Paul Schrader’s filmmaking credits include some of the most iconic films of the 20th century, from “American Gigolo” to “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” In the latest episode of the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast, Schrader discusses how the creation of his new film, “Dog Eat Dog,” is part of a “post-rules” generation, his screenwriting methods and the fallouts he’s had with some of his contemporaries.
In “Dog Eat Dog,” Schrader says he wanted to explore the current state of the crime film genre, something that’s changed in a post-Scorsese and post-Tarantino world. For his latest film, Schrader gathered a group of people from fields outside the film industry to work on it. He calls them the “post-rules” generation: A group of filmmakers who aren’t even aware of the classical film rules that have been utilized, broken and codified over the decades. For these filmmakers, says Schrader, “the only rules were video games, commercials, and the Internet.”
In regards to his screenwriting technique, Schrader said he focuses more on crafting an engaging story than the technical form or length of the script itself.
“First and foremost, I don’t believe that screenwriting is a form of writing at all. I think it’s part of the oral tradition, not a part of the literary tradition. It has to do with me telling you a story,” he said. “If I can tell you a story for forty minutes and hold your interest, I have a movie. And if I can’t, then I don’t.”
When asked about his collaborations with directors in the past, Schrader reviews some of the fallouts he’s had with film giants like Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma. When working on “Obsession,” Schrader and De Palma had disagreements on the length of the script, with the two of them unwilling to come to an agreement on any changes. As Schrader noted, it’s something they’ve yet to reconcile to this day.
For “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Spielberg rejected Schrader’s initial screenplay in favor of his own, which created friction between the two. In retrospect, however, Schrader noted that Spielberg “had another film in mind,” and thinks he has “the most natural eye of any storyteller on film.”