Words and Pictures paints story on the creative struggle

13 August, 2014 by Wendy Wong

Known for works like Roxanne (1987) and Six Degrees of Separation (1997), director Fred Schepisi makes a return to romantic drama / comedy in his latest film, Words and Pictures.

Starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, it is a story about two people facing different creative crises. Owen’s Jack is a burnt out English teacher and one time literary star with writer’s block and a growing alcohol addiction, while Binoche’s Dina, a celebrated abstract painter, is forced to take a teaching job when her rheumatoid arthritis limits her art. Together they clash over the superiority of words over images, while struggling to reinvent their creativity amidst mental and physical struggle.


However, behind the scenes, the lead actors were far from clashing.

“When they first met, I got them together in a hotel in New York and they had a rapport on many levels,” Schepisi tells IF. “[In their] approach to acting, ideas about the script…It was very exciting for me because I knew half my work was done.”

Interestingly, the film would have moved on without Binoche as she initially turned down her role, forcing Schepisi to work with a different actress. After 18 months of scheduling difficulties, Schepisi was forced to reconsider his second choice, only to end up landing Binoche after she reconsidered. Happily, it even turned out that she was an unbelievably good painter. Her creative prowess surprised the director.

“I knew she had done it before and she was a bit of a painter,” comments Schepisi. “But not to the extent of the talent.”

Production was scheduled to allow Binoche to work on her own art, with Schepisi able to observe. Two of the paintings she created during this time ended up featuring heavily in the film.

Words and Pictures was also a creative challenge for Schepisi to step out of his comfort zone as a director. The film was one of the first Schepisi filmed digitally. Although reluctant to go down this path, the director personally found it to be very freeing, but tricky. He likens the experience to using FaceTime.

“Have you looked at yourself on that?” Schepisi asks. “I bet you saw some things you never saw before. That’s what digital does. It seems to share the images of wear and tear – things you can’t even see to the [naked] eye. There are incredible advantages in it and very main disadvantages in it. The search is defined around that.”

A little challenge doesn’t bother the director, who says he likes being a bit nervous exploring the unknown and learning from the experience. Like the characters in his film, he is also personally involved in the creative process. Creating Words and Pictures has allowed Schepisi dive into anguish and how artists find closure in their work. What do you do if you lose your device to create?

“It was about real people in real situations and given the romance and the comedy emerges out of that,” concluded Schepisi. “But it’s about a lot more.” 

Words and Pictures is in cinemas now. 

It will also premiere for the first time in Western Australia at on Sunday, 24th August at the CinéfestOZ Film Festival. 

The WA premiere of Words and Pictures will be held on at 1pm on Saturday, 24th August at Grand Cinemas, Bunbury. It will screen at 3pm later that day at the Margaret River Cultural Centre and again at 7.30pm at Orana Cinemas, Busselton.

See the trailer here: