“Art is not only a vehicle for self-expression or exclusively for the pursuit of the spiritual. From the very beginning, drawing an animal on the wall of a cave—you would be able to control the animal and this magic would help the tribe.”
Art is Work
(Popularly known as the artist who designed the I “Heart” New York logo.)
“Creative expression is not logical, circumspect, intelligent, or responsible; it’s illogical, unreasonable, manic, and irresponsible, especially as an activity preoccupying grown women and men. Is screenwriting any different from the other arts? Yes. It’s crazier.”
Essentials of Screenwriting
This is part 6 of an interview I did with Richard Walter, Chairman of the UCLA Screenwriting program.
SS: The is no question that Hollywood is the major leagues. But now that digital cameras have gotten better and cheaper, I see a new crop of filmmakers popping up all over the county (and the world) who are starting to make their own films outside the Hollywood system. Then you have traditional Hollywood-types such as Edward Burns making smaller films (Nice Guy Johnny; 10 day shoot/$25,000. deferred budget) and self-distributing them on iTunes and finding an audience. Do you see a new league rising up? The entrepreneurial filmmaker who writes, produces, and distributes his or her own films outside mainstream Hollywood.
Richard Walter: I think the least interesting films being made are major Hollywood movies. They are not really movies that stand alone, but they are parts of franchises. George Lucas —it’s not his fault, I wouldn’t have done it any differently—started it all with Star Wars in 1977. That was an important year.
As big as Star Wars was, and it was the biggest thing ever in terms of ticket sales , still that was pretty small when compared to the ancillary considerations with the toys.
So suddenly the actual movie became only one component in a package—in a cluster of other considerations. And that has to have a suffocating influence on the imagination.
I see much more interesting stuff on cable TV than I see in theaters. I haven’t seen a movie recently in theaters as good as the last episode of Mad Men from the third season, or some of the best stuff on the Sopranos.
And as you said, now that it’s become cheaper and cheaper to make a movie, and because of the internet, distribution is now available to anybody— The question is how do you get people’s attention and so on. You have to be clever about that.
But it doesn’t need to be a blockbuster success—nothing wrong with a blockbuster success like Avatar—but it’s not all there is. To me it’s not as interesting as what you just decribed that Burns is doing. Absolutely, that’s a much more interesting way to go.
You don’t need to be a trillionaire. If you can get by and be sort of comfortable I think you can have a much more satisfactory life artistically and every other way if you don’t focus on this very narrow arena called mainstream Hollywood.
SS: When I was in college, I remember a photography instructor in Florida telling me that he felt fortunate to just be able to make a living in the arts. And as I’ve gotten to know working artists in Iowa I find that they’re not encumbered like many screenwriters in that they are not trying to get rich and famous—that rarely happens for most artists— but they’re simply working on their craft and content to earn a living. Do you think it would be healthier for most screenwriters and filmmakers if they had a more artist-like mentality?
Richard Walter: If you can modestly survive and work with your imagination and create narrative what can be better than that? What’s there not to like about that?
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