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Interview With Filmmaker Doug Block

112 Weddings

HBO

Out of the 112 weddings you filmed, how did you choose which couples to speak to for the film?

Doug Block

When I was starting to think about which couples to shoot, I made a list off the top of my head without even consulting my directory. Before I knew it, I had a list of 25 couples.

HBO

What made those couples fresh in your mind?

Doug Block

They're really good, strong personalities, or they stayed in touch and were fans of my previous films, so I thought they'd be more inclined to agree to an interview quickly.

I initially had a development deal to put together 20 minutes, so I went out and shot the first three couples. From those interviews, I got a conceit of juxtaposing an interview now with the weddings. It's kind of fun to get a snapshot view of a couple's marriage, as long as you acknowledge that it's not the truth. If I had come a week later or even a day later, I would have gotten a completely different impression.

HBO

In the initial stages, did you have a larger narrative in mind?

Doug Block

That's where the real work was. What holds it together? What drives it forward? What keeps it from just being one couple after another after another? We realized that it would be really good to have a young couple about to get married. Sam and Heather fell into my lap fortuitously, and they had the most spectacular wedding ever. That was just pure luck. Also pure luck, by the way, was the fact that I called Janice and Alexander. I knew that they would be a good couple to feature because of their partnership ceremony and Janice said, "Oh good timing. We're getting married in two months. Come back and film it." I happened to call Sue the day after she filed for divorce. It's kind of stunning in retrospect how the documentary gods were smiling on this film.

HBO

Which couple surprised you the most?

Doug Block

I didn't expect Sue to be divorced. You don't quite ever expect the divorces. Everybody seems happy. The big surprise was that Janice and Alexander were getting married after 13 years and that my timing was so good.

HBO

One of the most poignantly edited scenes was the story of Sue and Steve. How did that come together?

Doug Block

For a while, we didn't have Steve's interview. Once that came in, we knew it would be a parallel editing of their interviews against the wedding footage. It has its own inevitable impact just because of the fact that it's the only interview where a divorced couple talks from both sides. It's so poignant to me when Sue looks through the wedding album. She's just so attached to that wedding day and what it meant.

That's your task as a couple -- facing life together and the things you can't possibly prepare for.

HBO

Is there a common denominator to all the couples?

Doug Block

They were all fascinating stories in their own right. Strangely enough, the first nine couples in the film were the first nine couples I interviewed. Not that I didnt want more; we did some more later that just didnt fit in. But if I had done almost any other nine, we would have had similarly interesting stories. I think there's an amazing story behind every couple's marriage. The common denominator is that they're going to face really tough challenges over time.

HBO

There's a line about walking "bravely into the unknown future." It's like an adventure narrative built into each marriage.

Doug Block

Structurally we also came up with the narration, those little interstitials where I comment on weddings -- and ultimately more on marriage -- and how they go together. That was another thing that evolved in the editing. I was thinking of other ways to do it, including at one point asking: Do I bring in my own marriage? I decided, no. I'll give this as a gift to my wife on this film. We'll look outward this time instead of inward.

HBO

Did this project change the way you think about your own marriage?

Doug Block


It's a hard question to answer. Every film I do changes the way I think about my marriage. Every day changes the way I think about my marriage. It is much like Olivia talks about. It's waves. It takes work, which by the way isn't a bad thing -- it's a good thing to actually work at it.

I learned a lot in talking to these couples, editing their stories and going through all their interviews. You just hope that by learning and growing as a person, you bring that to the marriage.

HBO

Was there anything that didn't make it into the film that resonated with you?

Doug Block

I was talking to the rabbi about divorces: Why is the divorce rate so much higher now? We mentioned infidelity and he said, "That's not the No. 1 problem: No. 1 is money. No. 2 is sex, and No. 3 is time." If your spouse cheats on you, that's not necessarily a deal-breaker for a marriage. If you find out that your spouse has been robbing you, taking your money or hiding money -- it's very hard for a marriage to survive that breach of trust. You bring so much emotional baggage to money and what it means.

HBO

Do you have any advice for couples about to get married?

Doug Block

If they're about to get married, presumably they've already picked, so I can't say, "Choose wisely."

HBO

How about advice for a single person then?

Doug Block

Find somebody who finds you funny and laughs at your jokes, and somebody that you find funny. You want somebody that you can talk to, but also not talk to. You want somebody who's committed to their own self-growth, because then they don't get boring. And you want somebody who is willing to talk things out. That's probably the biggest thing; we saw somebody in the film who just didn't talk about how unhappy he was. It's not like it doesn't come out in the end.

HBO

What do you hope people take away from this film?

Doug Block

When people tend to think about marriage, their thoughts end at the wedding. The wedding is such a big deal that they conflate marriage with weddings. The whole point of the film is that the wedding is just day one. You're going to have a long life together and the only thing that you can expect is that life will throw the unexpected at you. That's your task as a couple -- facing life together and the things you can't possibly prepare for.

112 Weddings