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There’s a really terrific profile of filmmaker Richard Linklater in this week’s New Yorker. (Here’s a podcast of the writer, Nathan Heller (@nathanheller), talking about Linklater’s work—the drawing above is something I doodled at SXSW in 2009.)
10 interesting things I discovered while reading the piece:
1. He started as a playwright, but watching movies helped him discover he could think in terms of images.
He was still writing short stories, and, as an exercise, tried adapting one into a screenplay. “I could see the whole movie in my head—all the shots and angles. I thought, Oh, I’ve got this visual thing.”
2. He went to college on a baseball scholarship
He recalls daydreaming in the outfield about how he wished he had more time to read. He then contracted an infection in his heart, and all the sudden, he was forbidden to play baseball. He spent the rest of his sophomore year staying up late in the college library, writing.
3. He quit college to work on an oil rig
If he wasn’t playing baseball, he’d have to make up the time in work-study employment, and he didn’t want to do that. A friend helped him get a summer job working on an oil rig. It paid well, and gave him many free hours to read and write, so Linklater asked if he could stay on that fall. He never returned to school.
4. In his early twenties, he watched 600 films a year
whenever he came back to the mainland, in Houston, he would watch movies: first two a day, then three, then four… “I felt I’d discovered something, like this whole world had opened up,“ he says. “I was greedy for it.”
5. He moved to Austin in 1983 with $18,000 in savings
He bought some film equipment and would “write, shoot, edit, and watch film eighteen hours a day.”
6. Slacker was filmed for $23,000
It got picked up for national distribution and eventually “made back more than fifty times its tiny budget.”
7. He re-writes his screenplays during rehearsal
He schedules a lot of rehearsal time—two solid weeks or so before production starts—and goes through each scene in an open-ended way, talking about character motivations and getting actors to riff. Most of the rehearsal time is spent rewriting the screenplay, line by line, drawing out and molding his work against performers’ strengths and styles.
8. He offers his stars percentage points instead of Hollywood fees
He calls this “betting on myself,” and if the bet is good, which it almost always is, it makes the director as free and self-sovereign as a novelist.
9. He lost most of his archives in the 2011 Bastrop wildfires
One of the few structures untouched by the fire was the library, a small two-story building clad with multicolored tile, where Linklater likes to write. The preservation of his work space was striking to him. By 2011, he had reached a phase of comfortable accomplishment… “I felt done,” he said… The blaze, in some peculiar way, demotivated him. “The fire came, and it was like, Oh, O.K. You don’t want me to be done.”
10. He’s working on a movie about the American Transcendentalists
Emerson, Thoreau, and the gang. He’s been working on it for 15 years, but “hasn’t found a way to make something that isn’t a ‘bonnet movie’ period piece.”