I’m halfway through My First Movie (Amazon US, UK), interviews with directors about making their first features, and it’s great stuff. Their single-minded determination makes me realise I’ll never make a movie myself. From the introduction:
They went on because they could conceive of no alternative. PJ Hogan said the alternative to directing was the dole. Ang Lee said there were only ever two things he could do in life. Cook and direct. Directing was better paid than cooking so he directed. Even if this is faintly disingenuous it raises a serious point. What separates those who do it from those who talk about doing it isn’t just talent or luck. It is the inability to do or even conceive of doing anything else and the willingness to continue along your chosen path until you find a chink in the wall; until someone finally gives you a chance.
Tom DiCillo was one of those directors who could see no alternative when he was trying to get his first movie, Johnny Suede off the ground:
A lot of things were driving me at this point. I’d been to film school but I hadn’t made a movie. I felt I had a lot of potential but I just wasn’t realizing it. That was probably one of the main motivations in my life. Tom, what are you doing? If you’re going to do it, do it! After a certain amount of time, there isn’t going to be any more time. So if you have these hopes and these dreams, fuck it, you’re going to have to do it! My naivety protected me from the disappointments, the complete impossibility of things. I essentially worked for free for four years. It was like blind faith.
But then occasionally you get people like the Coen brothers:
Joel Coen: But these things [playing around with making movies when young] are sometimes just pursuing what might be a casual interest in the path of least resistance. Even the decision to go to film school. Something that strikes you at that moment as being a bit more interesting that something else. It’s not as if you really know what you’re going to do with it. Or if you’re going to do something with it.
Which probably best sums up my career so far, “pursuing a casual interest in the path of least resistance”.