Bill Murray, director Sofia Coppola and producer Roman Coppola teamed up for A Very Murray Christmas, an hour-long musically-driven holiday special available on Netflix starting Dec. 4.
“My sister [Sofia] and I have worked on a lot of [film projects] together and we’ve always had great rapport,” explains Roman Coppola, who served as co-executive producer and associate director on the special. “As the director [on this project], she really was in charge of the look and feel of it, working with the actors, getting the performances right. I took certain aspects of all that work to help compose shots, to place cameras and to keep an extra eye on certain things while working with Sofia and [DP] John Tanzer as associate director. Some of my duties and John’s blended together, and we helped one another out on those.”
Bill Murray. Photo by Ali Goldstein/Netflix.
In A Very Murray Christmas, Murray prepares to host a live international holiday broadcast from New York’s iconic Carlyle hotel. After a blizzard shuts down the production, he makes the best of the situation, singing and celebrating with friends, hotel employees and anyone else who drops by. A Very Murray Christmas was written by Murray, Sofia Coppola and Mitch Glazer (Scrooged).
Given the large number of guest appearances—including George Clooney, Chris Rock, Amy Poehler, Jason Schwartzman, the band Phoenix and Miley Cyrus—the crew had to shoot largely out of sequence. “But for actual musical performances, which were sort of fantasy sequences with a lot of [singing] numbers back-to-back, those were shot in story order. That’s just part of the work, the challenge of filmmaking, to know how to blend these various elements to make sure there’s uniformity and continuity that makes sense.”
Coppola reports that most of the shoot took place inside the Carlyle, “intimately, using handhelds in tight surroundings.” However, the production relocated to Kaufman Astoria Studios stages in Queens for the fantasy sequences, where the team had access to bigger tools including cranes and pedestal cameras.
Photo by Ali Goldstein/Netflix.
“Our biggest challenge during the shoot was having to [capture] material very quickly due to talent availability, the budget, the weather and the use of various facilities,” he continues. “The show itself is close to an hour and we shot it in only about three days. In order to accomplish all the musical numbers and other sequences in that time, we decided to use multiple cameras, which was exciting but also quite difficult since we had to place the cameras often in relatively small spaces.
“Of course, anything with Bill Murray has a certain aspect of surprise, of fun and playfulness,” Coppola says. “That was sort of the hallmark of this show.”
“It was a really good experience,” says director Sofia Coppola. “I think [our special] is sort of weird, and Netflix just kind of let us do what we wanted. For creative people, it’s the best way to work. After this, we were like, ‘Let’s do another one!’”