Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What I learned From Quentin Tarantino

I have only been to TIFF once; of course it was not called TIFF then, back in 1992. I was thinking about making a film and had just completed the Maruska Stankova, Directing, Acting and Writing for Cameraworkshop.

I decided to attend the event and in particular sit in the “Gorilla Film Workshop” which featured among others as its panelists Quentin Tarantino. It was the usual workshop setting with perhaps 100 attendees in theatre style seating, and a handful of panelists up at the front, behind a row of tables on an elevated platform.

Each talked about their personal experience in film making, but a largely unknown film maker then, Quentin Tarantino, was getting a bit of buzz before the workshop and his story was compelling. He talked about his experience in getting his film, Reservoir Dogs made, and the need to “just do it”, as he described it. This was the seminal message for the workshop and in particular for Quentin. He described some details about the making of the film including some production issues.

But I didn’t get the whole story until later in the lobby when I was standing around deciding what to do when Quentin came into the lobby and sat down in one of the large chairs …just hanging out and decompressing I guess. I worked up a bit of nerve and sat down in an adjacent chair and began chatting with him and asking a few questions about his film making experience. He was more than happy to offer his thoughts and tell me a little more detail about how Reservoir Dogs got made.

He explained that he had been writing scripts while he was working at the video store and had tried unsuccessfully to make a film on more than one occasion and had become disillusioned with the process. Every studio wanted bigger guns and more T&A. It seems he finally had a script that he was able to sell  - and he agreed to be paid $ 30,000 for the script. His plan was to simply make a film with $30,000 – he wanted and needed the experience of making a film and …he not only wanted to write the script,  he wanted to direct the film.

He told me how he started seeking a low budget producer for the Reservoir Dogs script and when he finally settled on one he was promptly told that this was a great script and it should be shopped to all the studios. He immediately said absolutely not – he was convinced it would meet with more calls for bigger action and more sex. He was gong going to make a low budget feature the way he wanted it made, no matter what!

The producer and Quentin, as the story goes, batted this around for a while; the producer steadfast in suggesting that it be shopped rather than produced as a low budget film and Quentin refusing to budge, until finally Quentin relented when the producer told him he would make the film if , after shopping it,  he could not set up a suitable arrangement …and, oh yea, one of the provisions was that Quentin had to be the director.  

As expected, each time they presented the script the production company asked for more guns and more woman (remember there are only guys in the Reservoir Dogs.) Incredibility, after walking out on many studio meetings, Newline finally agreed to make the picture on a budget of a million dollars with one proviso – Quentin would not be the director.  Quentin talked them into allowing him to shoot some scenes as the director and he agreed - if they were not happy with the results he would acquiesce to their demands for another director.

In the end he got what he wanted and he added this bit of detail. Sitting at home one night, after sending the script to Harvey Keitel through a friend of a friend, Harvey calls him up. Shocked and surprised in his small, sparse flat eating macaroni and cheese, the very man who he wrote the main part for was on the phone talking to him about the script!

Needless to say, Harvey agreed to play the part and even went on to support the movie’s promotion out of this own pocket and helped Quentin by introducing him to all the right people when he flew him to New York for a lunch at the he Russian Tea House.

Great thing’s from a very stubborn beginning, a passion for film and a belief in one’s self. I guess the moral of the tale is  that sometimes, regardless of what the right way of doing something is ….you simply have to ignore that and just do it!

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