FUTURE 5: Richard Linklater, "Slacker" for the New Millennium
by Eugene Hernandez and Anthony Kaufman
indieWIRE: Do you feel any sort of specific changes that you can think of and pinpoint with the new technologies, anything you can think about? Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente of Open City had mentioned a different color palette for digital films. I don’t know if this is something you found or considered when you were doing “Tape.” But they said that if you look at “Dancer In The Dark,” for example, that was a whole new color palette.
Richard Linklater: Yeah it is. It’s a whole new thing. I think it’s probably a tribute to the eye how quickly the eye adjusts and I have a lot of faith in that. I mean you’ve got to nail the sound element. The ear is pretty unforgiving. But the eye adjusts to whatever it has, you know? So I was never worried about that. If you see a movie like “The Cruise” — black and white digital — you adjust to that digital. I call it digital grain. It’s like, “Okay, cool, you just accept it.” And I think it’s true with the color palette. I’m sort of still discovering this. I mean we haven’t done our blow up to 35 yet. Yeah, it’s got its own set of rules, that’s for sure. And I think it’s best to go in that direction. Like to just take what it is naturally and emphasize that. I see a lot of movies shot DV and they’re lit and they’re done everything just like it was shot in 35 mm, like a typical feature. I think that’s a real mistake. I think you need to go with what this medium is. And high depth 24p is the new thing, which is gonna be a standard coming up shortly, that is gonna have its own palette.
iW: I was talking with [“Waking Life” producer] Tommy Pallotta a little bit about projecting “Waking Life” in High Defintion (HD) and he was saying how there’s just as many challenges to projecting in HD as there is to projecting in 35 if you were to blow it up.
Linklater: Yeah, it’s a total fucking pain in the ass. I mean, it’s just like blowing it up and then we’ll have to change it and do it again. Yeah there’s no simple way. We’re not there yet. I had some delusion that we could just finish the animation the day before and just project it off the computer, which would look really great, but they can’t do that. No, it’s a total technical pain in the ass just like everything else. It’s not really simple, you know? There’s nothing really simple yet. Final Cut Pro is a real pain. Everything’s difficult. Sometimes I long for a couple rewinds and a 16 mm and a chop…
iW: Maybe that’s the ultimate re-invention of the cinema.
Linklater: Yeah, I still have films I want to shoot in Super 8. These are just momentary tools. I’m not so excited about mini DV and the cameras and all that. I mean it’s great for what it is, but I don’t know. Even while I was shooting “Tape,” I knew this was sort of the end of something. I didn’t think it was cutting edge, I thought it was probably the end of a certain look. We’re going to look back at this period and say, “Yeah, end of the 20th century, early 21st century, this was kind of a thing that was out at that time and films looked like this and then it quickly evolved into something else.”
iW: I want to go into two different areas that have nothing to do with technology. One thing I was thinking about was funding. You’ve talked about a small grant you received to make “Slacker” and how important that was to be validated as an artist. I’m wondering in an era where there are not as many opportunities, what kind of outlets there are to validate artists today?
Linklater: I don’t know. I’m in a different boat, because I got stamped 10 years ago or whatever by a little validation. I think there’s so many people working in media now, of all kinds. I don’t know. It’s a tough time. It always has been and it always will be. It’s encouraging that you can communicate and people can distribute online, but as far as a big thing and making an impact on the public and getting scene by a wider audience, that’ll always be a challenge. I don’t know if the distributors are really there or are interested. There are so many films being made that I think anything that doesn’t have money written all over it, like “Slacker,” would not get into Sundance today. There’s just no way. I don’t know. I think there’s probably a lot of good films out there that we’ll never see. Whereas, it used to be you could honestly say if it’s really great it’ll bubble up. I think there’s so much now that there’s probably some really great films by people in the middle of nowhere that you won’t see, that didn’t get into these places and don’t have the outlets. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but I don’t think the outlets match the amount of activity out there. There’s just not that much money for a certain kind of story. I mean if you want to tell something that’s sexy and scandalous I think you can always attract [financing], but you’ve always been able to do that.
iW: Let’s look more regionally to what is happening and what you’ve been up to in Austin. We hear about these new studios that are going to be opened by the Austin Film Society, and obviously there’s quite a community of people that work there and that are involved in the film scene in Austin. What are your thoughts on regional filmmaking that’s happening outside of the obvious places?
Linklater: The regional thing is always a challenge. It’s hard to compete with NY and LA on their own. I think the best we’ve done around here is just create a culture of acceptance where it’s okay to be making a film, you’re not a total weirdo. But that’s kind of nationwide too.
iW: Do you think that outside of NY and LA we can build communities that can thrive filmmmaking wise?
Linklater: Thrive? I think you can exist. I don’t know if you can thrive anywhere. I just wonder about the economic base, you know? I think you can thrive creatively certainly, but I don’t know about economics. I’m lucky I’m ahead of the curve in that way, but I think if I was 23 starting out with a film, I think you’re gonna be in for a long haul of getting your film seen. But that’s always been the challenge. It’s just absolutely always been the hard thing, getting your film out there. And no filmmaker believes that until he’s finished his film and then it’s like, “Oh shit, festivals and distributors and ohhh man, it’s a total pain.”
iW: It’s what everyone’s thinking about now, as we head into Sundance.
Linklater: Yeah. Cause if you’re an artist you really just want to make the next film. But then you have to do this other thing that is just very draining.
iW: So how do you see yourself in the next couple years? Do you feel like you’ll return to some of these same new technologies?
Linklater: It’s a film-by-film process. It always has been. My grand plan is that I have all these movies I want to make and some should be shot a certain way and some should be shot another way, and I’m just trying to get the means to make specific projects. I definitely want to do another animated film. I had a great time on “Tape,” I’d like to do more of that; that kind of production was fun, but then I have all these other films to do. No consistency out of me. No new revelations. [Laughs]