Next week I’m doing Prof stuff.
As some of you might know, I’m an Adjunct Professor up at the Queensland University of Technology, in their Creative Industries / Screen Studies faculty. This is my fourth year. It’s a part time gig, and my way of giving something back to the industry – in particular film students.
Each year around this time the film course has their student end of year “pitches,” where the students have to pitch to a panel – myself and two other industry professionals – and we determine what films get made the next year.
For me it’s a fascinating process because I’m able to see what stories young people are playing with – and how they’re attempting to interpret them cinematically.
It keeps me young!
Last year veteran producer Tony Buckley was on the judging panel with me, and like me, he lamented the students’ lack of knowledge of film history and culture. It seemed that most of their knowledge of cinema starts with Tarantino and Pulp Fiction.
Very few had a knowledge of the cinema classics of the 40’s and 50’s – and even the great films from the golden era of Hollywood in the 70s were largely unknown to them.
We’re talking masterpieces such as The Godfather Pts 1&2, The French Connection Pts 1&2, Chinatown, The Exorcist, Network, Patton, The Conversation, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, and my favourite film from the 70’s, Roman Polanski’s The Tenant…. I could go on and on.
Ask the students about the work of Billy Wilder, John Ford, Joseph Mankiewicz, Vincente Minnelli, John Huston, Howard Hawks, Fred Zinnemann, Hal Ashby – even Alfred Hitchcock – and they’ll stare at you blankly. There’s no point even mentioning Antonioni, Kurosawa, Renoir, Bunuel, Bertolucci, Jean Luc Godard, Samuel Fuller, Bergman, Fellini…
Plus, most of the students won’t watch black and white films. So that excludes them from the classics such as Casablanca, All about Eve, The Apartment, Sunset Boulevard, Paths of Glory, High Noon, Marty, etc…
There’s so much to learn from the work of past masters. And yet a lot of young people feel that what’s current is most important. And so they’ll talk about JJ Abrams and Robert Rodriguez and perhaps Paul Thomas Anderson – and yes their hero, Quentin Tarantino.
Tarantino is a good case in point. He knows his cinema. He’s a walking encyclopaedia on cinema. He knows the classics, plus he knows the most obscure art films and B grade schlock. Talk to him about the French New Wave and he could rattle on for hours about Truffaut and Godard and Breathless, and Jules & Jim, and The 400 Blows, and Contempt … these are films that influenced that great American directors that were to come.
It’s the same with Paul Thomas Anderson, who I believe is currently one of the world’s great auteurs. His films Magnolia and There will be Blood I would put as amongst the best movies of the past twenty five years.
Tarantino and Anderson are making some movies that will last. So too the bigger names – Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorcese, James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis – these guys know their cinema and have studied the classics over and over. But they love movies. That’s the thing. These great filmmakers love movies.
Often I’ll ask the students when was the last time they went to the movies – and I’ll find that very few actually go to the cinema to watch films. They might download movies, and watch on their laptops – but most don’t even do that.
If you’re doing a tertiary course on filmmaking and you aren’t really interested in films, then what are your chances of success in a highly competitive industry?
You gotta love it.
And breathe it
And dream it
And live it.
Same with anything really.
If you want to be good at something, it requires complete and utter immersion.
I’m looking forward to seeing the students next week, and hearing their pitches. I’m also looking forward to catching up with old Camino buddies – Greg & Donna, and Angie & Ken.
They did the Camino Portuguese tour with us last year, and we’ve become very good friends. For the occasion, I’m taking up some white port…