31 Questions for New Filmmakers – Part II

Here are my answers to Ted Hope’s second set of questions, which relate to The Love of Cinema.

What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualitiesthat make a film better for you?

It’s almost too hard to quantify.  I would love to say – the cinematography, theacting, the shot choices, the sound, the visual effects, the music… but I wouldput the writing and the story above all of those. Did I connect with the movie?  A great film for me is one that I don’t want toend.   It definitely happens and it is amagical feeling.   I think of a movielike Once, which was so simple, butit just hit a special nerve.

What films have been the most inspiring or influential to youand why?
Everyone in this business has a filmthey saw and said to themselves, ‘I can do that’.  There were two for me – Brothers McMullen andPi.  Pi because it was so engrossing andso different – and yet cost so little (comparatively).  Brothers McMullen was special for the samereasons, but also because I’m from almost the same background as Ed Burns.Irish Catholics from Long Island – and the movie was not only a world I know,but a world I lived in.
Over and above those, the two that hadthe most profound effect on the stories I want to tell and how I want to tellthem would be Good Will Hunting and Star Wars. I want to make films that spawn worlds like Star Wars, and I can onlyhope to achieve that level of filmmaking (the first three, not the most recentthree).  It is epic filmmaking at itsbest.  And Good Will Hunting was just aperfect movie in so many ways.  It lookedgreat, the score was amazing, the performances were all as good as can be – andthe script was tight and refreshing and spellbinding.  I didn’t want that movie to end.  I remember seeing it for the first time in atheater while at Villanova and his red car races down the highway and I wasthinking, ‘Please don’t end.  Not yet.’
When you get angry at a movie, what sets you off? Are therecommon qualities in cinema today that you dislike? Is there something you tryto subvert or avoid or rebel against in your work?

Over exposition.  I am a fan of subtlety.  I really like Black Swan (I’m an Aronofskyapologist), but there were moments I could have done without – such asdescribing to us (at the beginning) what the play – and thus the movie – was about.  Don’t tell me what’s coming.  Let me figure it out for myself.  I think there is a lot of this in cinematoday – playing to the lowest common denominator.  I try to not do this in my writing.  I know that at some point things need to beexplained – but I guess I’m guilty of erring on the side of not explaining toomuch.
We are all here presumably partially because we LOVEcinema.  How did your love for movies get sparked and what can we—as acommunity—do to help others discover a similar pleasure?

I watched a lot of movies growing upin the 80’s.  A lot of John Hughes andSavage Steve Holland movies.  They shapedwho I was as much as any other factor. We were lucky enough to have HBO when I was growing up (it wasn’t asprevalent in homes as it is today) and if anyone from that decade remembers,they used to play movies over and over and over again.  Movies like Better Off Dead, North Shore and –my favorite film of all time – Rad. These became part of my childhood, and eventually adulthood – quotednonstop between my family and friends.  Ialso have fond memories of watching a lot of old movies with my dad.  For some reason he rarely watches new movies,but was always watching black and whites from back in the day.  I didn’t really even know what I was watchingat the time, but as I fell in love with movies in my late teens, early twenties– this appreciation definitely came pouring out and shaped what movies Igravitated towards.
Helping others?  I guess by sharing the movies you love.  I am constantly recommending movies tofriends.  If someone asks me what theyshould watch, even if I love a recent studio release – I will recommend alittle known gem in the hopes that it sticks and they at least watch it at somepoint.

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