"Now, I'm just thinking 'make it better, make it better, make it better' and focusing on it, because I want this to be my living. I want to support a family with art. So now I have to take it to the top level of professionalism, and I feel way better for it."

About Andrew Rowe

Andrew Rowe moved to Vancouver, BC from St. John’s, NL in 2006 with the intention of going to film school.
He decided to withdraw from school and instead invest his money in equipment. He formed the comedy troupe Wild Driver in 2008, and has written, directed, edited and acted in over 25 sketches and short films with the group.

In December of 2014 he won the MPPIA Short Film Award which is the largest short film grant in Canada and he is currently using the funds to make Vehicular Romanticide, a feminist dark comedy with an 80s neo-noir style. He is also putting together funding for his first feature film.

His work has screened at various film festivals in North America and Europe.

The Interview

Andrew RoweWhat is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?

Honestly, the force that drives me forward is the desire to create something that’s actually perfect – something that everyone gets something from, and where everyone is closer because of it. That’s what art is for. In a room full of people you don’t know, you can connect over the same music or the same film, it’s super connective. I want to make something that literally everyone likes, and I don’t mean I create to be liked by people, but I want to create something that everybody can take something from. Something that’s personal to me, and then becomes personal to a lot of different people. Something that brings to light an idea that everyone sort of knows but doesn’t think about. Something that can impact as many people as possible.

Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).

I think my greatest shift in consciousness was probably when I realized that I wanted to be feminist in my thinking, because I didn’t clue in to how patriarchal and horrible most things were – and I was kind of embarrassed by that.

Because I think of myself as someone who is constantly thinking about things, and analyzing things, and I was surprised by the fact that I never looked at the world from that angle until I met my wife. Years ago, when we were dating, she would talk about things from a feminist perspective and it would sink in how true what she was saying was. I mean, at first I would get defensive, almost out of embarrassment because I knew I had been basically stupid and I didn’t want to admit it right away, but over a short period of time I came to terms with how blind I had been. And then I realized that I had to start looking at things not just for how they are on the surface (what I’m being fed), but have critical thought about it. Because if you have that about everything else, what you make [as a result of that critical thought] becomes so much better.

I might think, “How would a middle aged black woman watch this? Would she get anything from it?” And if it’s just strictly for 20 something white men, what’s the point? With art you’re supposed to be able to have everyone come to the table and enjoy it. It’s not supposed to exclude people outright. You have to take other perspectives into account. I mean, think about how so much of everything is aimed at one specific group: young white men. If you’re not a young white man, that sucks. And I’d like to change that, because it’s fairly embarrassing when you consider how multicultural we are.

What about filming for niche audiences?

Yeah, I’m totally for that. Everyone should have the opportunity to tell personal stories, no matter what their race or gender. But at the same time, I think you can try to have universal themes, because we all experience certain things and so what was meant for a very specific group can become enjoyed by so many people. At the end of the day, we’re all human and we all go through the same shit, just to varying degrees.

You don’t want to ruin it by trying to appeal to everyone at once, but you do have to ask yourself certain questions: Is this sexist? Is this racist? And if it is sexist, is it because that character is revealing something about that mindset, or is this just prejudice coming through? In that case, why would you want to turn off a large portion of your audience right away because of your ignorance?

Because I would watch something and I would love the movie but my female friends might say “that did nothing for me… I got nothing out of it. That was strictly for men.” The first time I heard that I was like “Wow. You’re right.” But because I am a man I loved it, and I never questioned the fact that filmmakers didn’t even really try to build up some of the women characters. They just made them serve the man. That’s not interesting because that’s not life. If you’re going to have a character have significant screen time, round them out. Give them something. That only makes it better.

And when you see how short of that most things fall, you really become aware of how crappy a lot of things are.

Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?

I think that no one can be happy all the time, because then happiness would become meaningless. Happiness exists as a counter point to sadness or depression. You can’t have a positive feeling without having a negative feeling for it to bounce off of. So yeah, like a lot of people, I’m happy sometimes and sometimes I’m unhappy.

I mean, I love my wife. I’m happy to have a wife I love and a son I love. That gives me a sense of fulfillment that I’ve never had. It really makes me realize what is important in life.

Like anybody – if I’m working too many hours at a job I don’t like then I’m not very happy. And I can become a bit of jerk because of it. So I try to catch myself. But you can’t force happiness or positivity all the time. If I try to force enthusiasm or something, I feel phoney. It creates too weird of a feeling in me.

Instead of projecting false happiness I’d rather be honest about my negative feelings. That’s always helpful – talking about your feelings with someone you trust.

But I’m glad everyone’s not happy all the time. That’d be boring.

What do you think is your greatest strength?

My sense of humour. I don’t why, but at a very young age I seemed to validate myself with getting laughs. I didn’t want to be the fool in the room – I didn’t want to make people laugh by spilling something on myself for example. What I wanted was to make people laugh by getting to know them, and trying to figure out what their sense of humour was, and then gearing jokes toward them in that way.

I enjoy trying to get a feel for someone, and then seeing if I can get them to laugh. And not by being loud and obnoxious – because I don’t find that funny.

That always comes into what I write, because my first inclination is always to make a joke.

I used to avoid writing things that were more serious, because I was afraid of failure and humour came easily. So, that was safe because I think I’m good at it; I think I can do it. But now I really want to make the kinds of movies that I’ve always loved and admired. So now I try to write those things, and comedy weaves itself in. Sometimes in interesting ways.

So, in that way, I think it became a strength. I’m able to find the humour in a situation that wouldn’t normally be funny. That’s sort of the way that life is. When something bad happens, you kind of can laugh at it in a certain way. Sometimes all you can do is laugh.

On the reverse, can you identify a personal challenge (something you currently struggle with)?

A personal challenge for me is probably communication. I have no trouble talking, but I do have a problem with communicating with the people I’m closest to what exactly I need from them right now, and also how I feel.

I mean, if I’m directing a movie set, I have no problem being straight forward with people, but if I’m really close to them, for some reason, I don’t want to hurt their feelings or something. Or I just want to move past a bad mood because I don’t want it to infect the situation – even though it ends up effecting it more, because I’m clearly in a bad mood but I haven’t been upfront about it.

Finally they might ask “what’s wrong with you? Why are you acting like this?” and I’d be like “it’s because I’m mad right now.” And they’d answer “Why didn’t you say that 20 minutes ago before you just let yourself act like this.”

So that’s something I struggle with: trying to catch myself before I become rude or mean to someone I love for no other reason than I’m in a bad mood.

I tend to go internal. I get in my head when I’m in a bad mood. I’m too introverted. Especially since I’m a father now, I can’t be like that when I’m raising a child or I’m going to mess him up. So I know I need to get this under control. So I’ve been trying, and it’s getting better.

And once you become more in touch with your feelings that really helps your writing.

I think a lot of people struggle with this, but a lot of people don’t acknowledge that they struggle with it. It’s okay to have problems – everyone does – but if you willfully ignore them, or are just ignorant to them, it really becomes quite problematic. Nobody can be perfect, but if you’re always trying to improve yourself a little bit (and if you can catch the things you hate about yourself), maybe you can change those things you don’t like. And then you’re one step closer to being happier more often.

And if you’re not always trying to get better, what’s the point?

When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist? Can you talk about that moment or time in your life?

I don’t think I’ve ever thought of myself as an artist. I think I’ve used writer and filmmaker, but I guess that is an artist.

A lot of people have expressed resistance to that word.

Yeah, I guess it’s just that I have this view – maybe wrongly so – that an artist is someone who is alone in a room and is creating just for themselves. I have this idealized vision of a painter. He works, and he’s poor, and he cut off his ear like Van Gogh. “Wow. That’s an artist!” I think.

But I guess I’ve started to realize that the arts actually relate to a lot of things. If you take the arts seriously – whatever your niche is – then I guess you’re technically an artist.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to do something with movies. When I was 7 or 8, I thought the best job in the world was working at a video store, because I thought that they somehow produced the movies I liked. And I didn’t understand the concept that someone else made them, I just thought “these movies are from that store. That’s where I get them from. Boy it would be great to work at that store, and get the movies for free.”

And then when I was 12 I was introduced to Martin Scorsese, and I began to see that someone was designing these movies and that there was a through-line; stylistic things that were in common throughout all his movies. His imprint is all over his work.

I loved all of his movies, so then I started looking more at the directors of films I liked and seeking out more of their stuff. And maybe because I’m a bit of a control freak, I decided that I’d have to write what I was going to direct. I don’t know why. I just assumed it, because my favourite people did that, so I thought that was the best way to do it.

Who are your favourite directors?

Martin Scorsese. I like Robert Altman a lot. David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson is a contemporary director I love. I’m really into Sofia Coppola’s aesthetic. If you want to get really crazy with some older names: Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, F.W. Murnau, Jean-Pierre Melville, Billy Wilder. I love a lot of the Japanese new wave stuff from the 60s, movies like Woman in the Dunes and The Pornographers just make me so excited about filmmaking.

I have an almost unhealthy addiction to movies. I’ve seen a lot of movies. I learn from them. And certain things created an idea in my head about who a director was through watching movies and reading about the people I like. I decided that I wanted to have script control early on. It was just an assumption I had. I thought that if I was going to direct something, I’d have to come up with it myself. No one was going to just hand me a script, I’m not famous. If I want to make something, I decided I better create it now. Otherwise I’m going to be sitting around waiting.

As soon as I made the decision that I wanted to do it, I sat down and started learning how to write.

Habits, routine, morning rituals — What are the positive things you do daily that have had the most significant impact on your life and work?

I don’t know how to answer that with a baby because you get caught in a routine, but he drives the routine. It’s more a routine that you try to find to survive, otherwise (without a routine) he’s going to be unhappy and that’s going to emanate throughout the whole household because he controls everything. So that’s a tough one to answer now.

I mean, I’m a person of habit – sometimes detrimentally so. I think I ate the same thing for breakfast, probably 95% of the time, for 12 years. Scrambled eggs and toast. Just easy. It was just autopilot. I didn’t even have to think about it. And I kind of like that, because when you do things on autopilot your brain wanders to other things and that’s when ideas come to you.

I’d go on autopilot a lot – although I can’t do that so much anymore with my son.

But then I’ve been proven wrong, because my best writing has happened since he was born. I guess it just shifts all your perspectives – you see things differently, and that’s always very good. Stagnancy is not good for creativity.

Not having a routine is good, at least for me. If you have a routine and that gets disturbed it can throw you off. But if you don’t have one, that can’t happen. I write whenever I have the chance to. I try to think: I’ll try to do an hour of writing tonight, and then if it doesn’t work out I can’t be angry about that. I have a baby. I can’t get mad if things don’t work out anymore.

I used to get angry because I used to like to keep a schedule, and if something submarined me I’d be like “ugh, I really wanted to get work done, and now this is a bummer.” Now whenever I can get work done, I’m going to do it. And when you have to do something within a short window, you quickly drop everything else and focus.

Before I’d sit on the computer and I’d dick around on the internet for a bit, and writing almost felt like a chore because I had all the time in the world to do it. I’d know I could make something better, but I’d also just want to finish it and start reading it out loud with actors and stuff. Whereas now, I’m just thinking “make it better, make it better, make it better” and focusing on it, because I want this to be my living. I want to support a family with art. So now I have to take it to the top level of professionalism, and I feel way better for it.

I kind of wish I knew that 10 years ago. I think I might be where I want to be right now in my career. But you have to go through it to learn it. A million people could tell you something, but until you experience it you don’t believe it.

How do you deal with doubt? Where do you go for support?

AndrewRoweI have constant doubt, and I think it’s good. Because there’s a bad kind of doubt that will freeze you and prevent you from doing something, but a nice percentage of self doubt makes sure that you’re on top of every detail that you need to be on top of because you’re terrified of everybody finding out that you’re a fraud. Like I’m going to drop the ball on this and then everyone’s going to realize that I was never good at this to begin with, and then I won’t get work. You know what I mean?

Well, if I’m afraid of that, and doubt myself just a little bit, then I’ll try harder. I’ll work my hardest. So I don’t take anything for granted.

And there’s aways a level of fear when it comes to something you show to people. Showing it to any audience – anything I’ve ever made – has always made me a nervous wreck. Even if I’ve showed it to people before and it’s gone over well. It’s just always terrifying. I think because I have this fear that “maybe it’s not good enough.” I mean, I’m happy with it, but maybe I’m the only one that likes it. Sometimes that’s good enough with art, but not really when you’re dealing with a medium that is supposed to be enjoyed by audiences. If you’re the only one who likes it… I guess it kind of failed.

I think doubt is good. I mean, I’ve learned how to get it under control. When you’re younger and you’re less confident and trying to figure out who you are as a person (and you have all this other garbage you’re dealing with around wanting to look good, and wanting to project a certain quality out into the world), then that can get in the way of creativity because you might try to make something to please others and not be true to yourself. But once those other things become okay, then I think a little doubt in what you’re doing can keep you on the straight and narrow.

What, in your opinion, are the qualities of someone who is a “great” artist (in whatever discipline)?

Hmm. Well, if I was going to say the best qualities of a great writer or director, it would definitely be to go for the truth of the situation, or the truth of a character. Because there’s nothing worse than watching a movie where things just play very false. It doesn’t matter how technically great it looks or anything like that if you’re just thinking “this is terrible.” You’re going to spot it right away. And even though it might have really talented actors in it, sometimes the stuff they’re given to work with couldn’t be sold by anyone because at its root, it’s not true.

“It doesn’t matter how great a comedian is, nobody can make an unfunny script funny.”

That’s a quote that always stuck with me. It’s the same thing with the truth of a script. If everything that happens in it is sort of false and not really thought out well (or it’s not really true to the characters and they’re kind of all over the place with what they’re doing) then nobody can save that. Even if you’re the best actor in the world.

And I think a lot of the great directors know that, and even if they get a script that’s not 100% there, they’ll alter it to make sure it’s there. Or they’ll keep working in tandem with the actors to find the truth. Get those actors that can really inhabit a character, and talk to them about it. “How do you think this would play out?”

You’ve got to not be afraid to try different things. I mean, you’ve got to be prepared, but I think on the day when you’re shooting, a lot can go wrong, and a lot can play out differently than it was in your head, and you’ve got to be okay with dropping everything you thought was going to work and trying something else. Which is basically like admitting that you were wrong. So you have to be okay with admitting you were wrong.

I also think a great director understands what to do with the camera. I mean, that sounds like an obvious thing to say but you’d be surprised by how many people do camera moves and editing things that are “flashy” but they don’t fit what’s happening, so they just seem totally nonsensical to me.

Don’t move the camera unless there’s a reason. Why does your camera keep spinning around in a 360 during a conversation? It’s distracting. I’m just supposed to be focusing on these two people talking. If you do this with a stationary camera it could really hit home. But maybe you’re moving the camera all over the place because you’re trying to be a virtuoso. And that tells me that you’re not a good director, because you’re trying to overcompensate for something. “Hey, look what I can do with a camera.”

“Well no, I want to see what you can do with a story.”

So that’s a huge thing. That might be one of the biggest things: framing and camera movement. It’s got to be so thought out.

And how you edit things together. I’ve seen a million movies that have a battle sequence – supposedly an action packed sequence – where a new shot happens every half a second and I have no idea what’s happening. I’m thinking to myself, “if this was a competent director, they would show this in a wide shot.” You would see a bunch of people fighting, and we would then feel like we had seen something spectacular because it’s supposed to be the spectacle of battle.

But usually we see a million cuts of things happening, and I’m like “I don’t even know who just died.” And I’m getting a headache from too many shots. So I see that a lot, especially on TV. I’ve seen a couple of shows that I don’t like and I know it’s mostly the editing. Sometimes I start counting how long shots last in my head, and I rarely get above 4 seconds. And when you think about it, that’s not a long time to hold a shot.

If they’re cutting every four seconds or less, that’s not great. How can you get settled in a scene if it’s supposed to be dramatic? If it’s supposed to feel like you’re there. Somewhere along the way – and I think this traces back to the movie Psycho, because the shower scene had such crazy quick cutting combined with that string score and that was really awesome, and it was done really well. But that doesn’t work every time — I think people thought that intensity equalled faster cutting. But to me intensity means no cutting, because if you cut you’ve taken a breath. If you keep showing something and you don’t stop the shot, the audience can’t escape it and have to deal with that. That becomes way more intense. By cutting you give them an out.

When you say that I think of ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ and that hanging scene.

Yes. And also the whipping of Patsy (Lupita Nyong’o) – there, the camera never cut. They never let you take a breath. You felt every whip. I mean, it felt like you were there watching it.

I don’t think that technique is used by enough people, and I don’t why. People don’t put enough thought into the basics. You have to know why you choose to make a cut to something else.

Any advice for artists on a similar path? (Perhaps advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out).

Don’t take time for granted. Because when you’re young you don’t have any real responsibilities. I mean, you might have a job or something, but you also probably have crazy amounts of free time. And everything is so subjective in this world so it’s so hard to see outside of yourself. Whatever you’re going through seems like the most important thing in the world. Then you’re introduced to what real stress is with a baby, and you’re like “wow, what was I ever afraid of? That stuff didn’t matter at all.This is someone’s life I’m responsible for.”

What could be worse than that in terms of responsibility? And there’s a certain calmness that comes from that – from knowing how sort of meaningless a lot of those other things are to worry about. It frees the mind and even though you have way less free time, there’s a clarity and purpose to the time you do have.

I mean, I think someone could have told me that, but I don’t think I would have listened because I thought I was working a lot and using my time well when I was younger. But I realize now that I could have used it so much better.

My other advice would be to constantly rewrite until you think it’s as good as you can make it.

I used to do a maximum of two drafts of something, and now I do a minimum of four, and I’m way better because of it.

I mean, early on, I just wanted to make a short film a month. I just wanted to keep making them. And I got better at the technical aspects of it – so that was good – but my writing was suffering because I was writing too fast. I mean, I’m happy with how the stuff turned out, but I know now when I watch it that “oh, if I’d just worked on that part a little bit more, that would have been so much better.”

How many consecutive months did you do that for?

I did it in bursts. I’d do 6 shorts in 6 months, and then take 6 months off because I’d be burned out. And then I’d do 5 shorts in 5 months. And so on. It happened like that.

When I first started, I was trying to do sketch comedy. I thought maybe I’d be well suited for a show like Saturday Night Live. That’s how I thought my career might pan out, so I tried to be on that track. Then I realized that I love film. I know a lot about it, and I realized that I should really be doing that. I should be doing more challenging things. I should be doing things that I want to see. And there’s probably a lot of people who have similar taste to me so I might be able to find an audience.

So yeah, I was making short 3-4 minute things with friends, and I was doing all the behind the camera stuff, and editing it, and so it was kind of like a film school in a way.

I’m happy I did it, but it wasn’t really what I truly wanted to be doing. I think I was a little too scared to be really going after what I wanted to be doing. I didn’t even really acknowledge what that was.

Andrew Rowe FamilySo then I took two years off and didn’t really write anything. I had to plan a wedding, I got married,and my wife had a baby pretty shortly after that.

And then I was like “I’m going to want to die if I never make anything ever again.”

I realized that I have to make movies or else someone just shoot me, because this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. And if I go my whole life without making a feature film, or without trying my hardest to push myself to the edge of my talent, I’m going to have so many regrets on my death bed it’s going to be awful.

So I decided to get back to it.

And then the time off broke a lot of my bad habits. I forgot how I used to do things when I started again. I was also more mature as a person. I’d gone through a lot. Obviously experiencing things in life is so important.

I think that’s another thing you’ve got to think about as an artist: you’ve got to live your life. You can watch a hundred movies (and take things from all of them) but once you go through a real dramatic time in your life that’s so much more valuable then watching it happen in a movie. You understand it so intrinsically, and then that comes through in your writing.

Feedback is another big thing. You have to be open to criticism. If you’re closed to criticism there’s no point in pursing the arts because you’re never going to get better.

Criticism is someone else’s point of view, and taking other viewpoints into yourself only makes you better because you can see things differently. Having a wider view of things is always better. When people have tunnel vision about something it’s usually more boring. If you can really see both sides of an argument, then you can create something really interesting. You can create something ambiguous, which is the best thing. I mean, you can say what you want to say about an issue, but if you’re hammering a point home to people they’ll either think it’s awesome or horrible depending on their view of the issue. But if you can add in a bit of ambiguity, maybe your point will seep into the people who didn’t agree with you to begin with. Maybe everyone will think about things a little harder.

And don’t be so hard headed in your writing and in your approach to criticism. Obviously some people deliver criticism very poorly, and it’s hard not to get defensive because it feels like they’re attacking you. But just stop and think: is this person really just personally attacking me, or does what they’re saying have validity? Because, if it’s valid I need to look at it. And usually you know – if you stop and think – if what someone is saying is right. Usually that’s why you get the most defensive – like I said earlier – because you know you’re wrong. But you don’t want to admit it, because now this causes more work for you.

Can you talk a little bit about your relationship to money?

Yeah, that’s a tough one. I don’t know why a lot of people think there’s some sort of honour in doing the art and not getting paid. That’s fine when you’re just starting out, but if you only want to do what you’re passionate about for the rest of your life, then you have to turn it into a living. But you can’t let money cloud your judgment.

You also can’t do things just for the money. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t say that, because if you’re desperate then obviously you have to take whatever work is coming your way. So I try not to judge people too harshly – but if it becomes a trend where they sort of gave up and it’s become just a job to them, I kinda have a problem when that happens because this is too special to just be a job.

It’s as close to magic as there is in this world, it’s just so amazing.

So I don’t think there’s any shame in trying to get paid. People will try to guilt you for wanting to do something where you get paid to do it. They might talk about doing it gorilla style so you can just make it. And that’s great, but you’ve also got to figure out how to market it, and how to get people to see it, because if no one is seeing it, what’s the point again? It’s for audiences.

So, there’s this fine line between greed and fairness. And I think you just have to be aware of that line. What’s a fair amount that I should get paid for this work (based on how hard I’m working)?

I mean, it takes up your whole life. It breaks up relationships. It causes families to fall apart all the time. It’s a thing that is all-consuming. And I think you should be compensated for that. It’s just how the world works. I wish we didn’t live in a capitalist system – because there’s so much that is wrong with it – but we do, and money is important.

My relationship to money is that, I just want to live and have a comfortable life. I’m not going to turn down someone wanting to pay me millions of dollars to make something I wanted to because I think it’s wrong to get paid that much. If you want to pay me that, I’ll take it and use the money well, because I’ll also use it to make a thing afterwards that maybe no one would give me money for.

You can’t be greedy with your money. I’ve always thought that if I was the only one of the filmmakers I know who supposedly “made it” and who was getting paid 10 million dollars to make each movie, then I could take that money and buy equipment and rent it out dirt cheap to people so that they could make their movies. I could take that money, and I could produce more movies. I could make more movies that I believe in; I could spread it around.

So I think someone’s got to make the money to do that, otherwise everyone’s just going to keep wallowing at the bottom and no one’s going to see their stuff, and they’re not going to have a chance to make what’s in their head because it costs $100,000 and they can only get their hands on $5,000.

It’s actually one of the problems I’ve always had with George Lucas. He made billions upon billions of dollars, and was continually saying that he has always wanted to make small personal films. He and Francis Ford Coppola were friends, and they both made their little personal movies, and then Coppola made The Godfather and used his money to start a company and make more movies, to the point of where he went bankrupt. And Lucas made Star Wars and he blew up. And then he kind of backed out. Came back and made the prequel three, made a ton more money, and then never directed anything else.

And it’s like, “you have all the ability to make any movie you want. Why aren’t you doing it? Or why aren’t you funding a 100 independent movies that cost 1 million dollars each, because that’s kind of nothing to you.” I just feel like people lose sight.

You get used to what your life is so quickly it’s crazy. I mean, you can get used to having nothing just like you can get used to having everything. So if your normal becomes having four billion dollars, then you don’t think “what could I do with this money to use it best?” It’s just your reality. But it’s kind of upsetting when you think about how much money certain filmmakers have accumulated, and how little they’re doing with it to grow film.

You can keep pushing film, and I’m sure another 100 years from now movies are going to look so different it’s crazy. I mean, think about what they looked like 100 years ago now. If that change happens again, I can’t even fathom what we’re going to be looking at it. And we need to push towards that, try things.

Ever experience flow/being in the zone? What does it feel like for you, and can you tell us about a time when you experienced it?

Yeah, there’s times when I’m writing and I just go scene to scene to scene so fast, and it’s just like crystal clear, but… I don’t know. My approach to things is I usually to think about the story a lot before I sit down to write. Or I at least have a pretty good idea of where it’s going to go. Even if I don’t write an outline, I’ll sort of know how it’s going to end.

You can get into trouble when you’re writing. You could write yourself off into a place where you can’t finish it or tie it together. But of course you don’t always have to have a nice little bow on something.

I think narrative is important because it’s how we all live life. We all tell stories, we all see things in a certain linear time frame, it’s just how our brains work. You can stray from that and be successful but your film will probably feel a bit more like a chore to watch than something to get lost in. There are exceptions to that, but generally I think that’s the case.

I don’t know what the zone looks like for writing. I don’t even know if I can comment on that. And again, with directing I’ve always had no money so I’ve always gone in super prepared with a shot list, and I just got those shots and try to get them as quickly as possible, so if I have some extra time I can play with something that I’ve seen there, and say “hey, let’s try this.”

So yeah, I don’t really know what the zone looks like creatively. And if I’ve experienced it, I wasn’t aware of it.

What is your favourite book? It could be about your craft, or maybe just an excellent story. If that is too difficult to answer, who are your favourite authors?

One of the things I’m most embarrassed about is the few fiction books I’ve read. I’ve always chosen movies over books, and I feel like it’s my dirty secret that I don’t really read books at all.
I like non fiction books to learn about a topic or a person.

Cormac McCarthy was someone who I just read three of his books right in a row because his writing is crazy good.

And then Raymond Carver – I read all his short stories that the movie Shortcuts was based on [Short Cuts: Selected Stories], and it blew my mind. It was just incredible writing. And I found that helped me with script writing – just seeing how other people phrased something, and just how you can phrase something so unique to yourself, and it can have such an impact. It adds a second thing in someone’s head that’s not on the page, but somehow the wording of it conveys another thing. And maybe you can’t put it into words, but you just get something. It’s so hard to find. It’s nice to be aware that that’s even possible, and that you can find it yourself.

My favourite book is probably – there’s a few filmmaking books that I love. I love the books like “Lynch on Lynch” or “Scorsese on Scorsese” where’s it’s the person talking about their own work film by film in detail. You so rarely get to see that, so I always love that. I’ve reread those a couple of times.

And then the book “Making Movies” by Sidney Lumet – the guy that directed Dog Day Afternoon and a bunch of other great movies in the 60s and 70s and right up to the 2000s. That really taught me – before I ever made anything or wrote anything – exactly how a movie is made. He broke down every stage of pre-production, production, and post-production. Everything he thinks about, like colour palettes for costumes and scenery, the colour correction of the film and how that relates to character and story to subconsciously enhance the film. I didn’t realize how all encompassing your vision could be as a director, and that you have to think about every detail to have a cohesive film. So that was great. I think I’ve read that book twice.

Check out the favourite books by the other interviewees

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“You’ve got to be okay with dropping everything you thought was going to work, and trying something else” – my conversation with Andrew Rowe
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These conversations are about the creative soul. They are the true experiences of creatives with their own creative impulse, and they are the private (made public) reflections on what creativity feels like on a very personal level. All interviews are conducted by Christine Bissonnette
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