Natalie Portman at Tribeca: 'I'm Not Going to Make You Guys Sick of Me'
Most actors arrive at the Tribeca Film Festival attempting to sell their films. Natalie Portman arrived today to sell her Web site. She visited the Apple Store SoHo with Christine Aylward, her partner in the new behind-the-scenes filmmaking site MakingOf.com. Featuring interviews with everyone from Oscar-winning filmmakers (Ron Howard, Billy Bob Thornton) to composers, cinematographers and other below-the-line craftspeople, MakingOf is Portman and Aylward's attempt to level the informational (and, eventually, communal) playing field for aspiring film professionals. Like if you ever wanted audition tips from Jason Bateman, followed by a casting director's headshot suggestions? They're on it.
"Pretty much everyone's role on a film is indispensable -- hundreds of people," Portman told a packed house of media, filmmakers, and not a few heartsick admirers. (We'll get to them.) "Like without a first [assistant director]? Without a good first AD? Your movie falls to pieces. And those are people who never, ever, ever get interviewed anywhere. And they make the movie. I feel like you could probably run a set better with a good first AD and no director than a good director and no AD. There are people like that who you never hear from, and we want people to have an idea about who these people are if they're interested in filmmaking.
"Because it's very much an inside business," she continued. "You hear about people whose fathers are focus pullers. Or a makeup artist who is the mother of a hairdresser. It's a very family business, and it's nice, having the opportunities we have, to open things up beyond that. So you can have access even if you don't have a network."
The site pretty much speaks for itself; you can't accuse the founders of not taking advantage of their access, which compiles dozens of interviews acquired at recent festivals, film shoots and elsewhere. One thing there's not much of is Portman herself, who does contribute an interview but also swears her spokeswoman duties are limited pretty much to events like the one today.
"I'm not intending for it to be about me," she said. "Obviously I'm featured in an interview, but I'm not going to make you guys sick of me by being featured in every section." Moreover, she added, at MakingOf's best it should offer other actors opportunities for equally modest forward strides. "I don't have a problem with making money, but I don't believe in doing something you don't believe in to make money," she said. "Like a makeup campaign or something like that -- the opportunities that young actors have all the time. This is an exciting model to do something you really believe in and create something positive out of that. That's my goal. And it seems like a lot of people are coming around to that model. It's possible to do something positive in the world that's still entrepreneurial."
To that end, Aylward mentioned their interest in the social-networking element still under development at the site. But, she emphasized, the target audience ultimately comprises more than just an industry readership. "The audience is anyone who loves entertainment," Aylward said. "We're building it for a consumer audience that includes the YouTube generation that's making films, amateur filmmakers, film students or the fan who just consumes movies."
Point taken. We're watching you. Alas, Portman's traffic likely dropped by one today when a male fan ambushed her. "I'm having girl issues," he said, standing up to offer the last question. "I was wondering: How does one attain the key to your heart?"
Groans ensued. Portman smiled. "Not in an audience."