Growing up the son of a director has made me very aware of the various turns that a directing career can take. Sometimes your films turn out exactly as you want. Sometimes they don't. I spent a lot of my childhood on sets. I think as a joke, my father gave me a line of dialogue in each of his films during the worst moments of my puberty.
Growing up sucks, doesn't it? I understand why people wouldn't want to get old - but it'd be one thing if we became a culture obsessed with eating right, doing yoga, going to therapy and becoming at one with ourselves. That be great. But we don't do that. We seem to be obsessed with all the wrong ways to stay young.
[With comedy and wanting to make people laugh, ] when you're a child, all you want is ANY kind of laugh. You get them to laugh, and great! - you've succeeded. And then it's "How FAST can I get them to laugh?" "How LONG can I get them to laugh?", "How HARD can I get them to laugh?". And then it becomes: "Can I laugh at something that makes them uncomfortable?", "Can I get them to laugh at something that challenges their beliefs?
When my father was 17, he went to Montreal and found these submarine sandwich shops that were really successful, and weren't in Toronto [his home town]. So he went to my grandparents and said: "Look, you have to give me the seed money to open up one of these places. We'll make a fortune. They've got lines going round the block. There's nothing like that here." And my grandfather's response was: "Look, I'm sure these sandwiches are really good, and if we scraped the money together we could make a lot of money and your mother and I would be really proud of you, but you need to find something that has magic in it for you." It was off of that conversation that my father went to college on a music scholarship, started a film club and became one of the most successful directors of all time.
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I think romance is a tool, comedy is a tool and drama is a tool. I really just want to tell stories that challenge the viewer, move people, make you laugh, perhaps push an idea about being open-minded but never settle on a genre or an opinion. I hate genre. I like movies that are original in their approach.
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It's easy to get caught up in a moment and think, 'Oh, I've been offered some giant studio film or a superhero franchise or some actor wants to meet with me about a project they want to do.' And it's easy to get caught up in a moment because it's flattering. But you can't do a movie because it's flattering.
As far as writing, I like watching bad movies. Nothing stops me in my tracks more than watching a great film like 'The Godfather' or 'Dog Day Afternoon' or 'The Graduate.' You watch one of those, and you never want to write again. Whereas with bad movies, it makes you think, If that counts, I certainly could write.
I'm trying to figure myself out through my movies. Whether it's big stuff like what we're doing here, or little stuff like, 'Why aren't I happier?' With every film I feel like I'm apologising for something. I feel I'm most successful when I'm looking for something that embarrasses me about my character that I'd like to expose.
Most people are nostalgic in a way that they're fond of the past, but they still are happy that they are where they are now. You know, when you say, 'Oh, high school was this or that,' you don't want to go back. No matter how much you loved high school, you don't want to actually be back in high school. I certainly wouldn't.
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Directing is a reactionary job more than a creation job. The job is to react whether it's moment one, the first time you read the script or see an article or read a book or notice something happen on the street and have an idea for a movie, and it just continues from there on in. You're just reacting to dialogue, a performance, an audition, a headache, a piece of furniture, a piece of clothing.
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From the onset of the 'Live-Read' series, we wanted to hit all the major writers and Woody Allen is simply one of the greatest screenwriters of all time. He has ability to match pathos and comedy and drama and then turn it all on a dime. If you're going to make a series based on dialogue, you can't find much better than Woody Allen.
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I laugh a lot in horror films. If I'm scared in a horror film, I try to think about what's scaring me... particularly, if it's a bad movie, but something they're doing still works. It's the same way I look at comedy. I've always had an intellectual view of comedy, and what makes people laugh, and how does it work.
The first thing I say when people ask what's the difference [between doing TV and film], is that film has an ending and TV doesn't. When I write a film, all I think about is where the thing ends and how to get the audience there. And in television, it can't end. You need the audience to return the next week. It kind of shifts the drive of the story. But I find that more as a writer than as a director.
I'd done table reads for my own screenplays, and I always thought they were so much fun. Why couldn't we do these for other classic screenplays and bring them to life? You can experience live theater, where you get to see plays produced by different directors and different casts, but there's really nothing like that for movie scripts.
I'm really specific in the way that I shoot. I've always had a very good sense of what I need in the editing room. I used to shoot in a way that drew more attention to the camera and I've tried, in each film, to draw less and less attention to the camera. I think when you pay attention to the shots, you're aware of the fact that there's a director.
I have a strange fascination with the Midwest. I'm waiting to find out that my parents are actually from the Midwest. I grew up in Beverly Hills, up the street, and I just feel comfortable there. I've shot in Minneapolis, in Detroit, in St. Louis, in Omaha - they would say they're the Plains, not the Midwest - and I love it.
Can you design a Rorschach test that's going to make everyone feel something every time - and that looks like a Rorschach test? It's easy to show a picture of a kitten or a car accident. The question is, how abstract can you get and still get the audience to feel something when they don't know what's happening to them?