We've all read boring interviews with our favorite filmmakers. Most of the questions are standard and feel carefully guided by both sides PR teams. Well, Vulture decided that was all crap, so they got Paul Schrader together with one of his favorite rock bands, Phosphorescent, and let them talk to one another about anything.
The results were incredible.
It's definitely worth reading the whole thing, but we decided to pull ten quotes from Schrader that encapsulate the writer's artistic viewpoint and help you relate to the master.
What kind of music does Paul Schrader write to?
We all like to mix up our soundtracks when we write. I try to find stuff that feels like it matches the material's tone. Paul Schrader has been writing while listening to Phosphorescent.
And if we're about to get more results like First Reformed, I'm down with him only listening to one band.
This is what Schrader had to say about listening to music while he writes, particularly the music of Phosphorescent.
"There’s a kind of hypnotic otherworldliness to it that gets into your bones. So you’re not really listening too much, but it’s still nourishing you. They have this thing — my mother would have called it caterwauling — where they have several voices, which are slightly dissonant and discordant, and most pronounced in a song called “Wolves.” I love that."
Schrader on the "Levitation" scene in First Reformed
It's no secret that my favorite movie from 2018 was First Reformed. I found it to be both emotionally provocative and philosophically challenging. The movie asks a lot of the viewer and doesn't offer any easy answers. Schrader, when probed to discuss the scene where Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried float, had this to say:
"Well, I knew I wanted to get to the other reality that’s right beside us. Sometimes it feels like you can reach out and touch it. I thought to myself, while I was sitting at my desk, What would Tarkovsky do? And I thought, Tarkovsky would have them levitate. That’s what he always does. I said, Well, if it’s good enough for Tarkovsky, it’s good enough for me."
Paul Schrader on Taking Drugs
If you've seen his work, from Taxi Driver to Bringing Out The Dead, it'd be easy to say "that guy is on drugs." But it turns out this Taylor Swift-loving filmmaker just is high on life. And maybe ayahuasca. Instead, he prefers to examine the greater truths that scare him. And puts it all into his writing. Plus, he seeks help.
"There was a period where I wanted to make a film about ayahuasca, but not too much. A little bit here and there. But I am actually quite frightened of myself. I had some close calls with self-harm, and I just didn’t trust myself not to do something truly stupid. I wasn’t clearheaded. I did have one pull of Russian roulette, and that was enough to convince me that I needed help."
Schrader on Being Afraid To Write First Reformed
I think we all have stories that scare us. Paul Schrader reminds us that the most difficult stories make the most personal movies. You need to stand out from the crowd if you want people to read your spec. Mine what you know, create a world that causes you to reveal things about yourself you never thought possible. Your emotional availability will help the
"I was a child of the church and the church education, and I rebounded. I got involved in secular, profane, longer entertainment, and I never thought I would circle back around, and then three years ago it probably occurred to me that it’s time to write that script that I’ve been running from my whole life."
Schrader on Writing Complex Characters
People often think you can either have a complex plot or a complex character. And never the two shall meet. This is just completely false. Schrader shows that his writing style lends to giving us characters that can be both complex on the inside and dealing with something complex on the outside. A lot of that goes into breaking the rules and upsetting the norm. It;'s not just about writing, but directing too.
"There’s a sense of, “We’re going to do this, and I’m not sure why.” One of the things in this film First Reformed is, I don’t move the camera. So that becomes a rule. No panning, no tilting, no camera moves. But then, once you make a rule, you get to be the first one to break it. You have to break it, because people will forget you made it unless you break it. So one day we’re shooting, and a weird, weird shot came in my head. I said to the DP, “Let’s lay some reel. It’s time to break a move right now.” Why that morning? I didn’t think about it in the car on the way there. So you can still have that spontaneity that you have in songwriting, where a word pops into your head."
Schrader on How he Deals with Executives
If you want to make it in this business, you're going to have to deal with executives one day or another. While most people try to play it soft, Schrader goes right at them. Take confidence in your words and the story you have to tell.
"You spend most of your time groveling for coins, right? You’re like a kind of stray dog, going from tabletop to tabletop, grabbing crumbs that fall. And eventually you get your film made. You have to wake up every morning and say, 'Nobody wanted me to do it. Let’s go try to do it.”
Summing up The Paul Schrader / Phosphorescent Interview
Paul Schrader is one of them ost controversial voices in modern cinema. He's enjoying major success right now, but just a few years ago he was trying to help restart Lindsay Lohan's career with The Canyons.
It's important to listen to all his advice and quotes with a grain of salt. The fact is, you're going to find a way to be distinct and to stand out in this business on your own. Your voice is the one that matters, and finding a way to tap into what you have to offer is the first key to success.
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If you make it big, what band do you want to interview you?
What's a piece of advice you'd offer?
Let us know in the comments!