I watch at least one movie a day. I wish I kept better track, but for me, movies are the gateway to telling my stories. I like to see how other people tackled their worlds, and I like to try to emulate the story beats I think could make my work better. 

And lots of great filmmakers agree with me... which makes me feel smart. 


In fact, in a 1994 interview with Empire magazine, Tarantino once said: “I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it—if my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together…. I steal from everything. Great artists steal, they don’t do homages." 

Well, now that it's out in the open, let's talk about how well Tarantino steals.

He took the plot for The Dirty Dozen and turned it into a very different masterpiece in Inglorious Basterds. But this is not a thing he developed in his later years. 

He did it to begin his career when he repurposed ideas from City on Fire for Reservoir Dogs

And he did it with Pulp Fiction as well. 

In fact, Business Insider once wrote, "Pulp Fiction is no exception. It's chock-full of references to classical movies, especially movies from the French New Wave movement, one of the most influential movements in the history of cinema, in which young filmmakers also tried to challenge the traditional method of filmmaking. Its famous dancing sequence was inspired by this sequence from the 1964 film Band of Outsiders. And the choreography closely resembles this scene from the 1963 film 8 1/2."

We'll get more for 8 1/2 in a bit, but for now, where does Tarantino say the idea came from? 

“I got the idea of doing something that novelists get a chance to do but filmmakers don’t: telling three separate stories, having characters float in and out with different weights depending on the story,” Tarantino once said about his writing style for Pulp Fiction.

Tarantino explained that the idea “was basically to take like the oldest chestnuts that you’ve ever seen when it comes to crime storiesthe oldest stories in the book. You know, you’ve seen the story a zillion times.”

He went on to say, “I’m using old forms of storytelling and then purposely having them run awry,” he added. “Part of the trick is to take these movie characters, these genre characters, and these genre situations and actually apply them to some of real life’s rules and see how they unravel.”

Tarantino is obviously a great writer and more importantly, someone who knows how to take tired ideas and actors and breathe new life into them. 

But there's one scene in Pulp Fiction that really exudes the "stealing" factor. The dance at Jack Rabbit Slims. 

This scene is a direct steal from Fellini's 8 1/2 and there's no real effort to hide it. Aside from the location change, the moves and camera angles are almost the same. While there is no overt citation of this, I think it's a really genius move for a beginning filmmaker to cite the masters for the people who can pick up on it. 

Think of how much credit we give to the Duffers and Stranger Things when they do similar things in their nostalgic show.

Both display an inventive homage or steal from what came before, but also originality and emotion from what they can bring to the table and put into each project. 

I think what makes Tarantino special is that he is constantly doing this kinda stuff. 

And Pulp Fiction doesn't do it in only one scene, it does it in many, as highlighted in the video below from Insider

youtube.com/watch?v=KYM_ZRjPD-A

As you saw above, the images range all over the place. But each is used in something different and unique for the character and situation. We see Tarantino playing with genre and the filmmakers who made each genre stand out. 

As Business Insider elaborates later in the article, "Tarantino's pastiche works so well for two reasons. One is his understanding of the subject he's stealing from. More often than not, homages in movies are a shallow and vain attempt at imitating an iconic moment, and they rarely serve a purpose. But Tarantino's references are often seamless and easy to miss because they enhance the scenes and the genre he experiments with. And if you take a look at Tarantino's career, each of his eight films is a tribute to a specific genre and movement in cinema."

There's definitely something we can learn from Tarantino's re-adaptation of the classics. The main takeaway is what I talked about at the beginning of the articleyou need to read and see more movies. Having a diverse palate will give you new ways to repurpose shots, characters, and storylines as needed.

It frees you up to be original and to find the tropes that can support your originality moving forward. 

So dare to create, and dare to homage. 

I can't wait to see where it takes you.

What movie would you emulate or repurpose if you could? Let us know in the comments.

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