Encouraging Thoughts for Filmmakers From Douglas Sirk and Chris Seaver

Monday, July 20, 2009

Douglas Sirk Long ago I attended a MoMa tribute to the great Hollywood director Douglas Sirk (“Written on the Wind,” “Imitation of Life,” “All That Heaven Allows”) with the Maestro himself in attendance. It was a heady moment for me as I had loved Sirk’s movies since college and now I was meta-appreciating them through Fassbinder’s reinterpretations (“Fear Eats the Soul,” “Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven,” etc.)  And nowadays, younger people can find their way to Sirk through Todd Haynes’ “Far From Heaven.”  One of things that is so great about Sirk is how he has inspired so many filmmakers to adapt and shape his work to their own talents.

During the Q&A, somebody asked him, “Mr. Sirk, what do you think makes a good director?”

Sirk stopped to think and then answered quietly:   “Making movies is very hard. Very hard.  In my opinion anyone who makes a movie….is a good director.”

I’ve always loved that he said that.  It was so unexpected.  If he had said the usual baloney I would never remember it today.  Most people would find the idea crazy, ridiculous, filled with false humility, or even dangerous, but if you had been there, you would have known he was absolutely sincere.

And having tried to make movies myself, I’ve been forever grateful for what he said.  I may not have had the talent to make something good--but at least I tried. Or so I thought until recently.

Seaver Double FeatureLately I have been looking at a lot of online movies as I gear up for the launch of SpeedCine Beta.  My work involves going to Amazon VOD hundreds of times a day, where I am treated to the first two minutes of some of the most astonishingly bad movies I have ever seen.  After looking at a few hundred of these opening salvos of cinematic malignance,  a director like Chris Seaver starts to look like Orson Welles.   At least the auteur of “Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker!,”  “Anal Paprika 3: Menage-a-Death,”  “Filthy McNasty,”  “Heather and Puggly Drop a Deuce,” and “Terror at Blood Fart Lake,” knows how to conjure up a memorable title. 

There are thousands of movies that are turned down by every festival in the world each year.  Nobody in a position to curate ever found anything in them to praise.  In the past, they might as well have been languishing in outer space;  now they go on to glory on Createspace.

But as I said, at least they tried. And maybe if they keep trying, they’ll get better.  I think Robert Rodriguez said something like everybody has at least seven bad films in them.  But I think what he meant was you should wait before you hit number eight before you launch your marketing campaign.

Still, for better or for worse, no matter how much negative feedback you get, no matter how many film festivals turn down your movie, no matter  how much debt you get yourself in trying to express yourself….no matter what, it is an achievement that you had the perseverance to make a feature film.  You’re in a special club and no one can take it away from you.  Except for me right now.

But not Douglas Sirk.  He gives you props.

Rock Hudson & Jane Wyman in Sirk's "All That Heaven Allows"

I need a long rest after all those movies….