[Karam] did such a great job to make it all sound like human speech. It’s a very good union of all elements.” In a feat that is common for theatre but not for film, the entirety of The Seagull was shot in one place. Luckily, Musky remembered her family staying in a house on the lake inMonroe, New York, when she was a young girl. With some research, she found what was known as the Russian Summer House, something of a summer camp for Russian American families. It became the perfect substitute for the Russian estate in The Seagull.
ANNETTE BENING AND JON TENNEY IN THE SEAGULL
and the heartbreak that accompanies that. I always find something new in the mother/ son relationship and how brutal and tender it is, all at the same time. There is a strange competitiveness between family members but also an undying love for each other.” When it came to tackling his first film, Karamcompares the process to that of solving a crossword puzzle. “Neither of us wanted to make a filmed version of the stage play,” he says of himself and Mayer. “Those films are valuable, but that’s what going to the Lincoln Center Archives is for. For me, the challenge was having such reverence for the material, and then figuring out how to reinvent it while maintaining the integrity of the stage play.” Karam began thinking in pictures and visual images, allowing himself the added treat of having cameras readily able to preserve his thoughts. “You start to dream about the same story that you love in images, and once you do that, the screenplay in many ways can write itself because the storytelling is being driven by where the camera can go, and how it can exploit certain emotions visually. That is storytelling,” he says excitedly of his craft. However, Karam is quick to add that film is equally as challenging as theatre, even if both mediums have the unlimited potential to do anything. “It’s like wearing a different hat to solve problems,” he says. “I’m a believer that you can do anything on stage with creative thinking; the same is true for cinema.” Mayer says that organizing a proverbial dance between theatre and film for a piece in which many of the characters are tormented writers and actors was a fitting challenge for him; after all, he is well-versed in theatre,
with history behind the camera in television ( Smash ) and in film ( A Home at the End of the World ).Infact,heremembersthefirstquestion he posed for himself when approaching The Seagull . “How do you maintain a cinematic experience when the story hinges on an actual theatrical experience and is populated by a lot of theatre people?” Having seasoned collaborators such as production designer Jane Musky ( When Harry Met Sally ) and costume designer Ann Roth (Broadway’s The Iceman Cometh ) helped tremendously. “We have all spent real time in both disciplines,” says Mayer. “Plus, every one of the actors in the film is capable of doing The Seagull as a play on stage. They could sustain that, so the fact that they have that ability and to deliver lines that are so drenched in subtext... and
“To a large extent we re-wrote parts of the screenplay to accommodate some of the movement that could happen through the actual rooms that existed architecturally,” recalls Mayer. “Everything was right there and on the grounds of that property. It feels like a house that has been around for quite a while, which it has been, and it’s not overly manicured. It feels Russian in that way.” Karam was insistent on keeping the locale true to the original story. He even jokes that he didn’t want it to be The Seagull…in the Hamptons! Instead, he wanted to approach the script with reverence and respect. “When you’re reinventing something for a new genre, what’s great is it almost requires you to rethink how to tell the story,” he says. “I was operating under the belief that Chekhov would have
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