Join SBIFF for an in-depth discussion in this video Changing the game, part of 2010 SBIFF Directors' Panel: On Directing.
(Music playing.) Roger Durling: This is actually the Super Bowl of film festival panels. The biggest names in directing are going to be in this room in a few seconds. Please welcome Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds. (Cheering and applause.) Todd Phillips, The Hangover.
Pete Docter, Up. Lee Daniels, Precious. James Cameron, Avatar. Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker. And please welcome an old friend of the festival. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Variety. He's hosted, moderated this panel for many, many years and he also has a show on NBC called Showtime. Please welcome Peter Bart. Peter Bart: We are out of control already here. (Laughter.) So it's always fun to be here and this particular panel is a vivid reminder that that old cliche is true.
There is no best picture this year. There are these remarkable cinematic statements that each of these filmmakers has created that are so diverse and exciting that they are the best. (Cheering and applause.) Quentin Tarantino: Here, here! Now, if I may say briefly, anybody who thinks that they can preside over a panel of six filmmakers, each of whom has final cut, anyone who thinks they can do that is an idiot.
So what I am going to do is simply toss an initial question or two at each member of the panel and then run. (Laughter.) When my mealy-mouthed iterations are through, I would invite some of you in the audience if you have some questions to ask, please do so. With one admonition. My good friend, Kathryn Bigelow, is a little annoyed and sensitive at this stage of all this at answering questions about why she as a woman director doesn't make warm and fuzzy relationship pictures.
So I would really be grateful if none of you ask that. Indeed to get all the sexist garbage out of the way, I am going to present her with this crown as king and queen of the world. (Laughter and applause.) So Todd Phillips, if I can pick on you first, you made a picture that you knew, you know going in under no circumstances would win an Oscar nomination, because it's funny. Now knowing that it's funny, however, studios as well as Oscar voters are weird about comedy.
Now when you're ready to shoot this, Warners wouldn't come up with your budget. So they effectively gave you a check for 40 million dollars. Now, next time you go to Warners with a comedy proposal, do you think they will be a little more generous? Todd Phillips: I am not sure. You mean for the budget, you are saying --? Peter Bart: I am saying your end, your backend. Todd Phillips: Oh, I see. Well, first of all, your first point, you were wrong. We made The Handover for the award seasons. We really thought it was going to be a horse race with The Hurt Locker.
(Laughter.) We were surprised, it's okay. But really when you make comedies, it's obviously something you ever think of. It's not the reason that I got into filmmaking, as probably nobody up here. Really, it's never a reason a director I think gets into filmmaking. But we've had a really good run on this movie and we did win a Golden Globe, which was sort of shocking for all of us. But we really just do it to make people laugh and that's the goal. The 40 million thing, I am not sure.
I don't know what you are talking about. Peter Bart: It's just Vanity Fair claims that's what they made, but I am not going to--. Todd Phillips: All right, I am not going to go there, after I go there. Peter Bart: Pete Docter, I have seen you accept awards and everybody at Pixar seems so damn nice. (Laughter.) What happens when there are arguments about the picture? How do you resolve creative differences when you are making a picture at Pixar? Pete Docter: Well, there definitely are arguments.
I mean we get into red faced yelling and whatnot, but usually the test is just try it and the audience will tell you who is right. Peter Bart: They did. Pete Docter: Well, thanks. Peter Bart: Mr. Cameron, sir. There was a story in today's paper and your picture is in the paper every day. It's remarkable. JP Morgan is raising 700 million dollars for 3D theaters because, thanks to you, there's an extraordinary shortage, everyone has decided, of 3D.
Do you feel that 3D is really going to command that big an audience? James Cameron: Well, I think a lot depends on filmmakers. Right now what you're seeing is in the immediate aftermath of Avatar, studios are jumping on the bandwagon, but it's a top down process. Studio heads wake up and say, "where is our 3D movie?" "Well, let's take a movie we are making anyway and turn it into 3D." Like you can kind of just wave the magic wand and that's not how it works. You have to intend to author a movie in 3D. So I believe that starts with filmmakers and if Avatar has done anything in that regard, hopefully it has opened a door to filmmakers working in live-action as opposed to in animation, because you guys have already embraced 3D to one extent or another and I am guessing it's probably filmmaker driven.
Like if you want to do one in 3D, you will and if one of your other directors doesn't, they won't, right? So I mean I think that's the way it should be. I think it should come from the filmmaker, people that want to embrace that as part of their palette, part of their paint set and if they don't, they shouldn't. And the studio shouldn't just start rubberstamping 3D on scripts, which of course they will and it's like one more thing for us to worry about now. Peter Bart: That's right. Pete Docter: And to a degree, the subject matter is important there too. You want to make sure you are using it for the right story.
James Cameron: Yeah, I think so, although I would submit that -- Lee Daniels: I mean, I don't think Precious would look right in 3D. James Cameron: It would look great in 3D. (Laughter.) Pete Docter: It might be good. James Cameron: I disagree with that. No, seriously. Lee Daniels: You think? James Cameron: Well, look, I have done dramatic scenes, I have done very small intimate scenes with very little in the way of expense and production value and they play better in 3D. I think it's like saying, there are certain scripts that should be in color and certain scripts that should be in black and white and we don't think that way anymore but we did for a long time.
And I think we are going to evolve beyond that, maybe not in the next couple of years, but we will eventually because people don't read a script and go, "man, this would be great in color." They don't think that way. And by the way, Precious is in color. There was a time when Precious would have been in black and white. You got to admit. There was a time when that would have been de rigueur to make that movie in black and white. Peter Bart: Now this is the longest that any panel I know has existed without Quentin Tarantino saying something. (Laughter.) So one thing I love about Quentin is he is the antithesis of a techy director.
I mean he even writes his first drafts in longhand. Avatar is indeed a game changer. Do you think that you will leave your genre-oriented directing and try a movie that is technologically more arresting? Quentin Tarantino: What, just because he did it in 3D? (Laughter.) Andre de Toth did that too. Here is actually what I will-- Let me address that specifically because, I'll tell you what would've been a game-changer as far as I was concerned.
If I had seen Avatar before I'd done Kill Bill. I mean not that I would want to do it on bluescreens or anything like that. I would have done it the way I wanted to do it. But one of the things I was thinking when I was watching Avatar was when I did Kill Bill, I had these grandiose visions in my head of the experience of watching the movie, and I actually wanted it to be more like a ride than just a normal watching a movie at a Cineplex and then you go home and you have pie. And I just had this, you would be in this world and it would be a ride.
I don't think I did that. I think the closest maybe The House of Blue Leaves sequence, or maybe The Coffin sequence, but I didn't do it exactly in my most grandiose visions of what could I have done. I don't think it was the ride. It was good and probably the thing I have done that I'm the most proudest of. But it wasn't quite the ride in my most vision and when I saw Avatar, I go, that's the ride! That's the ride I was trying to do.
That was the ride in my head when I was spending a year-and-a-half writing the script. Peter Bart: Amen! Now, Kathryn, your turn. You and I did a TV show together and did a thing at the very beginning of the process, this incredible award process that goes on and on. And at that time we were joking about the fact that your next picture is a relatively modestly budgeted picture in South America and Central America. After all that has happened, tell me that you're asking for at least three times the budget of that picture.
Kathryn Bigelow: Well, actually on the contrary, and that project is still in process, but I think to retain control, you need to keep the budgets as-- or at least certainly my experience is the more modest you can keep the budget, the more control, more creative control you have. So I think the game is really about creative control and on the other hand, yet if the ideas are so challenging and so extraordinary as Avatar, that's modest for those ideas.
You know? I am not just saying -- James Cameron: We could have used a lot more money to make that movie. (Laughter.) Peter Bart: Now, in the New York Times again today, there was a piece discussing the fact that during this process, the last seven months, you've deliberately not taken a position on the war, on the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. And they put it, "in the end the gap between beliefs about war and the reality is too wide for any movie to capture." Does that express in a way why you did not take a point of view? Kathryn Bigelow: Well, I think, I mean I personally have a very strong point of view.
I think war is hell but I think it was very important, this is an ongoing conflict. This is not-- it's not like I am making the movie ten years after the conflict had a closure and I thought it was very important as a filmmaker to take an even-handed position in showing the horrors that these men experience and that was I think what was the overriding prerogative. Peter Bart: Jim, one of the biggest fights I've ever had was with Francis Coppola over Godfather II because he said, "I don't believe in sequels." "I've done the original story. I can't top it." Now, Rupert Murdoch glibly announced that he has already anointed a sequel.
How do you feel about sequels? James Cameron: Well, there are still some deals to be made, which will be easier now that Rupert's announced it. (Laughter.) Well, look, I've had good luck with sequels. I think Terminator 2 in a lot of ways is a better film than the first one, if for no other reason, thanks, than we had more resources and I actually got to make the movie that I want to make completely.
But, I mean I think there's an art to sequels, which is that you have to be at the same time make the audience comfortable in familiar territory and yet play against it with constant surprises and yet those surprises have to be not so off the reservation conceptually that they are now not enjoying the experience they thought they signed up for. And that's a trick. I mean I did it with Aliens and I did it with Terminator 2. So I feel, and plus I have a story arc for Avatar already mapped up and that was part of the pitch.
Part of the pitch for the studio was we are going to spend a gazumpteen million dollars making this world. It will then reside on a hard drive and we can resurrect the characters, the creatures, the trees, the mountains and everything, kind of with a switch. It's not quite that simple, of course, but it sounded good in the pitch. (Laughter.) Peter Bart: So Lee, I have got to ask you, and on the subject of creative freedom which Kathryn rightly raised. You had this amazing experience, the dream of every filmmaker that you went to an investor, or an investor came to you and said, "I will pay all the bills of your picture." Was there artistic interference in any point? Lee Daniels: No, never.
I just come with my guns. (Laughter.) I am not laughing. (Laughter.) I am laughing. Haha. (Laughter.) Peter Bart: You know? Lee? (Laughter.) I must say in the awards past, you have given the most eloquent and original acceptance speeches and I was going to give you an award for the best acceptance speech. Did you prepare that, did you think about it or this just comes from the heart? Lee Daniels: It comes from the heart. It comes from my experience with my fellow panelists and that is the inspiration.
I am very, very honored to be up here with these geniuses. So when I-- and that's not a joke, that's from the heart. So when you are really nervous, because you're looking at someone who has done the likes of Terminator, he spews it off, oh yeah, and Aliens 2, you know. But in Terminator 1, I ah-- but Titanic... (Laughter.) Okay, here we come with Precious.
(Laughter.) You really, or the likes of, you just can't.. So you just speak from your heart. (Applause.)