The ‘Making-of’ Featurette as a Flirty Object

Curator's Note

The “making of” featurette is a cinematic artifact of flirtation. In other words, it is a speculative object that teases its spectator with tantalizing bits of behind-the-scenes information as lure to sustain extradiegetic interest in the film, its filmmakers, and stars. Flirting is the shimmer of a future promise, but flirting is also infatuated with the here-and-now, loading the present with excitement, risk, and contingency. Although flirting typically precedes the consecration of attraction, the “making-of” teaser is more like a trail-er, as many like to view extra features after watching the film as a means of prolonging one’s pleasures with the text. Thus the “making-of” is more like a post-coital cuddle during which one attempts, flirtatiously, to glean additional information about the lover.

To illustrate this point, I look at “Crossed Looks: Interviews with Wong Kar Wai, Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang,” which appears in the Sony Pictures Classics DVD release of Wong Kar-wai’s 2046 (2005). As the consummate director of longing, lingering, and unrequited/untimely love, Wong writes and directs films that relish in the beautiful uncertainties of romance. 2046 is about a writer’s search for love, featuring a long list of East Asian A-list stars including Leung Chiu-wai (Hong Kong) and Zhang (China). Wong states that the women stars were cast to embody different facets of one ideal woman, who is “impossible to find in life.” He asks, “What is the person that we love? Is it in the one that we cannot have? Or we cannot have what we love?” all questions that remain tantalizingly unanswered during the flirtation stage with the desirous other.

In “Crossed Looks,” we learn that Wong’s directorial style is also flirty—that is to say, contingent. Leung and Zhang comment on the unique challenges of working without a script; shooting dozens of takes; and maintaining distance from the director in order to stay in character. Finally, Leung and Zhang themselves are also engaged in the affective labors of flirtation. Behold the dazzle in their eyes, the perfect timing of grins and smirks. Flirting is the affective performance of partial, secret knowledge.


Mila, this piece opened my eyes to an important feature of movie promotions: the teasing quality of teasers, the flirtiness of featurettes. From here you spin off some intriguing ideas that ends with a stunning closer about what it is that actors do, which for me, is so difficult to discuss because of the ephemeral nature of performance. But here, you characterize film acting as flirty, fragmented, contingent, in the moment. Like a good making-of, this is a valuable insight into process.

Thanks for the feedback, Daniel! Examining the affective labors of acting is at the core of my book-in-progress, and I appreciate this opportunity to think about our relationship with paratexts like the making-of. I don't think actors are directly compensated for their participation (another type of acting) in such marketing materials. Nevertheless, insofar as it involves time and performance, the cultivation and maintenance of interest/attraction in the primary film is a form of work. Relatedly, I wonder to what extent the making-of filmmakers are involved in "directing" the actors.

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