It took Alan Cummings and Jennifer Jason-Leigh 6 weeks to cast this LA location for their pet project, The Anniversary Party, which they wrote, stared in and directed together. The entire film is set at the house so it was an important element to get right. The production team eventually chose the Schaarman House by Richard Neutra. A classic mid century Californian party house in LA.
With its linear pool, feature walls of stone and timber and stepped platforms staging the transition between inside and out, the house provided enough variation to keep the film visually interesting.
Neutras skill in inviting light into an interior was also used to great advantage. The perceptible change in light as the day progresses records the passage of time and provides pace to the dramatic events unfolding at the party.
The film documents a party organized to celebrate the sixth anniversary of two pretentious spoilt Los Angeleans – a writer and an actress. It emerges, of course, that things are not what they seem and that the couples relationship is laced with secrets, jealousy and resentment. The other parts were written mostly for the directors friends including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline and Jennifer Beal. Jason-Leigh managed to convince old friend Phoebe Cates (Klines’ characters wife as well as in real life) to come out of retirement to play the part of Sophia Gold. The fact that she gets the best lines probably made the task of convincing her much easier – “Well you weren't fine when you went all Sylvia Plath on me last summer in Connecticut!”
The set decoration used on the film is quite interesting and reflects the way minimal houses are generally lived in – as apposed to being staged for a photo shoot. Familiar objects, personal photographs and items with texture and colour can make a space comfortable and cosy. Jason-Leigh used personal items including old photographs of herself with Phoebe Cates to add authenticity to the set