Interview: 'Look' Creator Adam Rifkin
Did you catch the premiere of Showtime’s new original series “Look?” You might have missed it. It was on Sunday night at midnight (Monday morning if you’re being technical, but the point is it's on long after “Dexter.”) It’s definitely late night viewing because “Look” is more revealing than even the boldest episode of “Californication.”
Based on creator Adam Rifkin’s own movie by the same name, “Look” tells ensemble drama stories from the point of view of security cameras, cell phone cameras, flipcams and webcams. Characters tweet and text and we view their messages on screen. The characters include adulterous druggie MIL Stella (Claudia Christian), promiscuous teen Hannah (Sharon Hinnendael) and her virginal friend Molly (Ali Cobrin), stripper obsessed Andy (Jordan Belfi), security guards who watch dressing room surveillance footage and many more connected character.
More after the jump...
You may know Rifkin as the director of Detroit Rock City or Night at the Golden Eagle, or as the writer of Mouse Hunt and Underdog, or as the screenwriter Jay Mohr wanted to get instead of Adam Rafkin on that short-lived Fox show “Action!” However people react to “Look,” it is designed to start a conversation, so Rifkin got on the phone himself to have one over the weekend.
Screen Junkies: Did you have any worry that it might be a bit much that all the characters have some extreme behavior?
Adam Rifkin: No. Here’s my philosophy behind that. My philosophy behind that is if I actually had access to all the footage that was shot in a city over the course of a week let’s say, I agree that most of the stories I would watch unfold wouldn’t be that extreme. I like to think that the idea is I picked the most compelling or the most salacious or the most extreme stories to follow that happen to be caught on these cameras. So that was a deliberate choice. There’s a lot of people who don’t cheat on their spouses or aren’t doing drugs or aren’t getting naked in public, but those stories were not as interesting to me for this particular project.
SJ: And doesn’t Showtime want to push the limits?
AR: Absolutely, which is why Showtime is a great home for “Look.” Just like the movie, the show is about the things that people do when they don’t think they’re being watched. So a lot of times when people don’t think they’re being watched, they’re not necessarily acting in the most PG of ways. So being able to do it and it be seen on Showtime enables us to not have to wuss out. If it were broadcast television, we’d have to really sugar coat some things or whitewash some things and I’m glad we don’t have to.
SJ: Do any of your actors have no nudity clauses?
AR: No, nobody had no nudity as a clause but certain characters, when the actors read the script, they knew what they were in store for and where the characters would be going. We were very clear. We had an understanding before anybody started what they were and weren’t comfortable with. If somebody wasn’t comfortable with the direction their character was going in, we couldn’t consider them for the show because we wanted the show to be very edgy.
SJ: The first episode ends with an uncomfortable sexual moment. Is that to punish the viewer for ogling the enticing sex earlier?
AR: No, I’m definitely not into the idea of punishing the viewer for liking seeing something salacious. I like salacious. What I really want to do is I want to show a cross section of all the different things these cameras do capture. They capture funny things, they capture sexy things and they capture scary things. I want to keep it even handed that way. The same with the drama. I want the drama to be at times humorous and light and other times heavier and more serious. I like walking that line and going back and forth and people not being able to predict which direction things are going to go in from minute to minute.
SJ: What did you get from the movie or expand for the show?
AR: Well, really where the show picked up as far as where the movie left off was really all that new technology, all those new portals for communication. When I made the movie, it was really kind of a creepy idea that everywhere we went we were being watched. But since the movie, it’s interesting how gradually we’ve just become so accustomed to if we’re not being watched by surveillance cameras, we’re making sure we’re being watched by everybody else by what we post, by what we text, by what we tag, by what we film ourselves doing and then post online. It’s interesting to me.
SJ: How do you avoid the Crash factor of making it too cute how the stories overlap?
AR: I don't know really if I can avoid the Crash factor. One of my biggest inspirations as a filmmaker has always been Robert Altman. I love Crash, don’t get me wrong, but Crash in my opinion is in the style of a Robert Altman structure. I’ve always liked movies that take multiple storylines and interweave them. So to me it’s organic that all these people are sort of in the same fishbowl, that their lives are going to cross at some point or another here and there. Hopefully people don’t find it too cute. I tried to make it somewhat believable and hopefully interesting and compelling.
SJ: Do you have any rules on the timeline of the show?
AR: The whole season kind of unfolds in about a week in terms of the narrative timeline. It’s about a week’s worth of people’s time. By the 11th episode, the characters have all gone through about a week’s worth of their lives, maybe more.
SJ: What do you think of all the faux documentary movies that have become the new style?
AR: I love the style and like anything, if something’s popular it gets emulated into the ground. So I think there are examples of that genre that don’t work but the ones that do work, if they work I think it’s fun and I think it’s funny. I also like the idea that if it’s done well enough, sometimes these things can really fool people. I like that too.
SJ: Has it primed the audience to understand it as a style?
AR: Absolutely. It definitely has. You see that in television, even in primetime television. “The Office” and Larry David are shot docu-style so I think people are becoming very accustomed to that as a stylistic choice.
Catch a look at "Look" Sundays at midnight on Showtime.