Below is an excerpt from Tom Roston’s “I Lost it at The Video Store: A Filmmakers’ Oral History of a Vanished Era.” The chapter, entitled “Wake Up Streaming,” features directors discussing their thoughts about streaming video in the age of Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. Find out more about the book here.
Quentin Tarantino: I am not excited about streaming at all. I like something hard and tangible in my hand. And I can’t watch a movie on a laptop. I don’t use Netflix at all. I don’t have any sort of delivery system. I have the videos from Video Archives. They went out of business, and I bought their inventory. Probably close to eight thousand tapes and DVDs.
Kevin Smith: That’s kind of genius. He’s such a sentimental dude.
Quentin Tarantino: I have a bunch of DVDs and a bunch of videos, and I still tape movies off of television on video so I can keep my collection going.
Allison Anders: Now, it’s boring to go online. “All right, I picked that out and you picked this out.” It’s boring.
David O. Russell: There’s a lot of stuff going on with the licensing and the deals where they no longer have certain movies. It used to be that Amazon had everything, but Amazon changed their deal. And I’ll say it to the guy I know who owns Netflix: it’s a bunch of dreck.
J.C. Chandor: They are figuring it all out slowly. In the next four or five years, whether it be from Amazon or Apple, you’ll be able to get anything you want with the click of a mouse.
Alex Ross Perry: I started trying to get into downloading movies, and I just never watched any of them.
Doug Liman: It’s awfully convenient to click on something on your laptop and get it. I remain excited for the future.
Tim Blake Nelson: I love the streaming feature. I love that I can sit in my house and for four bucks I can watch “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and I don’t have to deal with commercials. And I have control of the experience. I love Netflix and Apple TV. Eventually, I think everything will be on there.
Greg Mottola: Netflix, in a sense, has recreated part of the store experience. I’ll spend forty-five minutes or an hour scrolling through box art until I find something. It drives my wife crazy.
Kevin Smith: My kid’s grown up watching Blu-ray and DVDs, and now she’s deep in the stream and in the clouds. Try to communicate to someone like that, “There was a time when you couldn’t watch anything whenever you wanted.” Of course, you can’t watch “Guardians of the Galaxy” until they let you, but I’m talking back then it was anything. You couldn’t watch “Star Wars.” People look at you like you’re crazy.
Janet Pierson: I used to have a miserably weird, bad reaction to video stores. Too many boxes of cereal; I didn’t know which one I wanted. If you look at Netflix, the lineup, that’s working for me so much better than video stores did.
Joe Swanberg: I saw a movie, “The Telephone Book” from 1971, the other day. This weirdo sex movie popped up on Netflix. I was like, “Okay, cool. They’re licensing some cool stuff that is off of my radar.” When I was fourteen, I wanted to be a filmmaker, and I started reading Filmmaker Magazine and I’d read about indie films I’d never see, not even at the video store. These days, you can see them on VOD. If I was fourteen right now, still in the suburbs of Chicago, I could be really up-to-date with the independent film scene as much as anyone in L.A. or NYC. That’s exciting. The access is getting better.
Darren Aronofsky: I’m a newcomer to Netflix. I can’t wait for a seminal, “Kim’s Streaming” type of experience where you can get any title you want. There seems like someone should get on it. There are so many good films. And there are too many that are hard to get. Netflix is limited that way. I like their original programming, but I can’t say I use it for much else. Although, I did hear about a Gael García Bernal film, “Even the Rain” (2010). It’s a film he made in Bolivia. It’s fantastic—and you can watch it on Netflix. The experience was very similar to how I would stumble on a film on videotape. It’s a small, beautiful foreign film. And I streamed it.
Kevin Smith: You’d think I’m like, “Fuck streaming. Because in our day . . .” But I’m a filmmaker who is happy to watch a film on an iPhone. I just want to get it in me. I’m a movie lover at heart, so the quickest, easiest way you can get it to me is A-okay in my book. It doesn’t have to be on an IMAX screen. That’s great, sometimes. But I need it in me. I just need the movie in me. Any way that that can be administered, even if it’s on a tiny iPhone screen. I like streaming.
Darren Aronofsky: Most people are going to watch my films on an iPhone. We talk about that. When we did a sound mix, we did an iPad or iPhone mix for Noah, so that hopefully it would be in stereo. “Look,” I said, “there’s a real audience there, and you have to be conscious of that. You can’t control it.”
Quentin Tarantino: That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
Darren Aronofsky: It’s probably why I have moved to 1.85 [aspect ratio] in my framing on films. [Aronofsky went from 1.85 for “The Fountain” to 2.35 for “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan,” and back to 1.85 for “Noah.”] It’s closer to what people are actually going to see on a hand-held device. It’s the reality. I do a lot of sound work. That’s the biggest loss. Sound is a big part of filmmaking, and even with your Beats headphones, you’re missing the whole surround-sound feeling. In the end, I am a storyteller, and I want my story to be watched and listened to in any possible form. I can’t be snobbish about it. I would like people to see it in the theater, but I recognize that people see them in all sorts of ways and I try to make that experience as good as I can.