How did we end up here?
Riggan (Michael Keaton) in Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
By his own admission filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu was a “terrible student,” a college dropout, and a street musician who knew he wasn’t good enough to have career in music. So what road did he take to become the three-time Oscar-winner of Birdman (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay)? He worked for a radio station in Mexico for five years where for three hours everyday he entertained listeners with stories, characters, and political satire between songs. At age 21 he was the director of the radio station. He then moved into television where he made “terrible things that I will never show.” But he got hands on experience producing, directing, editing and “failing.”
In one of his failures was the seeds to his Oscar awards. With another writer he began writing a screenplay about a silent film director who is beginning to lose his image when he looks in the mirror. It was a battle between his evil self, but Iñárritu said, “I could never really nail it right.”
He also studied acting for three years, directed shorts films and TV programs along the way. By the time he started working on Amore Perros (2000) he already had “10 years of commercial directing” (and don’t forget the five years of working on the radio program). It also took a three years for Amore Perros to get produced.
Two projects on the internet reflecting Iñárritu’s non-feature work are The Things That Connect Us he directed for Facebook, and Naran Ja basically non-stop, cutting in camera experimental project shot “with a video camera from the 80s.”
An early Birdman influence was the book El túnel (The Tunnel) by Argentina writer Ernesto Sabato about a deranged painter that was first published in 1948.
“[The Tunnel] was written with no dots or commas and I read it maybe thirty years ago and I remember that it always impressed me. And I always had this idea to make something like that—a non-stop ride…I have been meditating the last four years and by meditate you observe much more clearly the mechanics of your own voice—which we all have. Basically to observe, not to change. Mediate is just that, to observe what’s going on. And I thought it would be interesting to take all these things and in the moment I got that first idea I remember truly by some thing the first image that I took and the first meeting I had with [co-writers Nicolás Giacobone and Alexander Dinelaris] in New York, I said guys, ‘Interior, Dressing Room, Day— a middle age man is floating in his underpants’…I knew it was about him getting in that state of mind battling with his evil that will become this voice…The process was one of those magical, very lucky strikes in a way that I have worked with Nicolás and [Armando Bo—the fourth screenwriter on Birdman] on Biutiful so we knew eachother. And then I invited Alexander, so I thought that the the three of them would be the best worse idea to make a comedy, because if you know the work of Alexander, Nicolás or me you will never think that we will be able to work in a comedy because our work doesn’t show humor at all. But because of that I thought this was a perfect bad idea.”
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
The Q&A Interview podcast with Jeff Goldsmith
Note: Iñárritu mentions on the podcast that Birdman was not ha-ha comedy, but tragic-comedy.
Where Do Ideas Come From (A+B=C)
Filmmaking Quote #42 (Iñárritu)
‘Keep Your Head Down’ Jeff Goldsmith interview with Diablo Cody
Legacy Filmmaking (& Your Bank Account) “They’re never going to talk about your bank account when you’re dead, but they will talk about maybe the movies you left behind if you really cared about what you did.”—Franl Darabont
Earn Your Ending (Tip #76) Jeff Goldsmith interview with Edward Burns