'Cinema Was the Thing That Saved Me' : Lessons from Self-Taught Filmmaker Richard Linklater
Unlike a lot of other professions, filmmakers aren’t required to go to film school and graduate with a degree in filmmaking in order to find work in their field. In fact, many of the greatest filmmakers either dropped out or never attended college/film school, like Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Stanley Kubrick. Self-taught filmmaker Richard Linklater, in less an interview than a private soliloquy, expresses some very inspirational thoughts not only on filmmaking, but on life as a creative person, being a lifelong learner, and living day-to-day as a person who is obsessed with cinema.
Like an existential youth laying on the hood of his car looking up into a starry night, Linklater touches on different aspects of his filmmaking career – aspects with which I’m sure we can all relate to, namely, being self-taught.
Being a fellow autodidact, I really respect what Linklater says about his acquisition of knowledge. Technically a college dropout, he became obsessed with cinema, and began watching as many movies and reading as many books as he possibly could in order to learn.
If you’re ever really going to write and direct movies and get your own movies made you have to be, you know, a hustler. You got to be, kind of, obsessively motivated. School’s not going to teach you that or give you those skills. You just kind of have to do it.
Check out the interview below:
A point Linklater makes that I found important was that if you want to become a filmmaker, you’re just going to have to roll up your sleeves and work really, really, really hard. He says, “The biggest misconception is people see someone’s first film and they think that’s what they did on their first day as a filmmaker.”
He says that there are no overnight successes. There are no idiot savants. Successful filmmakers obsess over cinema, stuff their brains full of information about it, and then live a life making films (and repeating those steps over and over again.)
No one wants to think how they would have to alter their life. By the time, say, Slacker came out, I could honestly say I’ve put in more time in the last 9 years, or whatever, into cinema than anyone could. 20 hours — 18 hours a day — my whole life every day for all those years was 100% devoted to cinema.
When I was 22, on a whim I wrote my first screenplay. I barricaded myself inside my office for 2 1/2 sweltering summer months, watched every movie I got my hands on, camped out in bookstores to read book after book on how to make films, and fell desperately in love with cinema. Shortly thereafter I enrolled in film school.
Cinema lit a fire under my ass to excel creatively, to push myself further to achieve what I wanted, to be okay with not having it all figured out — quite a different personal modus operandi from a couple of months prior, when I felt as though I had gone everywhere I wanted to go, met all of the people I wanted to meet, learned everything I wanted to know, and reached the place where I wanted to be. Essentially, I was done growing. Like Linklater, cinema saved me.
So, whether you’re self-taught or formally-taught, I think one important thing to take away from Linklater’s interview is that choosing a life of filmmaking isn’t as glamorous as it might seem. It’s years of studying hundreds of books and thousands of movies. It’s years of making dreck before you make dregs (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it does take most of us a long time to make anything good.) Filmmaking is never going to be easy, and in the end, we may not end up with the careers we dreamed about having, but like Linklater, we may not even care — because we love it.
What do you think about Richard Linklater’s thoughts? If you’re a self-taught filmmaker, what films/books/websites/etc. helped you learn about cinema?
[via Filmmaker IQ]
- Richard Linklater on 'Before Midnight' & Not Bothering Studios with Small Films
- Tarantino on His Influences: If You Love Cinema You Can't Help but Make a Good Movie
- Andrei Tarkovsky on Directing: 'Sacrifice Yourself for Cinema.' Plus, Watch Two of His First Films