An Evening with Michael Mann

An Evening with Director Michael Mann

December 19, 2019 A DGA Special Event

On December 19, the DGA hosted the event, An Evening with Director Michael Mann. Members and guests gathered in the Guild’s Los Angeles Theater for a special 20th Anniversary screening of Mann’s DGA and Academy Award-nominated drama, The Insider, followed by a conversation with Mann about the making of the film moderated by Director Ava DuVernay (When They See Us).

The Insider tells the true story of Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), a corporate officer and head research scientist at a tobacco company who is working to amplify the addictive properties of nicotine. 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) convinces Wigand to disclose these shattering revelations. As CBS corporate interests undermine the news division imperative and Wigand’s family implodes under the pressure of a corporate smear campaign and litigation designed to destroy his life, Bergman ruptures the bonds with his closest colleagues to defend Wigand who’s now become increasingly antagonistic. The Insider was nominated for seven Academy Awards and garnered Mann a DGA Award nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film.

“Welcome to the DGA’s 20th anniversary screening of The Insider, Michael Mann’s prescient tour de force that is as captivating and important today as it was in 1999,” said DGA President Thomas Schlamme to open the evening. “I could spend a great deal of time expressing the genius of Michael and this film and how much they have both meant to me, but I’m sure you'd rather see the film. As President of the Guild there is another reason tonight is so special to all of us. For the good fortune of everyone here tonight, Michael helped lead the complete overhaul of this magnificent theater, working tirelessly to ensure that every decision was made with the filmmaker’s perspective in mind. Michael, on behalf of the DGA, thank you for all that you’ve done, not only as a director who I so comfortably steal from, but for helping to create this home where all directors get to screen their films exactly as they were intended to be seen.”

“Thanks everybody for coming out tonight,” said Mann in introducing the film. “There’s something very unusual about this screening. The print you’re going to see tonight is a 35mm EK print right off the camera original negative and the sound is a six-track mag that was dubbed right off the master mix. So we had to find a mag double system in a warehouse and a whole bunch of arcane technology that is quite wonderful.”

“It’s chilly outside but warm in here and even warmer when you’ve just seen an amazing film,” said DuVernay to start the post-screening discussion. “I think it’s always good to see films a couple of decades afterwards to get a feel how they hold up. This one definitely does!”

After acknowledging the presence of people in the audience who had worked on The Insider like editors William Goldenberg and David Rosenbloom and video & computer graphics supervisor Liz Radley, she and Mann engaged in a freewheeling discussion that covered the making of The Insider and included several subjects as Mann’s habit of addressing political nuance in his films and his penchant for performing extensive research. “Psychological and attitudinal accuracy is authenticity is really what’s important,’ said Mann. “Accurate detail is great when it’s dramatic, and if it’s not, it’s discarded.”

Mann revealed that he and co-screenwriter Eric Roth went to great lengths to make the film as accurate as possible. “Eric and I adopted Lowell Bergman’s criteria that it is not good enough if somebody tells you something, it needs to be corroborated at least two or three times before put it in the film. We strove for real authenticity in everything.”

Discussing what initially attracted him to make the film, Mann said, “If Jeffery Wigand was a well-balanced, well-ordered whistle-blower, I would have had little interest in it. It was because he was so human, warts and all, and Lowell would support him got that extra distance and gamble his profession. There’s one line of dialogue after Wallace says, ‘Who are these people?’ and Bergman says, ‘Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances Mike, what did you expect, grace and consistency?’ That’s the essence of my attraction to this. One knows in real life the inconsistencies – what is dystonic, what is arrhythmic, what is regretted — that has so much power. It’s hard to dramatize but that’s the challenge.”

Speaking about the results of having gone to extraordinary measures to screen the film exactly as it was intended, Mann admitted how pleased he was. “It was a shock to hear it. I’ve seen so many times digitally, but to hear the mag sound through the wall of speakers behind the screen here, it had a whole different kind of emotional quality, not just sonic quality. It was melodic. Analog is almost a luxury exclusive thing.”

In addition to The Insider, Mann’s directorial credits include the features Blackhat, Public Enemies, Miami Vice, Collateral, Ali, Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, Manhunter and Thief. A DGA member since 1977, Mann serves as an alternate to the DGA National Board and as a member of the Theatrical Creative Rights Committee. He has also served on the Western Directors Council and on various Guild committees including the Negotiating Committee and the Task Force on Violence and Social Responsibility. In addition to his 1999 DGA Award nomination for The Insider, in 1979, Mann won the DGA Award in the Movies for Television category for The Jericho Mile. Mann also serves as a Board Member of the Franco-American Cultural Fund (FACF), a partnership of the DGA, the Motion Picture Association, France’s Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music (SACEM), and the Writers Guild of America, West. and was recently appointed to the rank of Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) by the Ambassador of France to the United States.

Find video from this event in the gallery below.
Pictures & Video

event photos by Howard Wise

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