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Directors in focus at DGA panel

Nominees Affleck, Spielberg talk shop before awards show

Ben Affleck admits that projecting confidence from the director’s chair — particularly when you’re shooting just your third film, in his case “Argo” — is tough but vital.

“I see it as life and death,” he recalled during Saturday’s Directors Guild of America panel for nominees for the guild’s feature award. “If I don’t, I feel like I should be electrocuted and should fire myself.”

Affleck’s response to moderator Jeremy Kagan’s question echoed those of fellow panelists as they let down their guard before the capacity crowd of more than 500 at GA headquarters.

“You have to divest yourself of doubt,” said Steven Spielberg, whose nom for “Lincoln” was his 11th from the DGA.

“We have to hide our doubts,” noted “Life of Pi” helmer Ang Lee. “A quick decision is better than no decision.”

Lee added that the humbling challenges of shooting a spiritual story on water and in 3D led him to the conclusion that it’s critical to respect the audience.

“3D forces you to examine how you see things,” he added. “If people don’t believe the tiger is real, you don’t have a movie.”

“Les Miserables” director Tom Hooper told the audience that he’s able to generate better results simply by starting to shoot and working quickly. “There are almost an infinite number of ways you can shoot,” he added.

“Zero Dark Thirty” helmer Kathryn Bigelow allowed that in shooting, she never allows herself to feel totally satisfied. “You’re sort of constantly manipulating,” she added.

Bigelow also said the topicality of her film, about the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, along with shooting in war zones required her to show confidence and leadership. “You embrace it and take on a heightened responsibility,” Bigelow noted.

The directors also recalled their efforts to provide their films with credibility, with Bigelow praising Jessica Chastain for coming to understand the world of CIA trackers. “You have to take a deep dive and become an expert,” she added. “My interest was to tell the story in as unvarnished a way as possible,” she said.

Spielberg noted that he attempted to keep phones away from the “Lincoln” shoot.

“I asked everyone to keep the 21st century out of the set,” he added. “So it was very quiet. It was like working in a church or public library.”

Spielberg also said that meeting the challenge of finding the movie within Tony Kushner’s initial script draft of more than 500 pages meant there was virtually no rehearsing. At 170 minutes, the final cut was only 20 minutes shorter than the first cut.

He also said that dealing with the subject of Lincoln had made him absent his own personality from the film, adding, “I felt the work that I did was the most restrained that I’ve ever done.”

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