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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Patterson's Film School Confidential: bad art about art, rotten films about film, tedious novels about writers

clowes old tampon trick.jpgThe Guardian’s John Patterson has a film school tale or two on the occasion of Art School Confidential, as he describes Terry Zwigoff as “the merry misanthrope with a hair-trigger bullshit detector.” Writes JP, “I came to think as I watched the movie, film school may be worse… because so many cosseted rich kids end up there thinking they’re artists, not realising they have in fact joined glorified trade schools for the media-industrial complex. If they learn a little about camera placement and pacing and spend… their time cultivating industry connections, they should be able to land a regular gig directing episodic TV… a day job for life… [F]ilm school is packed with precisely the people who have the fewest interesting things to say: those with parents who can sponsor them in education until they turn 30, and for whom the one transformative locale in life has been … a college campus. [In] recent art there is that strong, perhaps ineradicable tendency to make bad art about art, rotten films about films and tedious novels about writers.” Patterson says he hasn’t got “an axe to grind” but that twenty years ago classes at the U of C taught him “that I had the solitary temperament of a writer, not the collaborative one required of a film-maker… It is time for film-makers to learn the lesson of Quentin Tarantino, whose success a decade ago, ironically, helped pack the film schools with wannabe[s]… That lesson? Skip film school, just watch a lot of movies…. Because if you can’t learn how to watch a movie without a teacher standing in front of the screen with a pointer, you’ll never be any use to anyone when you’re standing in front of your… cast with a bullhorn. As the careers of Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Raoul Walsh and John Ford amply prove, if you wish to make movies about real life, it’s best to live some of it yourself first.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon