With the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in full swing, we sent out a questionnaire to filmmakers with films in competitionin which they tell us all the significant details of how their films came to be created. Among the questions asked was the inspiration behind each of their films, leading to a wide variety of answers that range from documentaries (“Salesman,” “War Room”) to foreign films (“Breathless,” “La Dolce Vita”), from big-budget studio blockbusters (“Jaws,” “Die Hard”) to micro-budget indies (“El Mariachi,” “Halloween”), from stark high-brow dramas (“Network,” “Mean Streets”) to lovably goofy comedies (“Caddyshack,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”). Here are some of the most eclectic selections from the 2014 Tribeca filmmakers:
Onur Tukel (“Summer of Blood”): There are four movies that inspired “Summer of Blood.” Robert Bierman’s “Vampire’s Kiss,” Mary Harron’s “American Psycho,” Larry Fessenden’s “Habit,” and Rick Alverson’s “The Comedy.” For the record, my favorite horror comedy of all time is “American Werewolf in London.” I loved watching horror films as a teenager in the 80s. In the 90s, during college, I discovered and loved the films of Woody Allen.
Garrett Bradley (“Below Dreams”): 1970s American Cinema is my jam. So many faces! Public spaces, personal stories…world world meets art. I’m inspired in some way by a lot of what I see…so I think it’s better to speak on the filmmakers here: Michelangelo Antonioni, Cassavetes, John Shlesinger, William Greaves, Billy Woodberry, Sidney Lumet, Elia Kazan, Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda.
Jody Lipes (“Ballet 422”): “The Charlie Rose Show.” Allan King’s “A Married Couple.” All of Frederick Wiseman’s work, the Maysles’ films “Running Fence” and “Salesman,” Barbara Kopple’s “Harlan County U.S.A.,” James Gray’s “We Own The Night,” “The Yards,” and “Little Odessa.” Just watched “Tootsie” again, really strong picture. Not many others can match Hoffman’s run during this period…”Lenny,” “All the President’s Men,” “Marathon Man,” “Straight Time,” “Agatha,” “Kramer vs Kramer,” “Death of a Salesman,” “Ishtar,” “Rain Man.” That filmography is for all time.
Christopher Denham (“Preservation”): I have a weak stomach. My wife is a doctor so she finds it funny that I actually pass out when I get my blood drawn. I physically can’t stand gore on screen. I can’t stand blood and guts. Not for any puritanical/moral high-ground reason. I just don’t want to black out. Therefore, the movies I gravitate towards, the movies I want to make, are more about the power of suggestion. What you don’t see is scarier than what you do. Categorization is always kind of arbitrary, but people have called “Preservation” a “psychological thriller”. To me, psychological thriller basically means “a horror movie without the blood.” John Carpenter called “Halloween” a jack in the box. You know it’s coming. You just don’t know when. We tried to do the same thing with “Preservation.” How can we sustain the tension? How unbearable can it be? I heard this interview with Joyce Carol Oates. She said the power of storytelling is the power of dread…
David Lascher (“Sister”): Character driven films with a strong voice from a writer/director. Alexander Payne’s “Sideways” and “The Descendants,” Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Manhattan.”
Tyler Measom (“An Honest Liar”): I have always been, and will continue to be inspired by my absolute favorite film, “Network” (1976). The dialogue, pacing and shot placement are well ahead of its time. The wonderful political documentary “War Room” (1993) made me not only a hopeful documentarian, but a Democrat. When making “An Honest Liar,” we studied the art of non-fiction storytelling by re-watching such works as “Man on Wire,” “Bill Cunningham New York,” “The Imposter,” “F is for Fake,” and “Marjoe,” among others.
Alastair Orr (“Indigenous”): I love the early films of established filmmakers. The films that have that raw, gritty feel about them where the directors’ talent just shines through. There’s no grips, no budgets, just balls. Films like “El Mariachi,” “Following,” “Eraser Head,” and even now, films like “Monsters” and “The Raid.”
Victor Levin (“5 to 7”): Among the strongest inspirations are “Manhattan,” “Jules and Jim,” “Il Postino,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “Swept Away (1974 version),” “Metropolitan,” “Local Hero,” “Network” and “Casablanca.” Smart, funny, immensely moving stories. Filmmaking that doesn’t call attention to itself but gives you beautiful images. Dialogue I’ve never forgotten.
Andrew Renzi (“Fishtail”): The documentaries of Frederick Wiseman and Albert Maysles were an inspiration for this documentary, as well as the visual styles of the narrative features, “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “Jeremiah Johnson,” and “Days of Heaven.” More generally, I am inspired by the grand gesture hollywood character studies of the ’80s and ’90s like “Scent of a Woman” and “Rain Man,” and I also really love colorful and flamboyant Italian films like “Divorce Italian Style,” “The Leopard,” “The Conformist,” or “Blood and Black Lace.”
Kevin Gordon (“True Son”): “Pour la Suite du Monde” always stick out in my mind. It’s an early 1960s, verité film by Michel Brault and the National Film Board of Canada that was beautifully shot, had a filmmaker constructed premise, and was light years ahead of its time. Anyone who thinks we are completely re-inventing the documentary form today should revisit that film. Italian Neorealism should also be required viewing for doc filmmakers.
Susanna Fogel (“Life Partners”): I love Nicole Holofcener’s films for their constant duality of humor and emotion and their focus on very real, if flawed, dynamics between funny people. I also love the work of a French director named Cedric Klapisch, whose films (“L’Auberge Espagnole,” “Russian Dolls,” etc.) combine total naturalism with a fun, poppy style that makes them as widely accessible as they are smart. I love how his films sneak up on you: it’s only after two hours of having fun as a viewer that you suddenly realize you are also feeling something truly profound. I aspire to be a filmmaker like that, whose work makes people laugh, feel and think without trying too hard.
Jimmy Goldblum and Adam Weber (“Tomorrow We Disappear”): One of our editors, Hye Mee Na, recommended us Isao Takahata’s “Pom Poko” early in post. It really clarified a lot of our themes and was easily the biggest influence on this film.
Brent Hodge (“A Brony Tale”): This list could go on forever.. but no other film or story will ever amount to “Alice in Wonderland” and the endless inspiration that it gives to me.
Frederic Tcheng (“Dior and I”): Frederick Wiseman’s films were a big inspiration for this project. He is the master of exploring institutions. I also looked at the Maysles brothers’ documentaries, for the way they treat character and emotion. And strangely enough, Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” was also important, thematically, in the way we approached the ghost of Christian Dior.
Dan Sickles (“Mala Mala”): The documentary work of D.A. Pennebaker, the Maysles, and Nicolas Philibert has had a huge influence on me as well. I’m also a huge fan of action movies and believe the genre is grossly under appreciated. “Die Hard” deserves its own, separate shoutout.
Ilmar Raag (“I Won’t Come Back”): Very difficult question. First eye opener was “Fanny and Alexander” of Ingmar Bergman, but then I could name everything between “The Celebration” of Thomas Vinterberg and “Spirited Away” of Hayao Miyazaki.
Ivan Kavanagh (“The Canal”): Probably too many to mention, but the films I find myself returning to again and again, over the years, for inspiration, are “The Shining” (Kubrick), “Rosemary’s Baby” (Polanski), “Fire Walk With Me” (Lynch), “After Hours” (Scorsese), “Winter Light” (Bergman), “The Ascent” (Shepitko) and “Don’t Look Now” (Roeg). I love all types of films and genres, but some of most vivid memories of watching films as a child are of horror films. I’ve always felt that the genre has often been unfairly dismissed and neglected. For me, horror films, at their very best, have always (from the silent era to the present) allowed filmmakers the possibility of pushing the boundaries of cinema (both in sound and in picture) and to experiment. I find the genre incredibly liberating as a filmmaker, as literally anything is possible.
Lou Howe (“Gabriel”): For this film, Mike Leigh’s “Naked” was a big touchstone. Plus American character studies from the 70’s like “The Gambler” and “Straight Time,” and some Bob Rafelson and Hal Ashby films. I think the work of Lisandro Alonso really influenced me also. He’s an Argentine filmmaker who makes these mysterious and perfect little quest movies. Claire Denis, Michael Haneke, the list goes on.
Mike Fleiss (“The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir”): “Jaws” is my favorite film of all time, and I’m also a big fan of “Network,” as well as great horror films of the 70’s.
Antonio Santini (“Mala Mala”): Right now, I Ulrich Seidl’s movies. I love “Paradise Love” and “Models.” It’s like how did he make them to feel so real? Also “Import/Export.” He inspires me, his cross of documentary and narrative. It’s very new. I’m inspired by TV. “Laguna Beach,” “The Hills,” cartoons I watched when I was young. All those things were so genius. I like how everyone gets so mad about Sofia Coppola, I’m inspired by the anger she causes in people. Harmony Korine is also an amazing creature who manifests his interior very interestingly in his movies. I’m inspired by movies in context with their creators. I think it enhances the experience.
Alonso Ruizpalacios (“Gueros”): Everything from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (my first cinematic love) to Kurosawa – any Kurosawa – he’s my favourite filmmaker of all time. I doubt we will see films as epic and, at the same time, as humane as his. He was the Shakespeare of cinema. Having said that, for this film, we watched a lot of Fellini and the French New Wave. In particular, “I Vitelloni,” “La Dolce Vita,” “Vivre Sa Vie” and, of course, “Breathless.”
Brin Hill (“In Your Eyes”): “Mean Streets” and “The Conformist” are my two favorites. Spike Lee was a huge influence early (both his work and as a personal mentor). David O Russell’s recent stuff is pushing me to think differently. I always love James Gray’s work. I like pictures that makes you feel something, some kind of real emotion, and I really like characters who want to break free of their socialization and still make you laugh a little along the way. For “In Your Eyes,” I didn’t worry about matching tone when I looked for inspiration: Checked out some Soderbergh – “Traffic,” “Contagion,” “Sex, Lies and Videotapes,” “Girlfriend Experience.” Looked at some Pete Berg – especially the intimacy of the camerawork in “Friday Night Lights.” And it might seem odd, but the immediacy matched with the look & feel of “8 Mile” was super helpful and influential as well.
Sam Cullman (“Art and Craft”): “Caddyshack” was my first experience at the movies. I was just about four at the time (my parents didn’t believe in “age-appropriate”). It was the Baby Ruth scene that hooked me to the communal experience of cinema. I’ll never forget the collective anticipation (Jaws music!), the gasp (Hazmat suits!), and then the flat-out eruption of laughter when Bill Murray figures it all out.
Ian Cheney (“The Search for General Tso”): I get something out of most every film I watch, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Ross McElwee’s films, and of course for Frederick Wiseman’s work — even though I can’t say my own work is very similar. I also had a lot of fun watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” as it’s probably a distant cousin to our film in some ways.
Hans Petter Moland (“In Order of Disappearance”): “101 Dalmatians” is the first film I saw, first moving images. I was seven. I misunderstood the drama a bit. Having grown up on a farm I didn’t understand why the sexy lady with the fancy car couldn’t get some of those puppies for a fur coat. There were so many of them!