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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Independently Poor: Jon Jost, Errol Morris in the HerTrib

While John Clark‘s extended take-out in the Herald-Tribune eventually hits the fates of Sundance vets who want to be “independent” filmmakers but are stymied by the casting demands of the money men, it’s bracing to see him start the piece talking to, well, someone truly indie: “Jon Jost might be considered the epitome of the aging, alienated and aggrieved independent film director. He is sitting in a borrowed New poorjost-1234.jpgYork apartment in hand-me-down clothes, doesn’t have a place to live and has no visible means of support, other than a coming arts residency at the University of Nebraska.
“Most people from my generation became teachers long ago,” Jost said.” Across 40 years, “Jost, 63, has been making films on shoestring budgets with no-name casts that almost nobody outside of European film festivals ever sees. Perhaps the closest he has come to popular awareness was All the Vermeers in New York [which played on PBS]. Since then he spent a decade in Europe toiling away in relative obscurity and then moved to Montana, where for four years he scrounged from garbage cans and lived with a single mother and her daughter in one room with no heat or running water. His latest address was Portland, Oregon, where he stayed at the house of one of the actresses he cast in his most recent film, Homecoming, which he is still trying to find a festival home for domestically – forget about distribution. His income [comes] from selling DVDs of his work on the Internet. “I can’t say I’m happy not making a living after 40 years in the business… I’m not independently wealthy. I’m independently poor.” Clark cites many Usual Suspects and few surprises, but also gets this in: jost_126.jpga “filmmaker who has found both a lucrative and technically satisfying way to make a living outside his chosen profession is the documentarian Errol Morris.


Over the past decade, in addition to winning a best documentary Oscar for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara, he became what he describes as “an unlikely avatar of American business.” In other words, he directs commercials for Apple, Toyota, AT&T and Miller Brewing while making movies about mole-rat specialists and Holocaust deniers. Morris, 58, is one of the few independent filmmakers who have benefited from the turns the business has taken over the past two decades…. Now, of course, in part because of the success of his films… documentaries are the darlings of the indie world. Still, they won’t make Morris rich. Advertising may. It has also contributed to his skills and to… his films. On a Reebok commercial he [indulged] his interest in “shooting the world at alternate speeds” by playing with a high-speed digital camera. “Will I use that in my next movie?” he asked. “You betcha.” Morris is also not above using locations required by his advertising work to further his documentary aims… [F]or The Fog of War he needed to shoot a B-29. The only one available was appearing at an air show in Rockford, Illinois, so he asked his agent to get him a commercial in nearby Chicago. He did, for Quaker Oats, and the company has since become a steady client.” [More at the link; here’s Jost’s site.]

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“With every table in the dining room occupied and me, the only waiter, neglecting the needs of a good fifty patrons, I approached Roth. Holding out Balls as a numbness set into the muscles of my face, I spoke. “Sir, I’ve heard you say that you don’t read fiction anymore, but I’ve just had my first novel published and I’d like to give you a copy.”

“His eyes lifting from his iPhone, he took the book from my hands. He congratulated me. Then, staring at the cover, he said, “Great title. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself.”

“These words worked on me like a hit of morphine. Like two hits. It felt as if I was no longer the occupant of my own body. The legs had gone weak, the ears warmed, the eyes watered, the heart rate increased rapidly. Barely able to keep myself upright, I told him, “Thank you.”

“Then Roth, who, the world would learn sixteen days later, was retiring from writing, said, in an even tone, with seeming sincerity, “Yeah, this is great. But I would quit while you’re ahead. Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself. That’s my advice to you.”

“I managed, “It’s too late, sir. There’s no turning back. I’m in.”

“Nodding slowly, he said to me, “Well then, good luck.”

“After which I went back to work.”
~ Julian Tepper

“Any form of physical or sexual assault is a very serious matter, potentially a legal matter. But I’m also wondering, what about having some kind of “extreme asshole” clause? I know lots of people who have been abused verbally and psychologically. That’s traumatizing, too. What do we do with that?  It takes a lot of energy to be an asshole. The people I admire most just aren’t interested in things that take away from their ability to make stuff. The people I really respect, and that I’ve met who fit this definition, have a sense of grace about them, because they know that there is no evolving and there is no wisdom without humility. You can’t get better if you behave in a way that shuts people off. You can’t! You don’t have all the ideas necessary to solve something. You don’t! I’m sure if you spoke to Harvey in his heyday and said to him what I just said to you, he would believe that he accomplished all that he had because of the way he behaved.”
~ Steven Soderbergh