Join SBIFF for an in-depth discussion in this video Staying focused, part of 2011 SBIFF Directors' Panel: Directors On Directing.
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Peter Bart: So, I would like to ask each of you, as we go down the row--starting with you, Darren--what effect do you feel that being involved in this ritual, how has it affected you, how it will affect your filmmaking plans? And talking about yourself constantly night and day, how does this--does this build a certain self-loathing within you? Darren Aronofsky: I think the self-loathing is important. I remember after Pi, I used to write in my journal, "I don't know anything.
I don't know anything. I don't know anything." after the success, just to try and keep tough. And I think it's important that with all the good stuff you have to remember that the reason you got here is all of the hard work, and all the doubt and stuff. And there was tremendous doubt. I mean, four weeks before we started shooting Black Swan, the money fell apart, and I literally was going to give up except for the threat of being beat up by Natalie Portman. So, and I was willing to give up because I had doubts about the project, which I think that you always forget.
I don't know. Every time I go to a film, I get all the big doubts all the way up to the beginning and then you forget those doubts. It's important to write down all that fear, so you could remember; it's going to come up again. And I think, if it doesn't come up, it's a bad thing. So, I don't know. It's, the whole circuit I think has been-- the best part's been the friendships that I've had. We were joking backstage that I could play Hooper and Hooper could play Russell, and we could do each others lines because we have gone to, we have done a bunch of these and we know each other's answers at this point.
So, all of us are trying to be fresh and tell new stories and-- Tom Hooper: He is just currently doing me, by the way. (laughter) Darren: So, well that's been part is that there has been some, I think probably lasting comradeship between the filmmakers here, which has been a good part of it. And I think as quick as possible, on February 28th we are all going to get back to work, so... Peter: Charles? Charles Ferguson: Well, I am kind of new to this.
This is only the second film I have ever made, and this is certainly the first time I've had this incredible immersion into the anthropology of Hollywood, which certainly is different. It's not MIT. I've enjoyed some of it, I have to say. I've been to a couple of really nice parties with some very, very good food. And I have met a number of wonderful and interesting filmmakers, both feature filmmakers and the other documentary filmmakers, who are very interesting guys. I met--not all guys, excuse me.
I recently met the two very guys who did Restrepo. And my previous film was about the occupation of Iraq, so it was interesting to see their sense of a different war. I have enjoyed a lot of things, but it is also true that it has been very hard to carve out time to write and to work. I love making movies and I am very eager to-- Peter: Now I know you are thinking of doing actually a dramatic, a theatrical movie next.
Does that, do you think that's been stimulated by your proximately to infamous characters like David O. Russell? Charles Ferguson: I, with all due respect sir, no, I'm afraid not. I've wasted a very substantial fraction of my life from a very early age, like seven, reading and watching thrillers, and I love them. If I could make Chinatown or something like that, I would be just in heaven, just in heaven.
Peter: Debra? Debra Granik: I think something very positive that I am feeling about participating in this season is, sort of seeing-- it's really where you started the panel with, seeing that there is a crop of films that are being made differently and finding kinship with other films that are made on small budgets. I think it gives me a lot of hope, actually. I feel like it's a little bit of hopeful season, this one.
I think the awkward thing at the beginning of the season was sort of just the female, the woman question was awkward. That set me in so often a weird headspace because it's hard to answer that one. Is there an effect from last year and what does it mean? So, that one I am so glad but that's not actually being raised. But that, I had trouble even coming up with good answers on that, but otherwise, I feel like another thing that was extremely rich about the season was seeing journalistic support for small films and seeing what they could do, how far they could go.
With writing contextualized interesting information about films to actually get an audience for paperless, for a film that had no billboards and no advertising, that to me is also, it's just a really hopeful sign, and so I feel inspired by this time that we are in. Peter: Well, I think the only answer to the question, 'why aren't there more women directing?' is just simply to say, well, why don't you ask Charles Ferguson why does Obama keep on appointing people from Goldman Sachs? There is no answer to that question.
One hopes that there will be a lot more women directing. And in the early days of Hollywood, as you know, women were in a real leadership role in writing and directing. They were the principal forces. Mr. Hooper sir, do you wish to comment on the general thesis as to how has this ritual affected your life and thoughts and self-regard? Tom Hooper: I feel a bit like Darren. I mean, it's--what is that, I think it's Uncle Vanya, Chekhov's play, which ends with the line "Work, work, work." And I kind of feel, unfortunately in my family, that's a little bit of mantra.
Whenever any one is having any kind of emotional roller coaster, the general medicine is "Get back to work." And I kind of feel that's the key. Having observed I suppose aspects of the award season from the outside over the years, I think the great risk is that you as a director become paralyzed by it, and you start to think, how can I do better than that, or how can I would be back in the same place, and I think that's absolutely chasing a false god. I think I didn't make this film to be in this position.
Being in his position has been this extraordinary, wonderful journey and stroke of chance, but I made it for that story. I made it for the love of that story. And I think you have to go back and connect with the stories you love and make another film to make the film, and if this happens, it happens, but I don't think you can chase it. Peter: David? David O. Russell: Yeah, I would echo that. It's a constant prayer of humility every day to keep you awake. Because every day you say that, but then every day, all day you are getting saturated in this experience, because what I said at the start of it is "Everything I'm going to get from this film, I already got," and that was my mantra from the start.
I got to make this film with these beautiful people. I love the film. I am going to get to make another another couple of films period. But then every day you're talking to these guys and you are talking to these audiences, and you can't help but get sucked into the whole thing a little bit. I think getting back to work is the best way to do it. It's hard to do work in this climate though, because I was supposed to be finishing a screenplay right now and it's such a strange change to sit down to write from being in this milkshake all day.
But I will say I'm extremely grateful for it, because I had a bumpy couple of years that I am grateful. And when you get, it's like anything, whether you are an athlete or anybody, you are grateful to be back up on your feet and you intend to stay there when that happens. So, I am looking forward to doing some more good pictures. Peter: Lee? Lee Unkrich: Well, first of all, I think, I hopefully that goes with that saying I find it an incredible honor to be sitting next to David and Tom and everybody here on this panel, because I admire and love their films so much. As Darren said, this whole season is a great opportunity to just to get to hang out with people and talk to other filmmakers whose work we admire.
We're in a little weird position at Pixar because we are up in Northern California. We're in a bit of a bubble in this kind of filmmaking Utopia-- which is great, I wouldn't trade it for anything-- but it can be a little insular sometimes, and we don't have the opportunities to interface with a lot of other filmmakers as much as we would like to. So, the season has just been a great way to do that. But above all else, it's just been an honor for us to be a part of all this, for me to be sitting on this panel with these other directors and to have received the nominations and been a part of these different events, because in animation we are often kind of pushed off to the side.
That's kind of been the history. And from day one at Pixar with Toy Story, we have tried to make films that transcended anything that hadn't been done in animation prior, and we tried to make films that were cinematic and that had new stories to tell. And we can we think of ourselves first and foremost as filmmakers, so it's really just the ultimate honor for us to have been invited to be part of all this. Peter: But I feel that you guys would do the community, the creative community, a great favor if you made one real miserable bomb.
Because to have a totally impeccable record sets of bar that no human being can really aspire to. Lee: I wish somebody would so that I don't have to be the one. We have these friends. Whenever they have a dinner party, the people who host the party knock over a glass of wine on the tablecloth so that nobody else has to be the one to get embarrassed doing that. I have kind of feel like we need to just, yeah, purposefully put out a cruddy movie and get it out of the way. I don't know that the studio would agree with that.
David: That's a funny, that's a funny premise for a movie, because if you had like a Pixar guy, like the opposite of Springtime for Hitler. Oh, it is Springtime for Hitler because he'd, you got to make a bomb and that you just can't help it. David: It just keeps becoming a hit. Lee: You know it would be our biggest film. Darren: It's like the Producers of Pixar. Tom: It would be a tough pitch, wouldn't it, saying, I need to do this film, I want you to pay me to do this film so I can like make it really bad. That would be good for me. I don't think anyone would go for that. Peter: So, if you were--I think the worst moment of the whole process are acceptance speeches, because you always feel at these dinners, you will all accept, all of you on this panel, have accepted something in the past month, and it seems to me that when people give acceptance speeches, they suddenly freeze and they feel, I can't say what I really think.
I have to mention my ex-wife and my agent and my proctologist and my lawyer because this is my moment in the sun. So, I'm curious, and I will ask this to each of you. If you really forget the TV cameras, if you really were to give a totally candid acceptance speech, who would you thank? Darren: I have to go first again? Peter: Yeah, yeah. Darren: Start down there. Let me get think about that one.
Tom: You can do me again Darren. Peter: Because, it is tempting to simply say thank Harvey or thank whoever put up the money. I mean that's what it's based on. Darren: I don't know. I am not sure that's true. I think actually people do want to thank because it's weird that we get the credit, because now I am going to sound like I am making one of those &*&^#@$ speeches. But it's true though that filmmaking is so collaborative, and it's just such a collection of so many people. La la la la la la la. But it's true! It's true! (applause and laughter) It's unfortunate but--I mean, we can't, as directors, we really aren't good any one good thing.
We're just sort of dilettantes in a lot of things. We could sort of draw, we could sort of work with actors, we could sort of schedule, but we have all these specialists that really know what they're doing. You have a DP who really understands what 7,200-degree temperature means for a light bulb. Well, I don't even know if it tungsten--I don't even know, I forget. I learned it in film school, but I don't remember. And we are like, yeah put the 12 millimeter on, but we don't really know what it's on till we put our eye on a lens and go, oh yeah that's what it looks like.
So, you are working with all these people, so it's appropriate to thank those people. I am not paying for my movies either, so I understand. So I don't know, if I had to give a candid thing, it would be probably, at this point, I think, there is like this postmodern thing because you feel like you're not supposed to thank people because the Academy made a big thing about a few years ago where they wanted you to go backstage and do all your thanks on Darren: the Internet. Peter: Exactly. Darren: And then to do something creative in front of the crowd to really cry. Peter: Yeah.
Darren: So I don't know, I don't know, maybe they--I don't know. Peter: Or to do the famous Jane Wyman thing when she accepted an Oscar for Johnny Belinda and said, "I got this award for playing a mute; therefore I'm just Peter: going to zip it up." David: Ah! So genius! Darren: And then Joe Pesci did the great one where he just sort of said, I forgot what he said, but it was like three words, and he walked off. Peter: That's right. That's right, but on the other hand, a director could thank a particular Peter: filmmaker whose influence particularly influenced him. Darren: It's a good idea.
Darren: Hooper, you can thank me when you are up there, okay. Feel free. (laughter)
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).