Monica May Enters a Writer's Space for T Magazine
It’s almost understandable for the public to feel like they own actors. These are the faces that we relate to in the stories we absorb in theaters and in our homes. They feel like friends, and then their private lives are splashed across gossip blogs and newspapers. We know their intimate details better than we know our neighbors’. But the writers that create their stories are far more elusive. They’re rarely seen unless they also direct their work, or have reached celebrity status for their own unique abilities. In the latest issue of T Magazine, Monica May caught up with six screenwriters who are on the top of their game.
“T Magazine wanted environmental portraits, and the very first person that I shot for this was Aaron Sorkin,” says Monica. The original idea was to use spaces that meant a lot to the subjects, but circumstances change as they always do on shoots with this kind of scope, and Monica found herself in places that she wasn’t expecting. She wanted to keep the same sort of feel that T asked for in the first place, so she found a way in each circumstance to make the space as much of a character in the images as the subjects. For Sorkin they shot at the Four Seasons hotel. Often, hotels feel impersonal so it was up to Monica to change that. “That image sort of set the tone with how the environments were going to be. Since they’re all screenwriters, and most of them are also directors, I thought it might be cool to make these photos sort of feel like a film still. So that this could feel like it was part of a broader story.” They ended up putting plastic sheeting down because they weren’t happy with the carpet, and it added a new element that contributed to the otherworldly feeling of the image.
Each of her subjects were incredibly busy, and Monica was always working around their intense schedules. “Iñárritu had to be shot at Universal because he was still in the process of the sound for The Revenant. I mean, the debut is Christmas Day. The scheduled hour ended up turning into 15 minutes because he had to get back to work,” explains Monica. They shot the photograph in an elevator inside Universal Studios because locations were limited. The Studio was active, so there weren’t a ton of places they could go that weren’t teeming with people. Luckily they were able to get their hands on an elevator that could be stopped while they shot inside it. As a result, the picture takes on a feeling of a moment in between. In a transition space where riders usually enjoy stillness between floors, Iñárritu was literally in the process of intense work and allowed the shoot to be a quiet moment in the busy of his day.
For most viewers, the biggest surprise addition may be Amy Schumer. Most people know her for her comedy, but don’t realize she also writes for the screen. “Amy was great. I think she was a real trooper. She had flown in the night before from a performance that she did in Dallas, and I don’t think she got in until late, late at night in LA,” says Monica. “In the end you just want someone to be present for the time that you have them.” And Amy was. In the photograph, her energy fills the space, making it feel public and private at the same time, straddling the line that Monica was walking.