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An Interview With Director Duncan Jones (Mute)

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Conducted By: Darryl Griffiths

First off. Just to say that i got to see the film last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. Found it to be really thought-provoking stuff.

Thank you mate.

‘Mute’ has undoubtedly been a passion project of yours, for a number of years. What have been the main challenges in bringing it to the screen and how has the concept evolved over time?

Yeah, it’s tricky. I mean Mike Johnson and myself wrote it sixteen years ago and i hadn’t made any other films yet. It was kind of being designed to be my first film and just to give you a context of how long ago it was. I think Sexy Beast and Layer Cake had just kinda come out. There was this feeling of this new wave of British gangster films and maybe be able to ride on the wave off the back of that and do this little thing ‘Mute’, as a contemporary London-based film. Obviously over sixteen years it’s changed dramatically from what it was originally into the film that we’ve made now.

In keeping with the project. Setting it in Berlin in 2052. I know it’s a city that is of great sentimental value for you, without being intrusive. From a strict narrative standpoint, what was so appealing about setting it there?

Well, i mean i was there for a little while in the 1970’s, when it was this little island of western civilisation in the middle of the Soviet Union. Even back then, you could kind of get a sense that the energy and dynamism about the city, was really about the future and what Berlin was going to become. What was gonna happen to the city in the future, whether it was the fears being kind of disappearing into East Germany or whether Germany was going to be united. Even back then, there was sort of feelings about whether that was going to be an option and every decade that i came back to Berlin after that. Even after the wall came down, i think Berlin of all western hemisphere cities has always felt like a place that had its eye on the future and less on what it was at that particular point in time. Which is kind of ironic because it’s such a city which is absolutely built upon its history, but that’s the interesting thing about Berlin is that it really does seem kind of dynamic and forward-looking, and for a science-fiction makes it an ideal place to set a story.

Setting the film in the not-too-distant future. Yet with the slick aesthetic, it still feels quite modern day. Were you really looking to maintain that in the building of this world?

Yeah i think one of the things I’ve noticed in science fiction films, a lot of times it feels like the future is all designed by one company. Obviously you can feel the production designer’s hand on it and the aesthetic choices. One of the things that i asked Gavin Bocquet who was my production designer, which is the antithesis of what a production designer wants to hear, is make it ugly. Make it clash. Make things feel like they are designed by different companies that weren’t talking to each other when they design things. That was really kind of part of the design and feel of it. What worked in our favour was that as much as possible on location we were shooting in Berlin, in the actual existing city and that kind of gave it an authenticity. It was really about what  props and things can we bring to this? What sets can we build on the actual city streets to create something that feels really tangible and real.

Shifting to the characters now. We are mainly led through this world by Leo played by Alexander Skarsgard. He’s very much the moral fibre in this decadent world, feeling like a relic of the past. Was it rigid in how you wanted to articulate the character to Alexander or quite collaborative in how you achieved it?

I think it was pretty collaborative. Having lived with it for such a long time, i had pretty strong feelings about elements of it. But to be honest Leo’s character was much more flexible because i really understood the challenge that i was asking him to try and navigate. This character is going to have to have a beginning and an end, as far as where he starts and where he ends and not  having any dialogue to use as a crutch. So let’s together. Come up with the best way for the audience to actually engage and care about this person, knowing that we’re going to be relying on other characters talking to him and what you can do in your performance to get them to buy into it. Fortunately we also have half of the film with Cactus and Duck who are basically the other extreme, so that is really what allows us to get away with it. We don’t spend the whole film with Leo, perhaps only spend half of it with him.

Leaping to that other extreme. Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux’s on-screen partnership is fascinating. With their respective back catalogues, we’re almost programmed to like these guys, yet the film goes to such a dark place. Without stripping them of their comic smarts, were you conscious of playing to their strengths whilst pushing them out of their comfort zones with these characters?

Yeah absolutely. I think as far as casting them, it was using the baggage of the fact that they are always seen as such good guys, particularly Paul Rudd who is the audience’s darling. I think that was absolutely something that i wanted to do. Use that to get the audience on side and think ‘OK, i’m watching these guys because somehow they’re going to tie into being the heroes of this movie’ and then slowly start to erode and pick away at it, revealing who Cactus and Bill really are.

Of course the film has seen you reunite with prolific composer and Moon collaborator Clint Mansell, serving up a soulful score here particularly for the sequences shared by Leo (Skarsgard) and Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). How do you feel his work enhances the narrative?

I mean music is such a huge part of film making i think and can carry so much of the emotion, whilst actually changing the emotion of any given scene. Not every project is right for every person as far as composers go, but i always knew that when i got around to doing ‘Mute’, Clint was the guy i wanted to work with on this. He totally understood and felt the same film i wanted to make, which made it a really enjoyable collaboration. I think he understood how important it was, not just for us to come up with the theme tune that would be the signature to the Leo/Naadirah relationship, but also be able to bring that back to throughout the film. Even when she’s not around, to keep her alive just through the music.

With this film, Moon and Source Code. There is undoubtedly a deep affection you have for the science-fiction genre, whilst in ‘Mute’ being various film noir elements within it too. What were your earliest and fondest memories of this genre offerings, that really inspired you?

Oh that’s hard to say. I’ve always been a fan of escapism. So as far as the science-fiction side of it, i love the escapist aspect of it and now that i’m making films myself. I think what i have grown to love about science-fiction, even with all that escapism. You can actually use it to try and allow people to feel like they can be open to ideas, that they might not be otherwise open to, because you’re talking about them in something which doesn’t feel like a personal attack on them. There’s a certain distance to it because it’s just science-fiction, so i think i kind of like that aspect. As for noir thrillers, i feel like i haven’t seen that many of them in recent film making. That’s probably more on me than on what’s being made, but i think that’s why i wanted to make one. I kind of felt like i haven’t seen a good one in awhile. This is the kind of film that i used to enjoy and would love to see something like that and that’s why i wanted to make ‘Mute’.

Before ‘Mute’. There was the experience of making ‘Warcraft’. Coming off the back of helming a big-budget Summer tentpole. Did it significantly alter your thoughts on the Hollywood studio system, especially heading into this project with Netflix involved?

Yeah. It was a long three and a half years of politics and trying to negotiate very intricate problems. Just on a political level making ‘Warcraft’ and i think off the back of that, i really kind of committed to myself. Promised myself that i’m going to make a film for me next, because this one has been too many compromises and too much politics. So i think that’s why i felt like i had to make ‘Mute’. The wonderful thing was with the relationship with Netflix, is once they agreed to what i wanted to do, signed off on the script and were happy with the cast. They absolutely just let me go ahead and make the film i wanted to make. I had final cut. I didn’t have to agree to anything really. I just made the film i wanted to make.

With the Netflix aspect in mind. After receiving such support, do you believe streaming services in the near future may overtake the major studios, in terms of harbouring talent?

Ermm. I don’t know. What i would say is the studios have made a commitment, to making a type of movie that is going to become i think increasingly challenging to keep original and to make them feel like, i’m seeing the same film every year every time i go and see a big studio film. So i respect the creativity of the people that they are getting involved in doing studio films. Because i think they’re the ones who are doing the heavy lifting of finding ways to make remakes, franchises, sequels, reboots, in keeping them original as possible. But i think it’s going to get tired, unless they start bringing in some original ideas and original characters. Original talent will get you so far, but eventually you need the ideas themselves to be original.

On a final note. Within ‘Mute’ you get a sense of an emerging world of warm gestures and inclusion, is being oppressed by cold corporate figures. Considering the state of the wider world, were you keen to represent that level of diversity within the film?

I mean Berlin in particular is this incredibly strange place and i think they see themselves as quite apart from the rest of Germany in some ways. But i think the dynamism of that community is mainly because of the massive immigration. The number of Turks and Arabs and Africans and Russians who’ve come to Berlin and kind of made it this really interesting and dynamic place. I can only see that continuing and becoming more so in the future and i think that was the Berlin we were trying to mirror in some sense. Get ahead of as far as our science-fiction depiction of it, but it’s weird. I think the world now is changing so bloody fast, it’s very difficult to get a bead on which direction it’s going because it’s zigzagging every second. But it feels right and while we were in Berlin, it felt like this was a future that could come to pass from where we are now.

Duncan Jones’ Mute is available to view on Netflix from Friday 23rd February.

Interviews

Behind Closed Doors with Harley Di Nardo

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Movie Marker Magazine went behind closed doors with actor-musician Harley Di Nardo to talk about his latest movie ‘Dead Envy’.

Can you tell us about your early beginnings growing up, and how you transitioned to life in Los Angeles?

I am a New Yorker, born and bred. I got into hairdressing at a very young age, and it came in handy when it was time to style my bands hair. Their image was in my hands… literally. I always cut hair to make a living in between touring. Now I own a salon in Malibu, and I used to own salons in New York. All this added up. Movies, Hair Industry meets Music World. I had to come to Los Angeles, before it was too late. So about three years ago, I sold that salon in New York and drove West alone. It took me four days, and I documented the trip on Facebook. I just hit the ground running. I scraped together all the funds that I could, and we made a movie. Now it’s about to come out and here we are. I’m very excited… I now live in Silver Strand Beach, Oxnard. I love it… I just go into Hollywood for meetings and if I have an event there, it’s a reason to make a night of it and stay in town.

Harley Di Nardo

You have had a successful music career so far, what inspired you to take the writing-acting-directing journey?

Since I was a kid I always had my mom film me doing like Karate moves etc… hehe. Then I wrote a script when I was about ten years old. It was called the Golden Glove, a story about an Italian boxer who fights for his girlfriend’s honor. I still have it. Anyways, I loved making stories… until I got into high school and met a friend that was in a band. Rock and Roll took over.  I forgot all about movies. That turned into an obsession that saw me moving to New York City and making two albums for major labels. It was quite a ride. I wrote music every day for about five years. I knew that I would want to take a shot at filmmaking. I’ve always had a passion for it. Everyone tells me I’m a walking movie quote. When someone says, or does anything, I’ll relate it to a movie. It’s just the way I see the world. Through movies. It’s always had such an effect on me. About ten years ago I enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute. I studied Method Acting and Script Development. From there I started making short films, music videos, anything just to get some experience.

Your latest feature, ‘Dead Envy’, is set to release next month.  Can you tell us about the movie?

Sure. It’s an independent film filled with psycho stalker moments and some dark humor. It’s the tail of a musician/hairdresser (just like me) who enlists the help of a strange drifter to help stage a comeback… and then it all goes horribly wrong. I wrote what I knew. For one, I already knew how to look and behave like a hairdresser/rock n’ roller. I think that really comes across in the film. It’s all very natural. The script has been with me for some time. I had to get it all out. I had to get this hair and rock movie out of my system. The next one I’ll play a doctor or something…

Can you tell us about the music in the movie?

Yeah… There really isn’t any score exactly. I just used a few of my songs that fit into certain parts of the film and also used friends’ songs. Great songs that never got the proper push that they deserved. We just signed a soundtrack deal with Artisan Fire Records. They are excited, and I am excited. It’s been a while since I’ve released music. The soundtrack will be released the same day as the theater release, August 24th. Available on all digital outlets.

As the director and lead actor in the movie, how did you approach one over the other?

Well, it was a learning experience, that’s for sure. It’s hard to see the frame when you are in it. So, I think the next one I’ll take a much smaller role and direct the hell out of it! I always want to stick myself somewhere in the film. I want to be there like Woody Allen or Lena Dunham, but I think a smaller supporting role will be enough. I’m making the film… I just wanna be in it. I love acting.

How close is your character, David Tangiers in the movie to your own personality?

Well, it’s pretty much me. I am him, he is me.

What else can we expect from you over the next few months?

I am writing a paranormal thriller about a young, widowed mother of two, who is repeatedly sexually assaulted by an incubus. She takes matters into her own hands by hiring a YouTube ghost hunter that is pitching a show for Bravo. I might be playing some gigs to promote the film and the soundtrack.

Thank you, Harley for taking the time to chat to us at Movie Marker. We look forward to seeing more of you on the big screen!

To learn more about Harley Di Nardo visit: www.cine-museproductions.com
Follow Dead Envy: www.deadenvythemovie.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/deadenvythemovie/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DeadEnvythemovie/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/deadenvymovie

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An Interview With… Kyle Cooper #Locarno71

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In his speech on the Piazza Grande at Locarno Film Festival, Kyle Cooper said that he ‘had been giving credit to everyone else for 30 years and now it was time for him to enjoy it’.

Kyle Cooper was the recipient of the Vision Award Ticinimoda awarded to those whose creative work behind the scenes, as well as in their own right, has contributed to opening up new perspectives in film.

As one of the most respected title credit designers and directors, Kyle Cooper has worked on over 300 movies, including the likes of Goodfellas, Se7en, Spider-Man and TV Series such as The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.

It started again with Se7en and it’s like people had forgotten main titles could be something, and then you came up and broke that wall open. So are you in any way regretting what you did because suddenly you kind of opened the door and everybody came barging in. 

No, I think that it’s interesting, you see Saul Bass talk about these “studio trends” where people get tired of main titles and they say let’s just do Woody Allen main titles, we don’t need to spend the money and they can’t do anything for the film and then they forget that it’s the beginning of the movie. I mean sure we could put them all at the end- which is another trend- but it can become the perfect beginning to the film. It can dovetail whatever the live action is, whatever the director’s already intended to do, and the title designer, if they do a good job, for example, I was working on Goodfellas when I was a kid and I wasn’t solving Martin Scorsese’s problem and he said ‘I want something like Saul Bass, remember Saul Bass?’ and I said well, Saul Bass he’s still around, they’ve got an office around the corner! And then Saul Bass did Goodfellas and then the lesson I learned was, Martin Scorsese knew he wanted Ray Liotta to open the trunk and say “I always wanted a gangster” and he wanted the music to kick in, and that was all still there because Saul Bass saw what Scorsese had and  looked at the beginning and thought well they’re in a car, so I’ll have this type come by like passing cars and I was thinking as a young person, I need to think of a metaphor for the gangsters of Italy, I don’t know, the Italian flag? And no, he looked at the beginning and figured out how to integrate these nasty credits into the beginning that Martin Scorsese had, and the beginning wouldn’t be the same without the typography integrated and I would maintain that the movie ‘Se7en’ wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t begin the way that it began and so, again about Saul Bass- when he did ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’ people had gotten kind of complacent about main titles and everybody sat up and said gosh, here’s an opportunity, here’s a bit of real estate, where we can do something creatively interesting, so you know, a lot of good work came out of that-  it sounds a bit arrogant if I say that Se7en did that but since you said it… it kind of woke people up to the potentialities of what a main title sequence could to for a movie and the best thing that it can do is set the tone and become the first scene of the movie and the last people that were here just asked me what I thought about the Netflix ‘skip title’ button, and I think you have to make the distinction of a film title sequence and a broadcast title sequence and the reason I say that is, if it’s a full feature, many times the main title is setting up something expositional that’s crucial to that particular film. Whereas the Netflix button- the title sequence isn’t intrinsically linked to the first scene of the episode. 

What would be the different functions and different uses of those titles – opening the movie, setting the tone are there other purposes in some way?  

Yeah- for a film title, a lot of times the studio will stream the movie and realise people don’t understand a certain thing, or they’re missing a point and they say how do we fix this? What shall we do? Oh, let’s talk about the serial killer in the main titles. I shot this thing for a movie called Identity and people didn’t understand the pathology of the plot and so we tried to make sense of that in the main title. So the other things that it can do- it can set the tone – I mean the titles that influenced me and the titles sequences that made me want to be a main title designer when I got out of graduate school were Altered States, Alien and The Dead Zone, and I think that those perfectly set the tone for those movies. They are minimalist and simple, but the music is impeccable and wonderful and it just makes you feel the way you’re supposed to feel at the beginning of that movie. You want to set the emotional tone for that film, you want to elicit an emotional response from the audience.  

How did you get into title design in the first place? 

I was a graphic designer and where I was working at the time, this man brought in a reel of movie titles and I saw some of Richard Greenberg’s work – Altered States and The Dead Zone – and that’s when I realised main titles combined both my interest in film and in graphic design and that was in 1985.  

Increasingly we are seeing almost little films at the beginning of the movie where the title sequence is- even animated when the film is live action or whatever –  I wonder if the internet has been an influence on that where you can see on YouTube, particular segments of a film- whether that’s changed the status of the title sequence? Like trailers for example, they’ve become an art form and people review trailers and I’m wondering if title sequences, in a similar way, have they become a discreet theme?  

I agree with you yes, and people talk about them and review them independently and I think it’s good but it shouldn’t be separate from the movie somehow I think they work better if they are the actual beginning rather than this disembodies music video – I could be wrong. Elvis Mitchell said in the New York Times, that the Dawn of the Dead title sequence was better than the movie and I felt bad, I felt because I’d never got to work with Zack Snyder, one of his associates said that was insensitive to him , but I would never set out to do that. The trailer is different because the trailer is made up of parts of the movie. 

What is your take on the current main-on-end, because I know you’ve done a lot of them yourself, but the whole thing of the main title is to set the movie up, even if they come a little later than the beginning but the tendency now is to have a small sequence at the beginning and let everything role at the end of the movie to an emptying room, Is that demeaning to your work, is it another challenge you have to overcome? What is your take on that?  

I don’t think it’s demeaning, to work on a main-on-end, I think a lot of times I have worked on them, they want the audience to leave with a spring in their step, they want the audience to dance out of the theatre –like in Iron Man or in both Sherlock Holmes movies – let’s remind them what they’ve seen, and have them leave with a good feeling, so in that sense there is a necessity to them. The first Sherlock Holmes movie felt like that, it was kind of a celebration of what you had just seen and it worked visually and it was okay. Marvel does it all the time, I don’t feel like it’s a lesser job but you’re not really setting a tone, if the movie ends on a dark tone, they usually decide to have white-type over black. You could have a dark movie and you could set a dark tone at the beginning, but you can’t do that as much with a main-on-end. Maybe your options of what you could do in a main-on-end would be limited.  

So in regards to your creative influence at the start, does a director give you a strict brief, as you said, Martin Scorsese guided you to the idea of what he wanted for Goodfellas, so how much freedom do you have in creating these titles? 

I’m so interested in getting information, and finding out about what the movie is and what everybody’s intention is, and if the director gives me something to go on, I don’t mind having the box I have to work within be smaller because specific perimeters have been provided because I feel like an idea is only as good as its execution, for example, I shot money burning for the Hughes’ brothers for ‘Dead Presidents’ a long time ago and they had that idea. I don’t mind if the idea comes from the director and I’m just executing it, but I still try to execute it in a way that I think is visually sophisticated myself. I’ve been in situations where it’s completely my idea, and I’ve presented boards and they’ve been approved and I get the director telling me, or giving in notes on what I created. The director always has to approve what I do, I am a graphic designer so I have a client but they have to like what I’m doing. 

Is there a director you look forward to working with again? I know you’ve done a lot of work with Terence Malick, there have been directors who have come to you more than once- but is there anyone that you really feel- wow, I’m really looking forward to working with them again! 

People ask me if I have to make choices on what to work on, and if I’d choose to work on a movie that wasn’t a good movie or work on higher profile things- the truth is my choices right now are more about the people that come back and I like to work. Is there someone I’m hoping comes back again? I had a nice experience working with Scott Cooper on Black Mass and on Hostiles. Ben Stiller is my friend, he wanted me to some work for him, the last thing I worked on with him was Zoolander 2 and that had a bit of trouble so I don’t know if I’ll work with him again- I’d like to. I liked working a bit with Ridley Scott on Exodus and Prometheus and I think not really. I like Gareth Edwards, the first Godzilla director and I usually have a pretty good relationship with who the director is and if the come back, I try to help them. There isn’t anybody that I’m desperate to have give me a job that I can think of. But rather than pitch on new business and compete against other companies to get new business, I’d prefer to work with someone who knows who I am and knows what I bring to the table. 

What is your favourite Saul Bass title sequence? 

My favourite Saul Bass titles are- The Man with the Golden Arm, Take a Walk on the Wild Side when the two cats fight and I kind of like Casino – like the idea behind it.  

Some people have started to remake old movie posters- is there a title you would like to remake a title sequence to? A classic movie maybe?  

The Thing by John Carpenter I would like to remake. That does have a nice title sequence but that is just the first thing that came into mind.  

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An Interview With… Ethan Hawke #Locarno71

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Ethan Hawke, despite being only 47, has been acting for well over 30 years. After his breakout role in 1989’s Dead Poet’s Society he has had iconic roles in Reality Bites,  Gattaca, Training Day and Boyhood. 

His work with Director Richard Linklater has resulted in one of the most beloved film series of recent times in the ‘Before’ trilogy and this year looks set to be one of his best yet.

With a standout performance in Paul Schrader’s First Reformed and his feature film Blaze, which he wrote and directed set for wide release soon, Ethan Hawke isn’t going anywhere soon.

We spoke him at the 2018 Locarno Film Festival  where he is receiving this years Excellence Award, given to those who through their work and talent, have enriched the cinema with their unique contribution. It’s past winners include Isabella Huppert, Christopher Lee and Susan Sarandon. 

How does it feel at this stage of your career to be given a lifetime achievement award? 

On one level, I feel completely undeserving but on another level I feel well… Richard Linklater told me ‘don’t get too high on yourself, these are what you call “mid-career check ins” and it means you’ve made it to this one stage and in the next round everybody will hate you again and then you have to survive long enough to get to the next round and then you can be the head of the Jury’- so I’m in the front tier of the second row. 

At the beginning of ‘Seymour’ (showing at Locarno), you said you were struggling for a long time with why you do what you do, has that changed since you made the documentary and since you had the encounter with Seymour Bernstein?  

I think so. Part of why I think I made that movie was to spend more time with him. Some people have a mid-life crisis and buy a Porsche – I had a mid-life crisis and made a documentary about an Oxygenarian piano player. One of the messages he has to offer people is ‘you are enough’. I think my take-away from this was just to accept myself, and it’s not something that’s just done. It’s something you have to keep doing. 

You were saying about “mid-career check-ins”, but looking back on your career, you seem to have had a charmed career and you’ve never really had the troubles everyone else has had. You’re always visible, people always know what you are doing – and it’s always something only you would be doing and nobody else. 

Well thank you for saying that! I hope that that’s true. There was a magazine article back home that was talking about the success of ‘First Reformed’ and the reception of ‘Blaze’ that I was poised to have the best year of my life and I may be having my “Matthew McConaughey Moment”. My friend Richard Linklater phoned me up and said – ‘for you to have a “Matthew McConaughey Moment” you would have had to of been washed up! What they can’t write is you’ve done the same thing consistently through your entire life’- and I’ve been lucky that way and the reasons why luck has given me that charm is because really early on, I’ve tried to solve all of my problems with working and that’s when my first marriage fell apart but I just worked harder than ever, and that’s why I went back to the theatre-which is a great healer for actors because it’s incredibly hard and I think that when you really apply yourself, humility naturally rises, you meet your own walls. It’s also strange to be 47 and have been making movies for almost 30 years; it’s a little rare actually. 

You recently published a wonderful little book called ‘Rules for a Knight’, which is all about decency. What is the biggest misconception of you, now you have the chance to correct it?

Being proud of being good, doesn’t really make any sense, because if you’re good, pride would be an obstacle. There’s so many ways I’m not good and the truth is, you don’t want to be perceived as good because you feel that you won’t have an edge or be cool, the way young actors want to be. I was very lucky as a young person to have parents with very strong spiritual beliefs and the only thing that was really important to them was their spiritual life. As soon as you depart from spiritual success, that determines your worth- they really wouldn’t love me any better or less if I won Best Actor at Venice or didn’t. That’s not how they grade. They love me for how I’m doing in my own inner-journey- and as a young person you think that’s corny, but as you get older you think that’s actually not corny at all, that’s actually reality. As you start to live long enough to see people’s ego’s really hurt themselves, we end up hurting ourselves with our own self-importance. Finding a balance between believing in yourself and trying to have an inner life that matches something you can be proud of, or that you would want the people that love you to be proud of. I’m aware of what a wonderful seat this is to be in, and an instant gratitude takes place. It’s your work inside that makes you prepared to handle all the different vicissitudes that are going to come.  

You were saying before about the spiritual background that you have and that sense of what it means to be good, how much did those thoughts feed into ‘First Reformed’? 

When I started the script for First Reformed, on one of the first pages, it talks about all of the books that are on Reverend Toller’s desk and they were almost all books my mother had given me. There was a list of them, Thomas Merton being one of them. I felt like at been prepared for this role. One of the things Merton himself writes about, he was already starting to see an obsession with “celebrity” happen and having a “public self”.  I think it helped me deal with celebrities- what I mean is, one of the last times I spoke to River Phoenix, he was talking a lot about how people perceived him and how hard it was to constantly trying to figure out who you are and tell people what you’re not, like when people label you. I wasn’t having that problem because I knew that all of that was fake. And River had just been to the Oscars and he couldn’t believe how fake the Oscar’s were. He said ‘ the statues aren’t gold, they’re like paper! It’s so fake you wouldn’t believe it!’ and I remember thinking, ‘if you’re trying to make me feel bad for you going to the Oscar’s then fuck you!’. I realise now, understanding and accepting the phoniness of the world, you’ve just got to take it as a truth and not be hurt by it every time, it happens. 

Were you disappointed when Boyhood didn’t win anything? 

That’s my point- not at all, because I never saw that as -you want the work to be worthy, but if you get caught up in seeing other people’s definitions of what is the authentic way for you to live your life- it wouldn’t make the movie better or worse and it wouldn’t affect the final cut of that film one bit. I always tell people it’s a little better if you don’t. I hate it when life always moves the goal line, we made a movie with our closest friends for nothing, over 12 years- about the subtle movements of growing up- and it found it’s way in the commercial markets. That’s a miracle. You don’t give up with your heart so easily. I wasn’t disappointed, I was so proud. I’ve spent my life making little indie movies that no-one even hears of and so to turn that victory into a defeat, would be a waste of time.  

What’s the challenge in doing movies like ‘The Purge’ and ‘Predestination’? 

Well, by the time I was 20 years old, I’d had two great mentors – Joe Dante and Peter Weir.  Dante and I sat down and watched ‘The Howling’ and he said – drive-in movies, if done with art and love can be amazing. It’s like the Trojan horse of Troy- if I said let’s watch werewolf movie and instead secretly, it’s a PTSD movie about the Vietnam War. Get Out is a great example. Another example of these “Trojan horse” movies. If I told you I was making an important film about race relations in America, you wouldn’t want to come, you’d feel like you’re being preached to. If I tell you it’s a scary movie, he comes into the house…. etc… and ‘The Purge’ is the same way- set in ‘the future’ when rich people don’t care about poor people- and I love that because there’s something punk rock about it, it’s not what it seems. Movies are different ways of people trying to express themselves. 

 Austin, Texas is a huge part of your career, ‘Blaze’ is also a tale about Austin, do you think that there are other stories to tell about Austin- a town that is probably so unique- that the world should know more about it? 

The short answer is yes, but the long answer is- the whole world is like that and all these stories need to be told and one of the great things is that we are at this weird in-between place in time right now where it’s very possible for anybody in the world to make a good movie, you can shoot it on your phone and edit it. If you have something to say, it’s like a novel. If you’ve been taught to read and write and you have some paper and a pen, you can write a great novel. You can do it from jail, you can do it on a boat, and now the same is true with a movie. And it’s changed the game. That’s why film-festivals have become so important because you guys are curators. You address what the world should be paying attention to, what should be seen and if we didn’t have these festivals, big business would crush all of the smaller ones.  

You’ve just made two movies about obscure musicians, how does that all tie in with those themes and what drew you to those characters? 

I think just a natural love of music. A celebration of the people I’ve spent my life with. You’re teachers will all tell you, write what you know and I know people like Blaze- I didn’t know him, but I knew people like him and I felt qualified to write that story, because I’ve had to swim in that water.  I’m just trying to follow my gut and I feel that you need to find what you enjoy, and let the love grow. 

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