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in Filmmaking
on Mar 18, 2009

Two filmmakers born out of the early ‘80s independent film movement, Todd Haynes and Rick Linklater, shared a casual, free-flowing conversation that ranged from New Queer Cinema to Tarkovsky to strategies for staying creatively alive at SXSW on Tuesday. There was no stated theme, so Linklater briefly discussed the genesis of his Me and Orson Welles, Haynes talked a bit about I’m Not There, but mostly they just shared common experiences of being directors having had early success in what now seems like the boom era of independent moviemaking.

Of the New Queer Cinema, Haynes said, “Because I lived in the AIDS era, we all looked at periods like the ’60s and ’70s as great periods because there was a political necessity driving the films. What I never minded about the term New Queer Cinema, which was a press construction, was that it meant I was a part of a family of filmmakers making films out of necessity that didn’t just share themes and topics but formal theories and strategies. And all of a sudden, there was a market for these films, and that’s why there was a New Queer Cinema.”

When asked whether it was any easier to get a movie made now that he is an established filmmaker, Linklater replied, “Yes and no. The good thing is you have a body of work, and the bad thing is you have a body of work. After Slacker I did get a “gimme film,” my high school rock-and-roll movie [Dazed and Confused]. I had a producer who was going around town saying, “How do you know this guy isn’t the next George Lucas?” And then you do your film and you’re not the next George Lucas. A few years ago I thought I caught a groove, that I could handle anything, but the last two films have been the most difficult, the trickiest. They tested [me] mentally, physically, psychically. It never gets easier.”

“I haven’t even had that groove,” Haynes replied. “ I remember hearing a quote from Robert Altman who said, “It’s always hard, it’s like starting from scratch every time.” And at the time I hadn’t even made a film yet!”

The best anecdote, one that united the two directors, was told by Haynes, who described going with Jim Lyons to Los Angeles’s Nu-Art theater to watch his first film, Poison. That particular night, Haynes was excited that Madonna was in the crowd. “It was a largely gay audience,” recounted Haynes, “and they could just smell Madonna — they knew she was there. And then the trailer for Slacker came on and that ‘Madonna pap smear’ moment happens, and the entire audience turns around and looks at Madonna and she gets up and leaves!”

Remembering back, Linklater said, “You know, [while in production] I didn’t want to do anything to date the film, and I wondered, is Madonna going to be around for three or four more years? But I made the commitment. I felt she was in it for the long haul.”

The final word went to Haynes: “We made it through [this panel] without bitching about how fucked-up the industry is right now!”

For the rest of our SXSW 2009 coverage visit our standalone site here.

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