Indiewire has covered the Toronto Film Festival for nearly two decades, but TIFF 2013 was a first for us: We teamed with Movies on Demand and photographer Daniel Bergeron to create original portraits and video interviews from some of the festival’s best actors, filmmakers and other luminaries.
You’ll see the results throughout the upcoming awards season, but for now we wanted to wrap up our TIFF 2013 coverage with a gallery in which directors and actors discuss advice for aspiring filmmakers and actors.
“Go home and work. I don’t believe in the film festival tour. Myself, I believe that when you go to a film festival it’s when you have to show something. I’m a super-bad businessman. My advice is cinema is something you do, it’s not something you talk about. I;m a filmmaker. You need to do things. You need to go in your basement, write a screenplay and shoot it. Nowadays, the new generation is so lucky. When I was young, you needed to invest thousands of dollars to buy 16mm film. You ruined yourself before you could shoot a movie. Today you can shoot a movie with $20. It’s like, shoot. Don’t talk.”
Next up: “You have to have the nerve and confidence to do it.”
“You put together a project and an idea, you make the film and one of the reasons that it’s an emotional high-wire act is you finally have to share it. You have to have the nerve and confidence to do it. I’d say listen, keep your ears open listen understand what the feedback is and process it. Put it through your filter. That’s what these stories are. It’s always a matter of taking a lot of input and possibilities and focusing it into something and sharing it with people and saying, ‘What do you think?'”
“One of the first conversations we had — I was shooting ‘The Avengers’ at the time and it was about how Thor was going to fit into a Formula One car. I wrote Ron an email and said, ‘I’m not going to turn up that size, I’ll drop the weight.’ I didn’t have much time to do it so it was overtrain and undereat. It led to a pretty moody existence. I think it fed into the performance.”
“You hope that the living person likes you. And he is so undiplomatic and after the first meeting after five minutes I saw the smile on his face and thought, ‘OK, he likes the idea of me playing him.’ But the first conversation on the phone was terrible. He said, ‘Yeah, I guess we have to meet now. Just bring hand luggage to Vienna so if we don’t like each other you can piss off right away.’ So of course I was nervous when I flew to Vienna — with my little bag.”
“Roger started going in his first year or second year. He had a vision that this festival could be a world player and that it could really grow, and it did. The day that he passed away, I got messages from Sydney, from Tokyo, from India, from Australia, from all over, poplin Paris… that caught me off guard. People got his humanitarian side. Most of the messages were, ‘I’m a filmmaker because of what Roger Ebert said about how he analyzed movies,’ or writers who said, ‘I became a film critic because of Roger Ebert.’
“The day of the tribute, I got out of the car, I was all prepared… I stepped out of the car and and I saw all the [fans] and I remembered, ‘I was with him here last year.’ And I burst into tears and cried all my makeup off. This is the quintessential thing about my husband. You know what he liked? Goodness. Things that make me cry and made him cry were goodness and kindness… The most important thing is I want to establish scholarships to help up-and-coming filmmakers, film critics and people who are writing about what its like to be human.”
Scarlett Johansson, Actor, “Under The Skin”
“All actors want a lot of face time. I’ve been working in the industry for such a long time that my relationship with film as a medium is very… I have a very personal relationship with the camera and with the crew and with the process of capturing a performance on fim. It’s a very intimate relationship. I’ve worked and continue to work to return to a very natural place and the process of that has always really attracted me. When I perform I want to be seen and it was a dream role in that way.”
Jason Bateman, Director, “Bad Words”
“When you’re trying to get something going, the best fuel to propel those projects is perception. Sometimes it’s a little bit of manipulation and smoke and mirrors, but a lot of times you can do some tangible and legitimate things to create a healthy perception for a project. A lot of times it’s just going through the proper channels and the correct protocol and submitting that script. While a lot of times going directly to the talent may be the most efficient way to get them the script, it hinders your perception. It feels a little amateur or small-time. There’s a fine balance there — I have a relationship with that person that pre-exists, so maybe I hand them the script at the same time that I send it to their agent. That way when they talk to their agent it seems like it’s on the up-and-up and doesn’t seem so homemade.
“It’s all about perception. That’s why people have these tastemaker screenings where you try to drum up talk. Frankly, that’s one of the great things about your site. Sophisticated people will go there and if it’s there, it’s probably pretty good. Depending on the things that are said about it and the kind of pass-around it gets, that cultivates a lot of chatter. And chatter is good. That could carry you to something that people who hand out jobs will see.”
John Carney, Director, “Can A Song Save Your Life?”
“If you believe in a central idea as a filmmaker, if you have enough commitment to the idea of a story, that’s a very important thing. I hate to admit it as I love avant-garde and experimental films that have no story — actually I think they do something that I’ve learned and that has taken me a long time to learn is that there’s not much point in making a film for the sake of making it. You have to have this story to rely on. And then you can have fun, but once you have that spine that the audience is making these connections and joining these dots, then you can play and experiment as a filmmaker. In the way that ‘Mad Men’ or ‘The Sopranos’ or any of great TV shows — when they get bored, they always go back to the bottom line. Give Don Draper another product to sell. In my movie when things didn’t work, I could always drop that scene and tie the story back because the story had these five interesting characters. Have a solid narrative that you’re always telling, even though it may look like you’re doing something deeper and more artistic.”
Up next: “Hustle. I still do it. I’m still doing it here, now, for the next movie.”
Amma Asante, Director, “Belle”
“Don’t take no for an answer. Know that we all have something to bring. If you took one script and gave it to 10 directors, we’d have 10 different movies. We all have something to bring to an audience and ‘no’ is a part of the journey. It’s not the end of the journey. Hustle. I still do it. I’m still doing it here, now, for the next movie. You’ve got to. An idea has start with an engine and you have to be that engine. and make that passion infectious to your producers or financiers as passionate because it’s going to take a team in the end to get it off the ground. But if you have to hustle and push, do it. I’m out there at Cannes, I’m out there at Venice still doing it, even though I’ve got a movie out here. It’s important.”
Jesse Eisenberg, Actor, “Night Moves”
Jesse: The only advice I can think of that would be valuable for actors or people who want to be actors is pursue it only if you want to do it in any capacity. If you want to do it because you want to be in a movie that you liked, it will likely never happen. But if you’ve done it in a modest capacity and you really like it, then you should pursue it because that means you like it for the right reasons and that will probably lead to being able to do it. My favorite thing to do as an actor is to do a reading of a new play with no one watching. There’s no consequence and you really can indulge in the experience of the performance. What that tells me is I like doing it in any capacity and will enjoy it for the right reasons. If people want to be an actor because they saw a movie and they want to be in that thing, that’s an impossible thing to achieve.
Dakota: Why I do what I do is just for the experience of making the movie and all of the other stuff is just a fun bonus. At the end of the day what I take away is the experience of making it and that’s what drives me to the next thing.
Up Next: Directors Jean-Marc Valle and Keanu Reeves