I’ll share it with you in case you have to film a love scene anytime soon. Legitimate or not.
Make sure your film stars genetically perfect specimens like Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis so you don’t have to waste any time lighting. There is not one angle in any kind of backlight, top light, sunlight, or klieg light in which this pair does not look stunningly gorgeous. I could have filmed them with a Flip camera and a headlamp, and they would have still looked amazing. If you’re not lucky enough to have Justin and Mila, use candlelight, put the camera as far away as possible, and shoot through a piece of cheesecloth. This new HD format is very unforgiving.
Give your actors time to get to know each other. Justin and Mila had never met before, but instead of making them do trust falls or a ropes course I decided to shoot the first half of the movie in New York City. I figured spending 16 hours a day working together out in public, surrounded by 8 million people, would give them time to foster ”chemistry.” What I didn’t figure was how hard it was going to be. Tourists in Central Park, Grand Central station, and Times Square don’t exactly ”respect the creative process.” To say it was a zoo would be unfair to the Bronx Zoo. When you see the movie, try to picture thousands of people screaming and taking pictures right outside the frame of every single scene shot in New York. (The upside was we didn’t need to send the studio dailies; they could just go on YouTube and watch the footage from the day before.) Thanks to this, the actors were thrown together in a surreal experience the likes of which only the other could understand. By the time we were ready to shoot the sex scenes, they were sufficiently chemistried.