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The Two Faces of January Making-Of Is a Unique Experience in Witnessing Acting and Feature Filmmaking

This is probably one of the most unexpected and exciting making-of I’ve seen, and if you’re only going to read this one sentence, I’ll make it crystal clear: I think every filmmaker and every actor should watch it.

The Two Faces of January‘ is an adaptation from Patricia Highsmith crime novel, written and directed by Hossein Amini (Drive, Snow White and the Huntsmen, The Wings of the Dove). Amini’s brother, Hassan Amini, took it upon himself to shoot a making-of but with a very different take on the genre.

Along with John Lopez, Hassan Amini followed the full production of ‘The Two Faces of January‘, shooting behind-the-scenes in a cinema vérité style: almost no interviews, a chronological narration that intercuts footage on set with final scenes from the movie, the whole thing brilliantly edited over the film’s score.

It took me a while to click on the video link Amini sent me because I was genuinely scared of its running time. After 3 minutes in, I was hooked, 5 minutes in and I had to stop to email Amini and ask him if I could share it and if he would agree to write about his experience. I finished the full making-of with the wonder in the eyes, and I have a feeling some of you might fell under the spell too.

Hassan Amini on ‘The Two Faces of January’s Making-of:

“In 2012 my brother started production on his directorial debut ‘The Two Faces of January’. 

The shoot was scheduled to last over fifty days with over half of it shot on location in Greece and Turkey. I went along to offer moral support and help save money by shooting the b-roll.

I’ve always been a fan of behind the scenes docs and here was my chance to make one. 

Since my job was to shoot the b-roll I decided to film as much of the mechanics of the scenes as I could and  then structure the doc around the film’s most basic narrative. Or that was the intention anyway.

The Two Faces of January’ is a road movie so the constantly changing locations were a great help in trying to tell each scene differently. Every day there were new problems to solve  against the most epic backdrops. (For anyone who hasn’t been to Crete I recommend it.)

Alberto Inglesias‘ score was inspiring,  and the crew, the talent and my brother  were all very generous to put up with me. The ADs will testify that I was a pain in the a***. 

The project was shot on a single Panasonic GH2 by either myself or fellow filmmaker, John Lopez.

The rest of the kit consisted of a video tripod, a $30 shoulder stabilizer (useful but makes you look slightly ridiculous) and a bunch of slow and fast lenses, ranging from 20mm to 300mm.

For sound, we used a Beachtek box with an XLR Shotgun mic which was not entirely suitable and churned through batteries.  

Below, for educational purposes only, is the result…”

What I LOVE about this making-of is that it captures so well the level of choreography that is involved in filmmaking. It’s one thing to know that everybody has a position and a function on a set, it’s another thing entirely to see it applied over time and on different locations at a certain scale, in front of your eyes.

And just like in a ballet, everybody evolves around the lead dancers, in lieu, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac. In ‘The Two Faces of January‘ making-of you basically get to be the silent mouse watching actors dealing with a wide range of scenes (from intimate to violent to crowded etc.), and a film being made.

I feel there is nothing I can say that will convey my enthusiasm for this making-of, so I’ll finish with this: watch the first 5 minutes, and if you find it boring, close the tab and voila.

To broadening our horizons: