Film folks say some amazing things, at least when no publicist is in the vicinity to steer them toward generic platitudes. Even by that standard, Bay Area filmmakers and actors tend to be refreshingly outspoken. They offered a bumper crop of wit and wisdom for SF360.org's second annual compilation of the year’s best quotes from local moviemakers (plus a couple or three outsiders). We couldn’t capture every line of brilliance or lunacy, of course, so you’re encouraged to link to your favorites in the comments section.
“Some filmmakers describe it like going to war, but I didn't feel that way. I felt we were bonding and creating this sick and twisted family. I get the metaphor of war, but I would say [making All About Evil] was more like building a city. It didn't feel negative to me.”
—Joshua Grannell (aka Peaches Christ), The Evening Class, April 9, 2010
“Personal filmmaking is a thrilling experience—it’s like posing a question you don’t know the answer to. When you’ve made the film and it’s all over, then you begin to see what the answer is. I wanted to make an emotional movie and I figured the thing that makes me emotional is certain thoughts about my family, my father and his struggles.”
—Francis Ford Coppola, The Telegraph, June 14, 2010, after the U.S. premiere of Tetro at the Seattle International Film Festival
“He doesn't give a damn about things like awards or about anything apart from his films. He's on a different level from the rest of us, somewhere between genius and completely round the bend. He's not nasty, it's just that for him you don't exist . . . You could talk to a tree and you'd get the same response.”
—Jean-Luc Gaillard, retired geology professor and longtime acquaintance of honorary Oscar recipient Jean-Luc Godard, The Sunday Times of London, September 7, 2010
“[John] Waters is a greater National Treasure than 90 percent of the people who are given Kennedy Center Honors each December. Unlike those gray eminences of the show-business establishment, Waters doesn't kowtow to the received wisdom, he flips it the bird.”
—Jonathan Yardley, review of Role Models, Washington Post, June 20, 2010
“You don't rue [the failures]. There are some you go, 'Maybe you shouldn't have made that,' but you did. There are some that are wonderful, some that are not so good and some that you go, ‘Whoa.’ And usually the ones that didn't work were the ones where someone said, ‘This is going to be a hit.’ That is the most frightening one, where you went into it for the wrong motivation, to make shitloads of cash.”
—Robin Williams, New Zealand Herald, August 19, 2010
Charles Ferguson, director of Inside Job, talks financial crisis.
“I think there’s some chance that documentary films will have greater impact in the next few years than they’ve had in the last few years. They are to some extent taking up slack as the mainstream print media contract, and that contraction is a sad thing but the media are in financial trouble. Journalism is in financial trouble, and investigative journalism in particular is in financial trouble. I think that documentary filmmaking is beginning to occupy some of the space that used to be occupied by investigative journalism, both in print and in television. I hope there’s an appetite for that, particularly if the films are well made and compelling and dramatic and entertaining as well as informative.”
—Charles Ferguson, director of Inside Job, SF360.org, October 18, 2010
“A film gets written about differently if it’s in a theater [versus television]. It gets written about more as a film than just as information.”
—Connie Field, director of Have You Heard From Johannesburg?, SF360.org, January 13, 2010
“Rick [Goldsmith] and I did not see the film the same way, and we struggled with it at every juncture. Rick wanted to keep distance and be the journalist. He didn’t want [The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers] to be a character-driven film. He really wanted it to be more about the events.”
—Judith Ehrlich, The East Bay Monthly, February, 2010
“We had a difficult relationship. When you’re doing a documentary film, whose story is it? The person making the film. It’s not Dan’s story, even though it’s a story about Dan. I always felt like there was a pitfall that we had to avoid, and that was [not] to seem like it was Dan telling his story.”
—Rick Goldsmith, The East Bay Monthly, February, 2010
Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein confer on the set of Howl.
“We did some things with makeup to emphasize the wideness of [James Franco’s] face rather than the longness of his face, and pushed his ears out a little, and dyed his hair. That’s it. The rest is entirely him. His body language just sort of becomes Allen [Ginsberg]. Lots of people think of Allen as the older, larger version. People don’t really know the young Allen. He was 30 when he wrote the poem. One of the things we did before we met James was send him a DVD of still photos of Allen from that period, so he could see immediately that it wasn’t such a stretch.”
—Jeffrey Friedman, co-director of Howl, Spinning Platters, September 17, 2010
“I’ve witnessed a lot of remarkable things in my life--in Washington, D.C. trailing my father (Arthur Liman, chief counsel for the Senate’s Iran-Contra hearings) and having a front-row seat for ‘Brangelina’—and nothing has impressed me more than watching Sean Penn with Joe Wilson and watching Sean’s process. He was always studying Joe, even during a casual conversation and slowly this metamorphosis took place where Sean was literally sucking up the essence of Joe Wilson and literally becoming just like him. It was literally like watching some kind of horror movie. At a certain moment he could just kill Joe and step into his shoes and not even Valerie Plame would know that there was a switch that just took place. It was extraordinary to watch.”
—Doug Liman, Examiner, November 7, 2010
“Look, my job is to manipulate an audience without my audience feeling like they’re being manipulated.”
—Todd Solondz, New York magazine, July 11, 2010
“We’ve always thought of our documentary films as narrative films, so when people say [Howl] is our first narrative film, we have to hedge a bit because we’ve considered all our films to be narrative. This is our first scripted film, our first scripted film with actors, so we have to qualify that. But I think both forms inform each other, and that’s why it was so exciting for us to experience that.”
—Rob Epstein, Spinning Platters, September 17, 2010
“I’d love to make a movie like the Bourne films. I would find it extremely enjoyable and a very socially useful thing to do. Entertaining hundreds of millions of people, what’s wrong with that? I would love to do that. I still want to make documentaries, but I think in my ideal world I would alternate between the two.”
—Charles Ferguson, SF360.org, October 18, 2010
“I've been in San Francisco almost 14 years, and when I began preparing to shoot All About Evil I began running into other local filmmakers who told me how hard it was for them to make a movie in San Francisco. Once the challenges were pointed out about permits, parking and a lot of the frustrations that are unique to this city, in contrast to how other cities do it and the incentives and encouragements other cities offer, then it began to sink in more. How much a cop costs per hour in San Francisco versus another city were things I never knew before, but now I do from looking at a budget with producers and trying to figure it out. So there is a part of me that feels we should start a proposition that says local filmmakers should get special rights because we pay taxes and we live here and we're artists from San Francisco. You would sign that proposition, right?
—Joshua Grannell (aka Peaches Christ), The Evening Class, April 9, 2010
Gail Dolgin (right) with collaborator Vincente Franco, circa 2002/Courtesy of American Experience.
“As filmmakers we often find ourselves in situations in which we need to decide what's more important: to get the shot, or to preserve the privacy of our protagonist's intimacy. And we have to decide as we go, often without time to deliberate. We hope that in moments in which there is no time to make rational decisions, we can trust our intuitive integrity. We like to believe that filmmakers are no different from any other human being and as human beings we all have the obligation to be ethical.”
—Gail Dolgin (1945-2010)
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