At first glance, this BAFTA lecture from Captain Phillips director, Paul Greengrass on iconic director David Lean, might seem like a simple nod to an individual career -- a legendary one, but individual nonetheless. However, as Greengrass' speech goes on, it becomes a more of a soliloquy about the life of a director -- the choices that ones has to make in order to be and continue to be one. It's really a beautiful and powerful lecture with plenty of helpful information about the craft of filmmaking (and David Lean, too!), so continue on to check it out.
To be honest, Paul Greengrass' hour-long BAFTA lecture got me right in the feelings -- big time, unexpectedly, and if you had a childhood love of movies, remember your first trip to a theater, or are simply a nostalgic, emotional wreck, his lecture will get you, too. He talks at length about David Lean and directing and being a director, but he ties it all together with reflections of his childhood, describing how he first fell in love with film, and how his early formative years prepared him, or better yet, didn't, for the demands of a directorial career and the emotion toll it would later take. He states this so poignantly:
And filmmaking like any creative activity, whether it’s writing or painting or whatever, is essentially a cruel exercise in emotional futility. Because in your quest to find the film, you have to endure, in fact secretly you crave it, to have every single flaw in your character, every single defect in your personality pitilessly exposed every single day, and every hope you ever have crushed and extinguished.
It’s called the director’s syndrome, because every film -- and this is the serious bit -- that you conceive of in your mind is rooted, I think, in the powerful unconscious dreams of childhood, and it ends in the catastrophe of adult rushes. And then if you’re lucky, and if you have a great editor, you manage to crawl out of the deep abyss of self-loathing to a place where the result is passable, but it can never remotely be as close to the sense of wonder you felt as a child in a theater watching the projector.
There are so many other great things that Greengrass has to say in his lecture, including what he thinks people need in order to be a director. He lists ambition, drive, stamina, technical skills, and a few other qualities, but says that these things alone won't give you what you need to make a good movie -- or any movie at all, necessarily. So, what will?
You have to have something to say, and you have to burn with a great inner desire to say it. The kind of desire I think that David Lean had when he conceived of a story about a British prisoner of war in charge of building a bridge for his Japanese captors over the river Kwai.
Listen to Paul Greengrass' lecture below (if you prefer reading to listening, you can follow along with this transcript):
What stuck out to you during Greengrass' lecture? Let us know in the comments below.