Back in 1997, a young writer/director named Paul Thomas Anderson (who had already directed the excellent Hard Eight, alternately titled Sydney) made arguably the best film about the porn industry of the 70s to be released, well, probably ever. Anderson was able to take what would seem to be such a sleazy topic and turn it into art with his superb command of camera, editing, and direction of brilliant performances. Click below to read the screenplay for Boogie Nights and watch some of his early films, including the original Boogie Nights, his short The Dirk Diggler Story, as well as Cigarettes and Coffee, his hard to find short film.
P.T. Anderson is famous for dropping out of NYU film school after about two weeks. He explains why:
My filmmaking education consisted of finding out what filmmakers I liked were watching, then seeing those films. I learned the technical stuff from books and mags, and with the new technology you can watch entire movies accompanied by commentary from the director. You can learn more from John Sturge's audio track on the Bad Day at Black Rock Laserdisc than you can in 4 years of film school. Film school is a complete con, because the information is there if you want it.
Over at Cinephilia and Beyond, they have the screenplay to Boogie Nights available as a PDF, and it's a great read. The idea that anyone would give a relatively untested director money to shoot an opus and ode to the L.A. pornography industry of the 70s is a testament to both the strength of Anderson's script, his persuasiveness (the man must be persuasive,) and the tremendous potential evident from his first film, the gritty little noir Hard Eight.
Here's some footage of P.T. Anderson directing Boogie Nights, full of amazing footage of the long takes and great behind the scenes footage of Anderson working with his cast:
While looking around for videos for this post, I happened across what surely must be a few exceedingly rare finds: The Dirk Diggler Story, AKA the first Boogie Nights. A 17-year-old P.T. Anderson wrote and directed the film, shot it on VHS, editing deck to deck. It also features a voice-over by his father, famed voice-over actor Ernie Anderson.
And here's Cigarettes and Coffee, the 1993 short Anderson wrote and directed that marked his first collaboration with Baker Hall and served as the film that got Hard Eight made:
What do you think of P.T. Anderson? Do you agree with his comments on film school, and what do you think of his career trajectory, which is definitely getting more and more impressionistic with every film?