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December 1, 2012

Where on Earth is David Lynch? The Director's Hiatus from Cinema (and Film's Future) Discussed

If you've noticed off-hand that the world -- and particularly that of cinema -- has been missing a little bit of a beloved strangeness recently, there's a possibility that's because David Lynch hasn't made a feature film since 2006's MiniDV-shot Inland Empire. He's been active (and acting, in several cases) in media of other kinds, and directed a 2010 promotional short for Dior, but I for one have found myself wondering what exactly has been stopping him from a return to the big screen. Thanks to a recent interview with Lynch by the Hollywood Reporter, we now know his opinion on the internet and the digital future of film, plus answers to the question my title poses both in the spiritual and literal sense.

It's been so long you may have forgotten (not really, I'm exaggerating) some of the David Lynch films you've already seen. So, to put his absence of more recent days in perspective, here's a trailer for Mulholland Drive, one Lynch's most acclaimed films.

And in recognition of just how long the David Lynch canon has sat within the dark sub-conscious of american filmmaking, here's the trailer for 1986's Blue Velvet:

Lynch spoke with the Hollywood Reporter in lieu of receiving a lifetime-achievement award from the 20th Plus Camerimage, a Polish festival dedicated to the art of cinematography (the recent Sony F55 short film Dig also made an appearance there). One of the topics brought up in the interview was Lynch's feeling on the direction of filmmaking -- and its inevitable transition into the digital realm.

THR: A big subject at this festival is digital cinema versus analog. Where do you stand on the subject?

Lynch: What [digital power to the people] will do is let people express ideas that they love, whereas before they could not afford to express these ideas. Now they can. The problem is, there are no more art houses left, really. There are just blockbuster theaters for the sole purpose of making money. The Internet is the friend of the independent filmmaker now. So it might be harder to find an audience for your work, but those things that are relevant for today and are considered “cool” -- they’ll find an audience. And it’s pretty beautiful.

This is a little surprising to read having seen Lynch's beautiful treatise on the folly of watching a film on a cell phone (and he makes a good point), which is readily available. Then again, having cut-out many a middleman, opted for MiniDV, and outright embraced the new direction of filmmaking with his most recent feature, it may not be all that surprising after all. Even more interesting is Lynch's reasoning for why he hasn't stepped back up to the full-length director's chair in some time.

THR: You haven't made a feature film in a long time. From the outside, it looks like you don’t want to. Is financing the problem?

Lynch: No, no, I have no problem getting financing. I have a problem catching ideas that I fall in love with for the next feature. I think part of the reason ideas haven’t come in is that the world of cinema is changing so drastically, and in a weird way, feature films I think have become cheap. Everything is kind of throwaway. It’s experienced and then forgotten. It goes really fast. And you have to do those things you are just in love with.

There is that expression, “Man has control of action alone, never the fruit of the action.” So you better enjoy the doing of a thing and not worry about the outcome. And I think that somewhere along the line, ideas will start coming and I may make a feature film. But I don’t hold out any hope for an audience. I just make it because I’m in love.

And I'm in love with Mr. Lynch's answer, because it makes me hopeful that great filmmakers will never lose sight of that which is perhaps most vital about what we do, which is our love for doing it. I wasn't expecting to get all misty-eyed writing this, and of course, making money along the way is only reasonable -- but at the end of the day, I'd like to think we do what we do for the passion, as well as the paycheck. For more invaluable material from Lynch, check out the clip in our recent post of renowned directors' advice!

Are you guys as hopeful for a Triumphant Return to Form from David Lynch as I am? How about his reasoning for not making a feature these past few years, do you feel the same about your own projects?

Link: David Lynch: 'Feature Films Have Become Cheap' (Q&A) -- The Hollywood Reporter

Your Comment

22 Comments

Hard to get much of a paycheck without the passion.

December 1, 2012

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Peter

On the contrary I think what David is saying is that it's quite easy unfortunately.

December 1, 2012

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even with 'the passion' you'll likely have people trying to steal said pay check, your ideas, take the credit, as well as under-pay you, take advantage of you or not pay you at all.

ok ok i need to let previous business experiences go, i know :)

December 7, 2012

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sam cotting

Peter,
Do you mean he's saying it's easy to make a film ... if that is so, he's right in that the hardware, knowledge and output is accessible to ordinary people much more so than 20 years ago. On the other hand, it's just as hard and becoming more difficult to make a good movie or have one stand out in the crowd of so-so movies ... and make enough money to not spoil your chances of getting more funding for another film. Lynch is clearly in that dormant stage where under-currents are sub-consciencely at work and then, zap ... inspiration strikes. I certainly hope that's the case anyway!

December 1, 2012

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Jesus, I love David Lynch. His bit about how "feature films I think have become cheap. Everything is kind of throwaway. It’s experienced and then forgotten" is so accurate. Today's popular audience watches a film and soon forgets about it; the film falls into a paradox of both existence and inexistence simultaneously, buried deep within a local video store, a weird corner of netflix, or an odd ball vimeo account where it will be seen once and quickly discounted...

December 2, 2012

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David Stewart

Yeah, he's spot on. I love obsessing about the classics with friends, recalling lines and entire scenes from great films years after I've watched them. Now, people watch and forget - "wham bam thank you ma'am".

December 2, 2012

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well i spent two years editing my film. it's been up on vimeo for 3 weeks and . . .

. . . it has less tan 12 views. weaps*

December 7, 2012

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sam cotting

also due to the internet, wide-use computer ownership, dslrs, there's a lot of noise out there. movies used to be special or of note because there weren't so many of them.

now there's just a lot of noise, a scrabbling for attention. maybe 1 in 100 films could be considered true audio visual art, thats about it.

also the short films some people are knocking out these days, if they were happening in the 70's said people would have the opportunities of A-list directors - Scorcesse, Spielburg, Lukas - their first short films weren't all that you know, yet behold their opportunities, how they've had the money and backing to flourish and develop.

December 7, 2012

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sam cotting

“Man has control of action alone, never the fruit of the action.”

that expression comes from 'Krishna' in india's holy book 'Bhagavad Gita'

December 2, 2012

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Jane

I love David Lynch and have seen all his films. However I think he is unique and in that he is a brand unto himself. For the most part however films are large ventures requiring a tremendous investment of time and money. To do it solely for the art and love of the craft is somewhat irresponsible. If you as a filmmaker are using your own money, power to you. Do whatever the hell you want. If you have people backing your film, putting the money in, you as the filmmaker have a duty to be responsible and deliver the best product that you can, that appeals to an audience, so that it can find said audience and make its money back and hopefully a profit for everyone involved.

There have been so many films recently that I found to be self-indulgent pieces of shit. Take a little bit of time and think about your audience because that is really who you are making the film for. 'Your' film ceases to be yours the minute you put out there to be consumed by the public at large, and the public is at times, a bit fickle.

That is not to say I believe every movie made should be the Avengers with a mass audience, but every movie should be made for an audience. Woody Allen for instance makes his movies knowing exactly how many people are going to come out and see it as does Tyler Perry.

I'm sure a lot of people are going to jump on this and disagree but it is show business, not show art. We as filmmakers are not able to make a film by ourselves. We need the help of many talented people from the actors to the grips to the craft team to pull off these endeavours. It is incredibly disrespectful to them to be making a film with no audience prospects. Unless of course you are paying full rate.

December 2, 2012

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Allan

Allan I politely disagree with you. Although all of the points you make are rational, they do not service the betterment and evolution of film making as an art form. Surely an audience determines funding, but it should never shape the idea. The 'idea' is something that david lynch, for instance, cherishes most, as something of nearly divine value. Although the world is various shades of gray, i believe you have to approach your film project in the conception and execution of an idea as a sacred creative medium, not the construction of a salable product. You as well as me, and all others in this world have been forced to view all things as such, a product, because our civilization is upside down, for a lack of a better term. Don't succumb to the force of the quiet consumer wind which governs our degenerative existence.

Art is the rebuttal to this cruel force, and it is, in my mind sacred. I loathe the fact that you mentioned Tyler Perry on this board and in a laudatory context at that! Tyler Perry is, as Spike Lee aptly phrased, involved in the art of "coonery and buffonery". This act, in my mind is not even merely a racial degradation applied by a self respecting black man to another, who isn't. This behaviour is in large part the common denominator of "success" in our world today. Nobody here should ever aspire to be like Tyler Perry, lets aspire to be better than that.

December 2, 2012

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Thank you for your polite, well reasoned reply. I think our main point of disagreement is in film making as an art form. I believe it is a craft, and a movie is made by a collection of craftspeople who individually bring various skills and insights to a project that hopefully is more than the sum of its parts. Do I wish movies were better, of course. But it all starts in the writing. The problem I see with film as 'Art' is art is so subjective and often fragments the audience. Take 'The Wrestler' for instance. A great script, great characters, excellent performances and camera work that I absolutely despised, I wound up disliking a movie that I would generally really love. I want a movie to entertain me. To grab hold of me and take me for a journey. I want to laugh, to cry, to cower in fear and even smile, not necessarily in the same movie but I hope you get my point.

As for Tyler Perry, I have never seen any of his movies and only mentioned him as he seems to be everywhere and does only a specific type of movie. Like his films, hate his films, he is doing something right, he has connected with an audience and created himself as a brand and people keep going to see his movies. If only we were all so lucky. Burn him at the stake if you wish but take a look at his credit roll before you do so. Bad movies feed more people than good movies if only because there are so many more of them.

Now before you think me a hater of the arts, that is most certainly not the case. I have been fortunate enough to do some travelling and have been awed at the power of art and have lost myself in museums and art galleries in North America and Europe. I support community theatre in my city and live music. I just don't think anything you need a crew of 20+ people to make is art. Who is the artist then? The Director? The Actor? The Gaffer? The Dolly Grip? The PA? All of them? Directors don't make movies, they make decisions. They guide their department heads and let them do what they do best, and then take credit for it all in the end. I say that mostly with love, as a good director takes care of his people, all of them.

I'm going to leave it at that as I'm starting to sound ranty in my head and that is not my intent.

December 5, 2012

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Allan

Lynch is awesome, but he's kind of lying. The reason for him not making any new features, are not exactly because of ideas, but rather the fact, that he got swallowed up by a cult, and pretty much spends his time on financing that. If anyone wants to know how I know this: he has a film course at such an 'institution', and I was amongst the first few 'guinea pigs' there.

December 2, 2012

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domb1

I'd love to know more about this, if you can write about your experiences here.

December 3, 2012

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Emmar

it's not a cult, unless you wish to define a group of people being interested in something as automaticly being 'in a cult'

by rational you are in the 'cult' of No Film School then.

laughable :)

December 7, 2012

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sam cotting

To poster Jane, very astute linkage to the Gita, well done, I'm not sure folks realize Mr Lynch has been a very avid and vocal, no pun intended, daily practitioner of Transcendental Meditation for almost 40 years, this is where much of his energy goes now http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/ along with many other artistic pursuit's, if there was ever a definition of a Renaissance man, he embodies it, love him!

December 2, 2012

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Mitch Mattraw

I'm aware of TM's controversial status and am in no way advocating or a troll on it's behalf so please no angry emails, thank you.

December 2, 2012

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Mitch Mattraw

Re Lynch and his next project, there was this from the not-as-widely-cited interview he did with Screen Daily at the same festival. Vague for sure, but certainly better than "no plans of any sort at the moment" for those of us patiently waiting.

'Asked whether filmgoers should expect a new feature, Lynch said: “Something is coming up. It will happen but I don’t know exactly when.”'

http://www.screendaily.com/home/blogs/david-lynch-hints-at-new-film/5049...

December 3, 2012

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Lord Gro

That's because he's wating for financing.

December 3, 2012

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16mm4ever

He was in Poland, at Plus Cameraimage festival, taking his life achievement award. In the meantime he probably is making money with that trans meditation cult.
Btw, this movie is great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq0rsiw6IFo

December 6, 2012

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Alek

it's not a cult. meditation has been scientifically proven to effect the functioning of the brain in positive ways.

secondly after Inland Empire . . . WOW . . . i wouldn't be in a rush to make another film either, after that.

December 7, 2012

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sam cotting

Listen, if it's been too long for some of you, you could always breach his compound up in the Hollywood Hills and demand he break back onto the scene.

To be honest (and this is just me), but after listening to his audiobook for "Catching the Big Fish", I pretty much gave up caring about him or his work. He's done a fair amount of great work -- Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, etc., but after a while this kind of artistic indulgence and inexplicable, seemingly meaningless output got really annoying.

December 10, 2012

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