Walter Murch

“If you look at the decades, the fastest editing ever in a motion picture was Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov’s film from 1929. There’s a section of the film that’s so rapidly cut that you just kind of had to stand back the way you look at fireworks. We, meaning in the larger sense, are investigating the borderline between effect and comprehensibility. And it’s clear that, to achieve a certain effect, this kind of fireworks in editing—you can do that, but you lose comprehensibility. Things are happening on the screen and maybe you’ll capture a thing here or there. For brief periods of time this is fine in any film. But as a general principle, it’s something to be wary of. Without question, music videos and commercials and even videos you see in clothing stores on video-screens, have all affected the way we see edited images, and they’ve worked their way into the theaters. And we’re looking at films on very different mediums, on iPhones or 20-meter screens in a movie palace, or on virtual reality goggles. So all of those are very different formats, and yet at the moment we have to edit as if they are all the same. This creates dissonances with the rate of cutting… The experience of watching feature motion pictures in theaters is barely one hundred years old. Birth of a Nation came out in 1915, and it’s 2015. And I’ve been working in films for half that time. We’re still learning how to do this, and adapting to different circumstances, so it’s natural for the pendulum to swing far in one direction, and then far in the opposite direction. Iñárritu’s film last year had no edits in it, at all, there were technically concealed edits in there, but the experience of watching it was that there were no cuts whatsoever.”
~ Walter Murch, as always, on editing

~ Tom Rothman

“What keeps me up at night is that the movie business has become what I call binary. The highs and the upside on movies that penetrate the consciousness, and hit the pop culture zeitgeist, is enormous. It’s higher than it’s ever been. But the flip is also true. You have really, terrifically great movies which are being totally ignored.The myth that movies are redeemed in ancillary markets is really not true. If they ignore it in the theater, they’re going to ignore it later. You’re dead, and then you’re deader.”
~ Tom Rothman

Richard Shepard on SPOTLIGHT

“I love the feeling of walking out of a movie theater after seeing a great film. The outside world seems muted, foreign. Your head spins with ideas, thoughts and energy. Sometimes it’s a movie as epic as Apocalypse Now, which I saw as a 14-year-old and left the theater wanting nothing more than to be a film director. Or sometimes it’s as haunting and small as last year’s Ida, after which I was in a quiet state of shock. Whatever it is, there are certain movies which hit a cinematic sweet spot. You feel like you’re floating. Viscerally alive from the caffeine-like jolt of experiencing something special. Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight isn’t as grand or great as Apocalypse Now or as beautiful and moving as Ida, but it left me heady with love of what great movies can do. It’s extremely well written, exquisitely acted, and paced, structured and edited with a finely tuned precision. It’s a thriller, a smart newspaper drama and an important and vital exposé of a clouded, horrible conspiracy of silence. But it’s also something more—what exactly? It’s a big idea movie, told in the smallest details. It’s full of the filmmaker’s love of the history of movies, as much as it is itself a movie for us to love. It’s whip-smart, full of conviction and passion. It’s why we go to the movies.”
Richard Shepard

Lawrence Kasdan on Star Wars’ new hope

“The feeling we wanted was from the first trilogy. It’s fun, it’s delightful, it moves like a sonofabitch, and you don’t question too much. On the first day, I said, look: Delight, that’s the word. In every scene, that should be the criterion we’re using. Does it delight?”
~ Lawrence Kasdan on Star Wars‘ new hope

Todd Haynes

“Film is the ultimate illusory property, that concocts these exquisite, intoxicating fantasies. And yet it’s all unreal. And we desperately want film to be real, and keep talking about it in terms of reality, because it seems to depict real life more directly, more accurately, than any other medium. If anything, because of that, it’s more deceptive. So it has within it this parallel property that’s like in life—I think it can summon the deepest desires and then they’re just reflections on the wall. What, ultimately, that all leads to, and what one can never forget about movies is that they elicit emotion that is real in the viewer. But that’s the real part—what the viewer experiences. It’s not what the movie does on its own autonomously.”
~ Todd Haynes

To the Film Industry in Crisis, Frank O’Hara

To the Film Industry in Crisis

Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals
with your studious incursions toward the pomposity of ants,
nor you, experimental theatre in which Emotive Fruition is wedding Poetic Insight perpetually, nor you,
promenading Grand Opera, obvious as an ear (though you are close to my heart), but you, Motion Picture Industry, it’s you I love!

In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love.
And give credit where it’s due: not to my starched nurse, who taught me
how to be bad and not bad rather than good (and has lately availed
herself of this information), not to the Catholic Church which is at best an oversolemn introduction to cosmic entertainment,
not to the American Legion, which hates everybody, but to you, glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous Cinemascope,
stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all
your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms!
Long may you illumine space with your marvellous appearances, delays
and enunciations, and may the money of the world glitteringly cover you
as you rest after a long day under the kleig lights with your faces
in packs for our edification, the way the clouds come often at night
but the heavens operate on the star system. It is a divine precedent
you perpetuate! Roll on, reels of celluloid, as the great earth rolls on!

~ Frank O’Hara, “To the Film Industry in Crisis”

Jeffrey Katzenberg, Accepting the Sid Grauman Award at 29th Annual American Cinematheque Tribute

Life’s distractions are sealed off outside those four walls, as our field of vision becomes filled with the vision of the filmmaker. Dramas have more impact, thrillers have more thrills, comedies have more funny. And every once in a while at the end, we do something remarkable: We applaud. We don’t applaud at our televisions. We don’t applaud at our iPads. But, after a great movie, we applaud. That’s the power of the moviegoing experience. Today, we may live in an era in which we can own any movie we wish. But, in the theater, movies own us.
~ Jeffrey Katzenberg, Accepting the Sid Grauman Award at 29th Annual American Cinematheque Tribute

Rudolf Arnheim, 1935

“One of the tasks of the film critic of tomorrow—perhaps he will even be called a ‘television critic’—will be to rid the world of the comic figure the average film critic and film theorist of today represents: he lives from the glory of his memories like the 70-year-old ex-court actresses, rummages about as they do in yellowing photographs, speaks of names that are long gone. He discussses films no one has been able to see for ten years or more (and about which they can therefore say everything and nothing) with people of his own ilk; he argues about montage like medieval scholars discussed the existence of God, believing all these things could still exist today. In the evening, he sits with rapt attention in the cinema, a critical art lover, as through we still lived in the days of Griffith, Stroheim, Murnau and Eisenstein. He thinks he is seeing bad films instead of understanding that what he sees is no longer film at all.”
~ Rudolf Arnheim, 1935

Paul Schrader, “The Cleopatra Club”

“Forty years in the ink-stained trenches. Opining on subjects great and small. Reviews, sidebars, Q&As, roundtables, think pieces, capsules, colloquiums, take-outs, personality profiles, interviews, on set reportage, radio talk shows, TV sound bites, best ten lists, best all-time comedies, all-time dramas, all-time villains, filmographies, obits, box office projections, box office updates, box office reports, box office evaluations, year-end box office wrap-ups. That’s what got me down more than anything else, that and the movies, of course. Who could watch such movies? One-line gimmicks, cartoon heroes, vulgar comedies, sentimental expressions of previously held beliefs, inspirational stories with the depth of a bumper sticker, special effects extravaganzas, tell ‘em what they’re gonna see, show it to ‘em, tell them what they saw, can’t anyone give the viewer credit for at least having some ideas, have some respect for the entertainment contract!”
~ Paul Schrader, “The Cleopatra Club”

“The way I did this movie with Mark Lee was the way I always work. We just did long takes every time. Decisions were only made during editing. I tried to preserve the long take as much as I could, and I would only edit if it would clarify certain things, if the way the film was assembled demanded that I cut. Otherwise, I would just preserve the long take. The camera was actually only in one position, and we would only change angles or move the camera around if we somehow felt this was necessary. Otherwise, we would not bother. The only things that required a lot of cutting was the action scenes. The reason is the actors were not professional fighters or martial artists, and not used to doing this kind of thing. So we had to break everything up into bits and pieces just to help them out. But if they were actually professional fighters and martial artists — people who are very good at this thing — I may have well as shot the action scenes in one continuous take as well. Who knows. In terms of my editing philosophy, the fact that we edited digitally made no difference. The most important part of editing digitally is that it makes the work move much faster. Before we were editing on flatbeds and Steenbecks, but editing digitally allowed us to put the scene together much faster than we used to. The director of editing is my old editor, Liao Ching-song, but the actual editor of the film, who I was putting the film together with, is a woman named Huang Chih-chia. She was actually my script supervisor — she was the person on set documenting and recording everything. She knew the film inside out: the flow of it, the parts of it, what was in each scene and so on. And she’s also very young, and young people are very good with new technology, so she was very capable of using new technology and digital media to put the film together. So I worked with her to put the film together, and then Liao Ching-song came in to supervise the editing process for once we put a cut together for certain sequences or things we wanted to show him. If everyone felt good about it, we would move on.”
~ Hou Hsiao-hsien on cutting The Assassin

Jason Blum

“But first, Blum must get them to agree to his price. He escorts potential filmmakers to the main lobby, where there’s a collection of framed pictures of every Blumhouse director. There’s also a mirror in an identical frame. Blum guides directors over and says, “Look here.” (Actually, he has two mirrors at different heights in case someone is short.) Then he gives them a speech. “I say, ‘You’re going to have the final word on everything, but I’m going to have a bunch of ideas. You don’t have to follow them.’ As soon as you tell a director that, the phone rings in five minutes. They’re suddenly insecure. They are desperate for your ideas when they know they don’t have to do them. One of the problems with Hollywood filmmaking is that the director spends a lot of energy trying to figure out how they’re going to maneuver people to get what they want. When they know they’re going to ultimately get what they want, the whole process is a million times better.”
~ Jason Blum On The Blumhouse Pitch

Robert Bresson

“The eye solicited alone makes the ear impatient, the ear solicited alone makes the eye impatient. Use these impatiences. Power of the cinematographer who appeals to the two senses in a governable way.

“Against the tactics of speed, of noise, set tactics of slowness, of silence.”
― Robert Bresson

Raymond Chandler, “The Long Goodbye”

“I like bars just after they open for the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny and the barkeep is giving himself that last look in the mirror to see if his tie is straight and his hair is smooth. I like the neat bottles on the bar back and the lovely shining glasses and the anticipation. I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and put the little folded napkin beside it. I like to taste it slowly. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar–that’s wonderful.”
~ Raymond Chandler, “The Long Goodbye”

Danny Boyle

“The facts are the least you can rely on sometimes… It’s interesting, the redemption. I think it was maybe Raymond Chandler who said, “Every work of art has a quality of redemption to it.” And when you’ve been on this journey with him, I think it’s earned. And it’s accurate because [Jobs and Lisa] had a tempestuous relationship but they were reconciled. This is what Lisa spoke to Aaron about, that Jobs did mellow. It didn’t happen the way we do it. But we wanted it to feel like this is how it could have happened. It’s Shakespearean, really. He has flaws like us all. And he’s lucky as well, because he gets to acknowledge them, and he gets a bit of self-knowledge, and he’s able to admit to her that, despite making beautiful things, he himself is poorly made. And that clearly haunted him in his life, and you can see him fighting it early on.
~ Danny Boyle

“We now have a situation where audiences very often prefer commercial trash to Bergman’s Persona or Bresson’s L’Argent. Professionals find themselves shrugging, and predicting that serious, significant works will have no success with the general public. What is the explanation? Decline of taste or impoverishment of repertoire? Neither and both. It is simply that cinema now exists, and is evolving, under new conditions. That total, enthralling impression which once overwhelmed the audiences of the 1930s was explained by the universal delight of those who were witnessing and rejoicing over the birth of a new art form, which furthermore had recently acquired sound. By the very fact of its existence this new art, which displayed a new kind of wholeness, a new kind of image, and revealed hitherto unexplored areas of reality, could not but astound its audiences and turn them into passionate enthusiasts.

Less than twenty years now separate us from the twenty-first century. In the course of its existence, through its peaks and troughs, cinema has travelled a long and tortuous path. The relationship that has grown up between artistic films and the commercial cinema is not an easy one, and the gulf between the two becomes wider every day. Nonetheless, films are being made all the time that are undoubtedly landmarks in the history of cinema. Audiences have become more discerning in their attitude to films. Cinema as such long ago ceased to amaze them as a new and original phenomenon; and at the same time it is expected to answer a far wider range of individual needs. Audiences have developed their likes and dislikes. That means that the filmmaker in turn has an audience that is constant, his own circle. Divergence of taste on the part of audiences can be extreme, and this is in no way regrettable or alarming; the fact that people have their own aesthetic criteria indicates a growth of self-awareness.

Directors are going deeper into the areas which concern them. There are faithful audiences and favorite directors, so that there is no question of thinking in terms of unqualified success with the public—that is, if one is talking about cinema not as commercial entertainment but as art. Indeed, mass popularity suggests what is known as mass culture, and not art.”
~ Andrei Tarkovsky, “Sculpting In Time”

Homemakers’ Colin Healey On Indie Distribution

“People seem to be watching [fewer] movies, which I think is a mistake on people’s parts, and they seem to be making more of them, which I think is okay. Some of these movies are very good. When you look at the quality of Sundance movies right now, they are a lot better than they were when I was a kid. I do think that there have been improvements artistically, but it’s tough. We’ve got a system that’s built for less movies in terms of how many curatorial standard-bearers we have in the states. It’s time for us to expand our ideas of where we find our great films in America, but that said, it’s a real hustle. I’m so happy that Factory 25 exists. If it didn’t exist, there would be so many movies that wouldn’t ever get distributed because Matt Grady is the only person who has seen the commercial potential in them. He’s preserving a very special moment in independent film history that the commercial system is not going to be preserving. He’s figuring out how to make enough money on it to save these films and get them onto people’s shelves.”
~ Homemakers‘ Colin Healey On Indie Distribution

Xan Brooks Lunches With Christoph Waltz

“Christoph Waltz is having the monkfish, steamed spinach on the side. He arranges his napkin with an old-world formality, every inch the cultured, mittel-European émigré: perfectly laundered in a cream linen suit, accent as sharp as the bread knife. He might have sprung fully formed from a novel by Nabokov or Thomas Mann. He takes a sip of the wine and finds it to his liking. He has sampled success and is quite fond of that, too. ‘It would be completely laughable if I claimed I was always motivated by the pure craft of acting and that recognition doesn’t play a part,’ he says. ‘Of course it does–that’s human nature. The bohemian artist who exists only for his art, it’s a myth. OK, it might have been true for Giacometti, but it certainly wasn’t for Picasso or Mozart. There is no such thing as pure art. It’s a bourgeois conceit.'”
~ Xan Brooks Lunches With Christoph Waltz

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“To me, there was a deep confusion that still persists,” Morris told the crowd, “and I don’t know what you can do to disabuse people of this notion. I suppose you could hit them in the head with a large piece of lumber, but I’m not sure that would do the trick. It’s a simple rule: Style doesn’t guarantee truth. Truth is something far more elusive. Truth is a quest; you pursue truth. You go after it, you try to uncover it, because we all know that we live in a sea of falsehood. I mean, there shouldn’t be any tool that should be unavailable to you in the pursuit of truth.”
~ Errol Morris

“I hang out with highbrow people and I have on certain occasions earned my living with non-highbrow people. I don’t know what I am. A highbrow wannabe? I’m a groupie of intellectuals. I try to hang around them but maybe I am a clown who enjoys the company of intellectuals. Or maybe I’m a semi-intellectual who likes to hang out with clowns.”
~ Wallace Shawn