Shakespeare on the Cheap-side

Invariably each semester there is a student who will write a terrific poem that they spent very little time on, and it frustrates them to no end that the pieces they labored over are less worthy of praise. In the economy of invention, speed can be a virtue when mystery is the currency.

I was spurred to think of that when I saw that the upcoming Joss Whedon version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is being marketed as “shot in 12 days.” I’m not sure when speed, which might more normally be associated with slapdashery, came to have cache, but I have an invite to a film opening next week whose ad touts that it was made for $7000. But instead of preparing us for an experience of the cut-rate, I suspect it’s trying to prime us for wonder: how could such a fine work of art be done so quickly? Or for so little? (a major function of which is being-done-quickly). I like that resourcefulness is becoming part of a works aesthetic quality.

Here’s the trailer, but even the lay ear will surely hear it as poetry-challenged. That training and practice is time-consuming and expensive.

Orson Welles, among the best of directorial improvisers, I wager never took pride in the difficulties he had to overcome to shoot his films. For example, his Macbeth, from Wikipedia:

The film was shot on leftover sets for the westerns that were normally made at Republic Studios.

In order to accommodate the tight production schedule, Welles had the Macbeth cast pre-record their dialogue. However, he later expressed frustration with the film’s low budget trappings. In regard to the costumes, which were rented from a company called Western Costume, Welles felt he was poorly clothed. In an interview with biographer/filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, Welles remarked: “Mine should have been sent back, because I looked like the Statue of Liberty in it. But there was no dough for another and nothing in stock at Western would fit me, so I was stuck with it.”

Welles also told Bogdanovich that the scene he felt was most effective was actually based on hunger. “Our best crowd scene was a shot where all the massed forces of Macduff’s army are charging the castle”, he said. “There was a very vivid urgency to it, because what was happening, really, was that we’d just called noon break, and all those extras were rushing off to lunch.”

Welles shot Macbeth in 23 days, with one day devoted to retakes.

Here’s the trailer for Welles’ Macbeth, complete with Orson mud-statue. Happy Birthday Shakespeare, who has managed another year to survive his admirers.