This Fantastic In-Depth Documentary Explores the Making Of Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Magnolia'

Whether or not it's your cup of tea (or should I say milkshake?), Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia remains one of the defining films of the late 90s, and an important work in Anderson's career. Director Mark Rance documented the entire production in his film That Moment: Magnolia Diarywhich, if you haven't seen it already, is now online in all of its 72 minute glory:

Much thanks to Refocused Media and The Film Stage for sharing, here is Leonard Pierce noting some of the highlights in the documentary:

From PTA’s initial nervousness about the material to the final production meeting to candid moments with Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman on set, all the way to the press junket and beyond, it’s a fascinating watch.

There are a few sections that stand out for me. First, at around 7:06, Anderson table reads with the kids and adults in the gameshow. Working with kids is always tough, but Anderson is staying animated and engaging. I really appreciate (and identify with) his colorful language, and will to stop in front of them despite his clear pre-production nerves (demonstrated in full at 10:16). Admitting to everyone in the room that he has yet to write out the gameshow sequence in full is a good example of being honest and upfront with your team. It reminds me of another successful filmmaker, Christopher Nolan, and his interview with the American Film Institute concerning working with actor's -- namely, that they are incredibly attuned to human behavior, and you shouldn't lie to them.

Paul Thomas Anderson Magnolia BTS Doc

Along these lines, I'm really appreciating the diner scene (the section "The Lamplighter" at 45:05), and Anderson's willingness to accept blame. That really speaks to his professionalism, and shows that when tested during long hours and sequences, he's still a pro, and has a great attitude. We've all had those long set days where we doubt ourselves, and it's nice to see that even larger budget productions, and directors, face similar challenges.

From a technical perspective, it's interesting seeing Anderson direct Steadicam Operator Guy Norman Bee at 38:20, as every director has their own quirks for describing motion to their operators and cinematographers.

Have you seen this doc before? What's your favorite scene(s)? Have any other behind-the-scenes documentaries you recommend?

Link: Magnolia -- Amazon

[via The Film Stage & Refocused Media]

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Your Comment


My favorite one is the final scene, I´ve always seen that moments as the beginning of "Punch Drunk Love". Great documentary, to shoot such an "Epopeya" like that has to be hard!!!

July 10, 2014 at 11:40AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


at 8:36 he's "seeing" the camera movement on the kid's game show, I suspect he follows the guidelines on the floor, but he ultimately changed it for a dolly+close up instead of the original curved panning.

July 10, 2014 at 1:15PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Wait, is this a 72 minute documentary or a 72 minute trailer for the 720 hour behind the scenes that documents the entire production?

July 10, 2014 at 5:37PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Sad, but this era is gone. New Line was sold and the studios wouldn't back this film if their lives depended on it, because it does.

On another note, is it me or is he always slurring words and making overtly eccentric motions like he's high on something? I've seen him in numerous recent interviews and he's not the same person I see here. He's much more introspective and introverted now. I'm thinking he's on blow or marijuana, neither of which is uncharacteristic of our industry.

July 10, 2014 at 5:53PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


His style changed a lot across the years. Perhaps his way of presentation, personally or within movies, reflects his current state of spirit.

July 11, 2014 at 10:49AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Rodrigo Molinsky

Maybe, just maybe, he's high on the adrenalin of no sleep and the emotional roller coaster of seeing real people bring to life what his heart poured out onto the page. I can't imagine a more stressful and erratic but exhilarating experience than directing a movie. 'Eccentric motions' to be expected!

July 12, 2014 at 5:43AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


It's no secret he was a raging alcoholic, no comments about coke or dope. Who knows, it's still Hollyweird.

July 12, 2014 at 10:50PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Interesting that Guy Bee went on to become a director himself. He is one of the nicest people in the industry.

July 10, 2014 at 10:07PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


One of my all time favorites. You can learn something about cinema by watching this movie.

July 11, 2014 at 10:52AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Rodrigo Molinsky

Man! I can't wait for Inherent Vice trailer.

July 12, 2014 at 2:13AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Im Reading comments;
My question is whats wrong with you people?
This is an absolutely extraordinary insight into not only making a film but making a film as art.
Look at his age look what he is achieving right in front of your eyes!
Completely blew me away.

July 16, 2014 at 2:13AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Super doc! Such a delight and amazing to see Paul Anderson pull this off! Such focus and determination to create this movie. Magnolia really pulled it off to the next level.
Anderson's honesty while working with his actors is truly inspiring. Nice to hear the background stories of the actors. William H. Macy is particularly funny countering Anderson a bit :)

July 22, 2014 at 6:48AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM