During the Sideways junket the shoot was described by Alexander Payne as extremely pleasant — great.

Naturally I was inspired to ask a contrarian question. I asked Payne and producer Michael London if there’s anything analogous between on-set alpha vibes and first-rate final cuts.

I wasn’t saying everyone has to be miserable during shooting in order for a film to turn out well, but creative endeavors of consequence are rarely a slap-happy thing. Distillation, compressing, honing and re-thinking are not day-at-the-beach activities.

Legend has it that Brian DePalma used to say “I don’t trust happy shoots or happy crews” or something like that.

There’s no fixed rule, of course. Bad films have been made on happy sets and superb ones have come from sets in which almost everyone hated each other or the shooting conditions were especially arduous.

I’m sure there’s a very long list of commendable films that turned out well but were unpleasant to make. Here’s a short roster — Waterworld, Jaws, The Northman, Titanic, Ishtar, The Abyss, Star Wars, Heaven’s Gate, Fitzcarraldo, Caddyshack, The Blues Brothers, The Bridge On The River Kwai, Apocalypse Now.

I just know my guard always goes up when I hear how much fun it was to make this or that film. Nobody seemed to get what I was saying when I mentoned this to Payne and London. They both said, “You don’t have to be miserable to make a good movie.” I didn’t say you had to be miserable. I said…that’s okay, forget it.