'Modern Family' director talks smart about movie comedy

From the Mike Sragow Gets Reel blog:

Jason Winer directed every other episode of the first season of the award-winning ABC comedy "Modern Family." He has just made the jump to movie comedy with the forthcoming remake of "Arthur," starring Russell Brand in the role that Dudley Moore made famous. Winer had some sharp observations about updating the beloved 1981 farce for an interview that ran on Sunday (click here).

But he also spoke eloquently about the type of comedy he was going for. "I think what I was able to bring from my 'Modern Family' style was a sense of observational comedy. What I love about 'Modern Family' is the way that the camera often feels as if it's peeking in on the action. You don't have to be shooting in documentary style to use the camera and lenses in such a way as to make it seem that you're observing like a fly on the wall."

Winer continued, "My favorite kind of comedic moments are ones where somebody in the audience thinks they're the only one who notices that funny thing, but when they laugh out loud they realize the person next to them is laughing too. So there's lot of those little moments in 'Arthur.' The moments almost seem thrown away. You feel as if you're the only one that catches that little throw-away line -- but hopefully, everyone is going to catch it. It's a big movie, so there are some glossy, really easy to access comedic beats, and slapstick, lots of different things to laugh at. But my favorite are those quiet moments."

To help him achieve his goals, Winer enlisted editor Brent White -- "he has basically cut for Adam McKay and Judd Apatow. He's done each of their movies for the past ten years, going back and forth between them. So he did 'Anchorman,' '40 Year Old Virgin,' 'Knocked Up,' and 'Talladega Nights.' "

Winer also collaborated with cinematographer Uta Briesewitz. He said, "She is amazing. She shot 'The Wire' and movies for Jake Kasdan ('The TV Set,' 'Walk Hard'). She's done some very dramatic television and some very funny movies, and that's one reason that I love her. This movie has comedy and drama in it and she has a very – to say humanist sounds haughty, but it's true, she has a very humanist perspective. She has a very special way of lighting a scene and looking at human behavior that is gorgeous and detailed -- and she knows how to express all that with the camera." Winer concluded, "I don't know how I could have done the job of a director of a major motion picture without having been a producer, writer and director on television. Being the director of the movie, whether you're also called a producer or writer or not, you use both skills constantly. If you don't, you probably end up making a bad movie. You have to produce, you have to understand the relationship between you and the studio and the producers, you have to understand budget constraints, you have to understand logistics and personnel. So you have to be the producer. At the same time you have to constantly shape and reshape the movie to the actors you cast, to the locations you find, to things you discover are working or not working on the set that day. If you don't have some ability as a storyteller, you're in trouble, too. All the skills I used directing, writing or producing television came into play."