The writer-director she is auditioning for, Jeffrey Mueller is holding his breath as he introduces his chosen star to the watchful eyes of the filmschool's Chairman, double Academy Award winning director Milos Forman, in whose masterclass the film originated.
It is the final audition before the role is awarded.
The girl’s mother, originally unconcerned about the emotionally demanding and risky nature of the material, starts having second thoughts.
But Claire aces the audition. And is cast immediately.
At the time of the audition Claire is eleven years old.
The film is entitled DREAMS OF LOVE
It is her first movie.
A New Yorker profile of Claire Danes by John Lahr (‘Where do Claire Danes’ volcanic performances come from’) recounts the future Hollywood star’s beginnings of her career this way:
After her best friend, Ariel Flavin, appeared in a film made by a graduate student at Columbia University, Danes (11), ”burning to have the experience,“ put herself forward for DREAMS LOVE, a film about child abuse. She auditioned for one of the movie’s Executive Producers, Milos Forman (and got the role).
”I loved discovering the camera. It was like a confidant.”
Danes thought it ”interesting to think about” the rage, loss and bewilderment a girl would feel at being molested by her father. Onscreen, she found an outlet for her own forbidden feelings. ”I loved discovering the camera. It was like a confidant.” she said. ”To be seen is a crucial part of my attraction to acting.”
THE NEW YORKER - Vol 89 / issue 27 (September 9, 2013)
Since early childhood dance and acting were Ms. Dane's dual fascinations. On occasion of a rare return to her past in modern dance the NEW YORK TIMES reports how this came about. As those things go, it involved both determination and fate.
"Then one day Ms. Rogoff and Ms. Flavin met Jeff Mueller, a film student at Columbia. He cast Ms. Flavin in his independent film “Coyote Mountain,” a less than ideal experience that took her to New Mexico."
“I grew up on Avenue C, so being on a horse was exciting,” Ms. Flavin said. “But I was slightly overwhelmed by the grandiosity of film production.”
"Ms. Danes felt differently. “I wanted to act from 5 on,” she said. “I saw Madonna dancing onstage on television, and my fate was determined.”
“When I showed up and saw Claire on that set, it was like something in her head settled, like she got home.”
"She had been taking classes at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute, and, Ms. Rogoff said, she could already see that “she was bound for other stuff.” So when Mr. Mueller needed a girl for his next film, Ms. Rogoff recommended Ms. Danes."
“I was thrilled, and I felt pretty comfortable,” Ms. Danes said of the difficult role.
Ms. Flavin recalled visiting her friend during the making of that film: “When I showed up and saw Claire on that set, it was like something in her head settled, like she got home.”
Rebecca Milzoff - The New York Times - January 21, 2007
"Even at eleven years old Claire had a presence that filled the room, a certain old soul quality that belied her apparently trauma free up bringing."
"Although she had no formal training in acting, Claire was always present and connected to the scene. When it was time to cry on screen for her deceased mother we talked about the loss of her grandfather and she easily made the transition, bringing forth a spectacularly emotional performance."
"Sometimes it was hard to remember that Claire was just a kid who wanted to play and have fun."
"Her friend Ariel came from New York to visit they were off in the trees laughing and jostling. But the minute she was called to the set she was game for anything."
Jeff Mueller - director
”I think everybody who saw that audition immediately realized we were in the presence of a future movie star. There was no doubt she had the talent to access complex deep emotions she might not even understand and a screen presence to boot.”
”When the rushes came in for that challenging scene and we sat down at the DuArt screening room, first our jaws dropped, than our hearts melted and at last, my eyes teared up. I think the technician’s did too."
"We saw a talent able to access complex deep emotions she might not even understand herself." Tobias Meinecke - producer
"We were all so enamored with that performance, that the next day, when I drove out to the location for some production business and to talk to the director, I presented Claire with a big bouquet of flowers. For years her mother stopped me in the streets of Soho recounting that story. It was the first time a man gave Claire flowers and that's a big thing for a mother.”
Tobias Meinecke - producer
In the fall of ‘90, under challenging conditions (promised funds are notoriously late in arriving) and rapidly worsening weather, the film goes into production on a farm near Harrisburg, PA - in the heart of Amish country.
Surprisingly for a short film, not only is the film produced in theatrical 35mm and with considerable production value, the making of DREAMS OF LOVE - from auditions, to rehearsals to shoot, premiere and on-set interviews - is being documented extensively on film and video, the majority of it on 16mm film negative.
Such detailed documentation is highly unlikely for a short film, and even more so considering the film did not have any name talent attached. While Claire Danes raw ability was immediately visible, nobody could have predicted, that twenty-five years later this eleven year old girl might be a star of world recognition and her first steps on film might be of general interest to the world of entertainment.
And yet the documentation happened. The footage of rehearsals and shoot, the interviews exist alongside the movie that contains her powerful first performance.
How did this happen?
DREAMS OF LOVE was developed as part of an anthology of four shorts coming out of the Milos Forman Masterclass in Directing at Columbia.
The entire anthology was backed by television companies from Germany and the UK, as well as some equity the producers had raised.
But it wasn’t the short films on their own, that attracted the financiers (short films are notoriously hard to finance for any filmmaker, let alone newcomers) but rather the Milos Forman Masterclass where the films originated.
To get backing for the shorts, the producers bundled four films into an anthology and turned it into a project on the art of teaching film.
They promised their financiers a documentary to follow the process from the classroom to the screen, observing one of the most highly regarded filmmakers of all times, as he passed on his art and wisdom to a group of young apprentices.
As these things go in Independent Film, they do not turn out as planned.
With three productions underway on locations in New Jersey, Manhattan and Pennsylvania the promised equity never materializes (the financier is declared mentally incompetent by his wife, contracts voided), a bank refuses to discount a contract from the British Television station and the production begins to scramble.
Only three of the four shorts make it to an edited version and only DREAMS OF LOVE becomes a finished film, with a NY premiere and exposure on the festival circuit.
The documentary footage is never edited and disappears into a vault. For 25 years.
Today, the transition from classic analog film production and distribution to digital media is close to complete. A wide range of digital distribution options exists and is accepted by paying customers: vod, svod, downloads to name a few. This allows content in all shapes and forms to find an audience, provided it has some angle to rise above the noise.
Claire Danes ranks as a worldwide recognized and admired Hollywood star.
It is perfect time to bring the world the origin story of her astounding career and the film that got it started.
DREAMS OF LOVE
(20 min - color - English)
Newly restored and remastered 4K digital print --- remixed and remastered soundtrack --- project website and social media --- digital distribution
(45 min - color - English)
2K mastered from 16mm negative and Betacam --- includes audition & rehearsals, on-set interviews with Danes and filmmakers (historic) --- behind-the-scenes footage --- premiere footage (historic) --- contemporary interviews 25 years later --- project website and social media --- digital distribution