I first met directors Neal Jimenez and Mike Steinberg (absent from this piece because he’s prepping his next film Bodies Rest In Motion) at a rather upscale Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. We were meeting to talk about The Waterdance, one of the best scripts I’d read in years. Whether or not I’d do the film was contingent upon a meeting, to see if we all had the same vision for the film and more importantly, to see if we got along with each other.
We talked for a while about recent films we’d seen—and disagreed quite a bit, causing me to wonder who’d get stuck with the bill.
First meetings are always a bit strained—but thankfully, Neal has a wonderfully sharp and biting wit. He made a few jokes. Unfortunately, they weren’t funny, but I’d read several of his scripts (River’s Edge, It Only Rains At Night) and knew him to be one of the most talented up and coming young writers around.
As the dinner progressed, we loosened up and finally hit it off—leading to one of the most productive and gratifying work experiences I’ve had. And yes, I was stuck with the dinner bill.
Being first time directors, Mike Steinberg and I saw every piece of film on Eric Stoltz (Mask, Memphis Belle, Some Kind of Wonderful, Manifesto, etc.) even though we had already met and hired him. It goes without saying—though Eric requires I do—that we knew we were working with a great actor. But one who had not yet quite played an adult on screen. The Waterdance afforded him this chance, and Mike and I were both overjoyed at his performance. He came to the editing room constantly, to bug us and give us suggestions. We owe him a debt. $85.47, to be exact. He is an actor of great sensitivity, passion, and dedication, and I’m sure we’ll stay in touch for the years to come. Or until he gets his money.
A conversation between Neal Jimenez and Eric Stoltz on film The Waterdance, actor/director dynamics, and honest-portrayal sex-scenes.