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NUNN ON ONE MOVIES Producer Marc Turtletaub presents a 'Puzzle'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Film/TV producer Marc Turtletaub might just have the Midas touch. After graduating with a law degree, he worked for 20 years at The Money Store succeeding his father as president. He then moved into the movie business.

He teamed with David Friendly to start Deep River Productions. After that he formed Big Beach Films with Peter Saraf in 2004 and later a television division called Big Beach TV.

Along with the big success of Little Miss Sunshine, he has produced theater projects like Sleepwalk With Me and the Broadway revival Of Mice and Men.

His new Latino-focused series, Vida, has the LGBT spectrum represented and was picked up for a second season on Starz.

In his latest movie, Puzzle, he conveys the story of Agnes ( Kelly Macdonald ), who steps out from her housewife life to discover she's talented at solving puzzles. It was hit at the Provincetown Film Festival last month.

Windy City Times: You didn't plan on being in the movie business, originally?

Marc Turletaub: No. I had been producing for about 15 years. I did a little acting and was completely forgettable.

As I was producing, I had the feeling that I would like to write and direct at some point. This screenplay was sent to me.

Basically 95 perfect of it is what you see on the screen. It is one of those screenplays where you can see what was written.

WCT: Does this project feel like your baby?

MT: Yes, it is mine, but there are so many talented people that are involved. The trick as a director is to put as much input as you can and not lose your vision. It is tricky. Some of us want to please a lot and that will be too much input. That will make someone lose track of where they are going.

WCT: I heard you don't like a lot of takes.

MT: I don't like a lot of takes or like to rehearse. I have rehearsed before when I have done some shorts. For me it drains some of the spontaneity and life out of the take. When you are working with really talented actors it gave them an opportunity to interpret the words in the way they did without me coming in and mediating how they should perform. We can always adjust later on.

WCT: Did you see the original Argentinian version of Puzzle?

MT: No. I knew if I watched it that it would clog my filters. I intentionally didn't watch it until I completed the edit and the movie was done, then I watched it. I didn't even read the original screenplay.

I had a vision on how I wanted it to be and didn't want to be influenced by anything else.

WCT: Puzzle is not based on a true story?

MT: No, it is not. It is story that a lot people, especially women, can resonate with. It is about finding your voice separate without demising your role as a mother or wife, but also finding your place in the world. That is true of men or women. It doesn't matter.

We all have a role in our relationships. but we are also something more than that. That is what interested me in this screenplay. It's funny and heartfelt.

WCT: She is in the closet about puzzling.

MT: She doesn't even know she is a puzzler. She is in the closet as a person. She is not unhappy, but doesn't know who she is other than her relationship to other people.

WCT: There are gender stereotypes in the film as well such as cooking is not for men.

MT: Yes, that is in there. It is the story in a suburban blue-collar world located in Connecticut where those faults are still present and yet there is compassion to every character and not stereotyping the characters that think that way. We realize how they were raised and we don't judge them. Hopefully it shows these characters as multifaceted and multidimensional. When you see a movie that is Black and white, it just doesn't interest us.

WCT: Liv Hewson is in the film Puzzle and [uses the pronoun] "they." Was that addressed on set?

MT: No, I didn't know that! That is way cool, but I don't know if that was happening at the time being referred to as "they."

We have done a lot of interesting movies, such as 3 Generations, about a young person transitioning. We also have Vida on Starz, that I executive-produced.

WCT: What a groundbreaking show.

MT: It is and thank you. We are having a great year.

WCT: How do you pick a project to produce?

MT: I have a producing partner named Peter Saraf. We have been doing this for 14 years together. Once you develop a reputation for the kind of material that you are dealing with then it starts to come to you. You just have to be selective. We have done that. This year we will be making four films and three TV shows. In the beginning we were struggling to make one each year!

WCT: What makes a good director?

MT: That's a good question. You have to have a balance of be willing to listen to others, if you have really talented people, so that you can get a perspective that you might not have thought of, especially if you have experts in costumes or cinematography. You have to balance that with a strong vision. You can't lose sight of your north star and listen to the people around you.

For me, that was a trick. It was a challenge in the beginning to not take in so much from all of these talented people. Ultimately it is a team effort. Every element is so critical in the way you feel about a movie.

WCT: Did you feel challenged to make puzzles exciting looking on film?

MT: Yes. It is not a movie where things climax in a big tournament. We downplayed all of the puzzling. It is a movie about relationships. That's what matters. It just happens that a jigsaw puzzle led this person out of Connecticut and then her life opens up.

WCT: Your past project Little Miss Sunshine had a releastic gay character in it.

MT: It was a great role for Steve Carell. I got to act in that. I got my 10 seconds of fame!

WCT: You are moving on to Broadway projects?

MT: I have done a little bit of Broadway. We have an Off-Broadway show that we have not announced where it will be yet, but will be in a regional theater. We intend for it to go to New York.

Billy Porter who was in Kinky Boots is directing it. He is of course magnificently talented not only as a performer but as a director. The writer is from Juilliard.

WCT: What else are you working on?

MT: We have a movie in Tunisia, China, Norway and Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh one is the biggest. It is the story of Fred Rogers starring Tom Hanks. The documentary is really good, so I hope people will come see the feature film.

Pick up the pieces of Puzzle when it opens on Aug. 3 at Landmark Theaters Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N Clark St.

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