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Posts Tagged ‘Les Blank’

“Perseverance has kept me going over the years. Things rarely happen overnight. Filmmakers should be prepared for many years of hard work. The sheer toil can be healthy and exhilarating. Although for many years I lived hand to mouth — sometimes in semi-poverty — I have lived like a rich man ever since I started making films. Throughout my life I have been able to do what I truly love, which is more valuable than any cash you could throw at me. At a time when friends were establishing themselves by getting university degrees, going into business, building careers and buying houses, I was making films, investing everything back into my work. Money lost, film gained.”
Filmmaker Werner Herzog (who was a welder in a steel mill before making films)
Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed
Conversations with Paul Cronin
via Maria Popova at Brain Pickings

P.S. If you want to see perseverance in action watch Fitzcarraldo (1982) written, directed and co-produced by Herzog. Then follow that viewing with the Les Blank documentary Burden of Dreams on the making of Fitzcarraldo.

Related posts:
Filmmaker Les Blank (1935-2013)
Orson Welles at USC in 1981 (Part 3) “Anybody who goes into film has to be a little crazy. And has to be ready for every kind of disappointment and defeat.”—Welles
Bob DeRosa’s “Shortcuts” — “There are no shortcuts. There is only hard work. Perseverance….”—DeRosa
Iowa Kutcher on Jobs/Work “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”—Steve Jobs

Scott W. Smith

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“I think he’s a national treasure.”
Director Taylor Hackford on Les Blank 

“As his work testifies, [Les]Blank has made a fine art out of making a personal connection with diverse people. He works through the lens, behind the camera, never drawing attention to himself. He makes friends with his subjects, spends weeks with them and acknowledges their dignity.”
A Well-Spent Life
DGA Quarterly/Spring 2013 Betsy Mclane

When Les Blank died last month he left behind a 50-year library of documentary films. Many of which gave an unusual glimpse into life in the United States. Roger Ebert called him, “A brilliant filmmaker,” he received  a Special Jury Award at Sundance one year, and received  a lifetime achievement award from AFI.

In the post Les Blank’s start, I found a quote where he said in an interview, “When I got out of film school, I had a hard time getting into the show business end of the media in Hollywood. I wasn’t a very good fit.” I’m not sure how many of his classmates went on to have a career in Hollywood, but I imagine Blank is the only one who had a filmmaking career than spanned five decades.

Scott W. Smith

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“You go out and find some interesting people. You get to know them and film them, and you make something that says something about who they are; you learn to make movies that have some meaning.”
Filmmaker Les Blank (Burden of Dreams)
A Well Spent Life by Betsy Mclane
DGA Quarterly Spring 2012

Scott W. Smith

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Filmmaker Les Blank’s Start

“When I went to do graduate work, I had the desire to be a film director of fiction films. I didn’t have any camera skills. I didn’t actually pick up the camera until I got out of Tulane and into USC in Los Angeles. There, I started learning about still and film photography.

When I got out of film school, I had a hard time getting into the show business end of the media in Hollywood. I wasn’t a very good fit. I also had a wife who was pregnant and needed to be fed. So I got a job doing industrial films and learned how to put together non-fiction film projects for industries and corporations and training films for the military.

Also, when I had been at film school, I saw some ethnographic films that got me very interested – Nanook of the Northand a film called The Hunters by John Marshall. He came to the classroom, to talk about his work and I thought that was a very interesting way to use one’s time and interests and talent – to go live with people, especially those so different from us, and then, to take the film around and show it and talk to audiences.

These things stuck in my mind.”
Filmmaker Les Blank
Tom Davenport interview with Les Blank

Before Les went on win lifetime achievement awards from AFI and the International Documentary Society he did what he could, where he was, with what he had on his way to a 50+ year career in filmmaking. That included honing his filmmaking skills working on corporate, industrial, and military films. He died last month at the age of 77.

Scott W. Smith

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