Join SBIFF for an in-depth discussion in this video Giving thanks, part of 2011 SBIFF Directors' Panel: Directors On Directing.
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Peter Bart: Mr. Ferguson sir, is there in your field, is there someone who particularly inspired you, whose work you would express appreciation for? Charles Ferguson: Well, there are some in documentary film. I would say, actually, my principal inspirations have come from people who are really ballsy about biting the hand that might want to feed them in order to shut them up.
And the thanks that I give to Sony, Sony Pictures Classics, in this regard is very real. I mean, they're not--I have to say that they are not loose with a dollar, which kept our crew very small, which makes it easy to thank people, because there aren't very many people to thank. But they said they would give me final cut, both contractual and real, and they %$@#$ did.
And if you've seen this film-- Peter: Thank them, just thank final cut. Charles: Yes. Final cut, yeah. Peter: Absolutely. Peter: Debra, I'm curious what your feeling is? Debra Granik: Oh God! I think Darren, we maybe, we interchanged this then, because the collaborative thing that's like my big word, because it is just like there is no "a film by." I don't feel too good about that term. I feel like I really appreciated it one time when filmmaker wrote a film by and there was a colon and then everybody that made the film with him were listed.
That felt appropriate. That felt real. There is no filmmaker that makes a film by him or herself. And so the thanks has to be there. People got in the trenches with you. It is the most severe kind of-- The English language gets paltry when it's that kind of thanks. It is a gratitude that hurts. It's a gratitude that swells up inside you, and you spend a year trying to give it back. Your emails always are scrambling for that kind of words you want to use. Even for the people in Missouri, it's been very hard to bridge that level of appreciation--to communicate the appreciation that we do feel.
And so the thanks comes from this kind of desperate attempt. The thanks exceeds what you're able to communicate, and you spend a year trying to do it. And it's an awkward position. Peter: Tom, how do you feel about that issue? Tom Hooper: Well, looking back at the speech that I made at the DGA, I feel the guy I really should have thanked if I was absolutely candid is Darren Aronofsky. (laughter) I don't know why you're laughing.
I mean, when I was 12 years old and decided I wanted to become a film director, there was this 14-, 15-year-old kid living in New York, and he was making the most extraordinary films as a teenager, and I managed to see one of them, and that's where the journey began. (laughter) No, in all seriousness-- David O. Russell: Just so you're clear, that didn't really happen. Tom: Before I get on to David O. Russell. I don't know. I do think speeches aren't--they are not all about us.
I mean, they are--most of the people involved never get, in any scenario, will never get the chance to be on that stage. And it matters hugely to them to be name checked, and it isn't all about me. And although people think it's your moment, it's actually the one moment you have to acknowledge the people who will never get any attention for it. And for me, the DGA, to have my Dad there to be able to thank him and honor him, that meant more to me than anything else. David: I can't beat that. (laughter) I always wanted to thank like a kabillion people, but then I also feel like when I'm watching those events that's when I glaze over.
So I also just want to speak from the heart and know that those people know that I love them and thank them all the time anyway, so, I always trying to remember them and then I end up just having more of a spontaneous reaction. And really, in this case it is a--I don't know. The people whose lives at home were changed by this--you know, like the people in lower Massachusetts--I think it's all for them, because it's been a nice thing for them to change the legacy of their whole community.
It's been a beautiful thing for them. Lee Unkrich: Well, this question of who you'd like to thank and who you can't thank or who you don't thank...most films, the crews are very transient, right? They're just kind of, they jump from film to film, and you have this intense experience. And talking about live action, when you have this intense experience together as a group and then everybody goes off on their ways. At our studio, because the films take so long to make, it's a very family.
I mean these are people that are working together not only for over 4 years on one movie, but many of us have been at the studio for 16 years, and we've been really intimate parts of each others lives, and we've seen each others kids grow up. And one of the things that I always like to do, we all do when we have the rap parties, where we have our crew, final big crew screenings of the films, is we really make an effort to thank the families of the people that work at the studio, because they are very often the people making the sacrifices. They don't have their husbands home, they don't have their father's home on the weekends sometimes, or all night sometimes, and this goes on for a very long period of time.
I mean those of the people that I want to thank, because they are really never getting the credit. And they should, because they prop us up, and they let us do what we want to do and allow us to live the dreams that we dreamed about, let us have the careers that we dreamed about having. So yeah, I mean that's who I would like to thank, but I haven't, and maybe I should. Peter: Well, I hope each of you wins, but when you do make your acceptance speeches, I never understood why people always invoke the pluperfect subjunctive and say, "I would like to thank." Why don't they just say, "Jesus, thanks Darren Aronofsky?" Lee: This is, you know what, Peter, I guess my wife, she told me, like, if I did nothing else, I was never allowed to say, "I would like to thank." She said that's the worst possible thing to say.
You're right. Everybody says that, "I would like to thank," rather than just saying, "Thank you, thank you for this." David: I like that he said pluperfect subjunctive. (laughter) Tom: It didn't go unnoticed. Peter: So another question, related subject, and since each of you has hit a home run, it's always an interesting issue as to what degree does success advance or inhibit you? I remember running into a great guy named Cuba Gooding Jr.
who said that the worst thing that ever happened to him was winning an Oscar, because he said, "It changed the way I thought about myself. I wanted, I felt, I wanted only roles where I got the girl and was the leading man. I wanted more money than I deserved." He said that, "Really like a significant setback of my career was success and an Oscar." So to what extent do you think the fact that you guys did hit a home run this time will help or hurt your future? I don't know. I always pick on you Darren. I'm sorry.
Darren Aronofsky: My strategy has always been to double-down, which is, I have been lucky to have success with most of the films and then I just try to do something equally as difficult if not more difficult so that everyone's says no to me again, and that gets me angry and then I got a really struggle to get it made. So that's kind of been the strategy is just constantly keep saying %^$# back, and let's just try to make something really, really hard.
After making The Wrestler, we needed $6 million. We couldn't get it. You know everyone was like, why are you destroying your career with Mickey Rourke and making a film about wrestling, which no one is interested in? And after its success, it did pretty well, we thought doing a ballet movie with a real, legitimate movie star like Natalie Portman would be easy, and it just came down to one investor and one studio on the entire planet that would do it. So that's my recommendation, everyone, is make something equally as difficult and put the success that you have now on the table, so that more interesting stories will hopefully come out.
Peter: So if someone came to you and said, "Take the easy road. Do a sequel." Darren: Yeah. Peter: You wouldn't do it. Darren: No comment. David: He is going to do it. Darren: No, I don't know who you are talking about David. Darren: No comment. David: He is kind of doing that yea, but not to your film. Peter: Who wants to talk a lot? David? David: Mr. Bigmouth over here. David: Oh, I was going to say I was actually speaking to Colin Firth at your party, and we were speaking about how--I was saying just how it's a blessing-- I just say it again and again and again and again--to be working in this business even is a blessing, and to be part of this is a great blessing.
And having said that, it does become a very strange experience where you get seduced about like, how you're going to get recognized or not. It's very strange, and you've got to kind of watch out; it can affect you. And Colin told me the story of William Styron, the novelist, who won a French literary prize and it basically sent him into a suicidal depression that haunted him for the rest of his life. And I was reminded last night by Alexander Payne of an essay written by Tennessee Williams called "The Catastrophe of Success," which Alexander gave to me.
And I just think you've got to keep-- and I will quote from final quote, it will be Darren which is a--you said you got to pull your head out of #$%, because you can't, you can't--I have had my head up my #$% the last few years. I'm going to quote everybody up here, and this guy said, just get back to work. You know, so that the best way to keep your head out of your #$% is to just get back to work and just focus on that stuff and keep it as simple and raw as you can, because all the other stuff, like in some Greek mythology, man, they will melt your wings or something.
(laughter) Peter: Anyone else who want to take a whack at that? Charles: I think Noel Coward said, "Beware those twin impostors, failure and success." I think both can be damaging. Tom: Right, indeed! Well, I have certainly found that there is sort of slightly strange thing in this season where people say things like, "Wow, now you're really in a position to make a successful film." (laughter) And you kind of think wow! Yes, or now you can do anything you want, and you kind of think this is maybe what I have just done is is exactly what I want to do.
And this idea that it's a passport to the film you really wanted to make, rather than what you've just done being what you really wanted to make, I find quite a strange conundrum. David: It does buy you a little bit of cred. You're only as good as your last picture. So, you get another whack at the pinata, and you better make sure it's a good one. is what I learned. Make sure you pick it good, and it can give you a chance to make a buck if you've been struggling. It can help you.
Moderated by the vice president and editorial director of Variety Peter Bart, these six directors speak to the pressures of being on the Oscar circuit and the need to get back to work as soon as possible. Unusual for a group of nominated films—with the exception of Toy Story 3 at an estimated $200 million—these are all relatively low-budget films, ranging from $1 million to a high of $14 million. The directors discussed how not having a big budget to work with forced them to be more creative and focused on the story.
This panel includes Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Charles Ferguson (Inside Job), Debra Granik (Winter's Bone), Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), David O. Russell (The Fighter), and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3).