Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tarkovsky and Herzog on Film Schools and life.

"What is important to the education of a filmmaker is not a matter learning a set of skills and techniques, but having a vital, passionate need to express something unique and personal. Above all, the student has to understand why he wants to become a filmmaker rather than work in some other art form and he has to ponder what he wants to say in film's unique form of expression. "In recent years I have met more and more young people who go to film school to prepare themselves to do "what they have to do" (as they say in Russia) or "to make a living" (as they say in Europe and America). This is tragic. Learning to use the equipment and edit a movie is child's play; anyone can learn that without half-trying. But learning how to think independently, learning how to be an individual, is entirely different from learning "how to do" something. Learning how to say something unique and different is a skill that no one can force you to master. And to go down that path is to shoulder a burden that is not merely difficult, but at times impossible to bear. But there is no other way to become an artist. You have to go for broke. You must risk everything in your quest to express a personal truth. It must be all or nothing. "The man who has stolen in order never to thieve again is forever a thief. Nobody who has once betrayed his principles can have a pure relationship with life ever again. When a filmmaker says he will try to please people - relatives, friends, teachers, or reviewers -- this time in order to get a degree or earn the money to make the film of his dreams the next time, he is lying to you, or even worse, lying to himself. Once he heads down the path of deceit he will never be capable of making a real film." --Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, p. 124 (adapted and updated by Ray Carney)


 Werner Herzog on Film School "I personally don't believe in the kind of film schools you find all over the world today. I never worked as another filmmaker's assistant and I never had any formal training. My early films come from my very deepest commitment to what I was doing, what I felt I had no choice but to do, and as such they are totally unconnected to what was going on at the film schools - and cinemas - of the time. It's my strong autodidactic streak and my faith in my own work that have kept me going for more than forty years. "A pianist is made in childhood, a filmmaker at any age. I say this only because physically, in order to play the piano well, the body needs to be conditioned from a very early age. Real musicians have an innate feel for all music and all instruments, something that can be instilled only at an early age. Of course it's possible to learn to play the piano as an adult, but the intuitive qualities needed just won't be there.

As a young filmmaker I just read in an encyclopedia the fifteen or so pages on filmmaking. Everything I needed to get myself started came from this book. It has always seemed to me that almost everything you are forced to learn at school you forget in a couple of years. But the things you set out to learn yourself in order to quench a thirst, these are things you never forget. It was a vital early lesson for me, realizing that the knowledge gleaned from a book will suffice for the first week on the set, which is all the time needed to learn everything you need to know as a filmmaker. To this very day the technical knowledge I have is relatively rudimentary. But if there are things that seem too complicated, experiment; if you still can't master them, hire a technician.

 "Filmmaking is a more vulnerable journey than most other creative ventures. When you are a sculptor you have only one obstacle - a lump of rock - which you chisel away on. But filmmaking involves organization and money and technology, things like that. You might get the best shot of your life but if the lab mixes the developing solution wrongly then your shot is gone forever. You can build a ship, cast 5000 extras and plan a scene with your leading actors, and in the morning one of them has a stomach ache and can't go on set. These things happen, everything is interwoven and interlinked, and if one element doesn't function properly then the whole venture is prone to collapse. Filmmakers should be taught about how things will go wrong, about how to deal with these problems, how to handle a crew that is getting out of hand, how to handle a producing partner who won't pay up or a distributor who won't advertise properly, things like this. People who keep moaning about these kinds of problems aren't really suited for this line of business.

 "And, vitally, aspiring filmmakers have to be taught that sometimes the only way of overcoming problems involves real physicality. Many great filmmakers have been astonishingly physical, athletic people. A much higher percentage than writers or musicians. Actually, for some time now I have given some thought to opening a film school. But if I did start one up you would only be allowed to fill out an application form after you have walked alone on foot, let's say from Madrid to Kiev, a distance of about five thousand kilometres. While walking, write. Write about your experiences and give me your notebooks. I would be able to tell who had really walked the distance and who had not. While you are walking you would learn much more about filmmaking and what it truly involves than you ever would sitting in a classroom. During your voyage you will learn more about what your future holds than in five years at film school. Your experiences would be the very opposite of academic knowledge, for academia is the death of cinema. It is the very opposite of passion."


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