Thursday, August 6, 2009

He’s Gotta Have It: Part Six

A Chat with Barry Jenkins (click here for part five)

Are any of your short films available on DVD?

The thing about going to Florida State University is that I wouldn’t be a filmmaker if there wasn’t a film school there. That’s just fact. And the beauty of Florida State is that you pay tuition which, for me as a Florida student, was $1000 a semester and everything was covered: the equipment, stock, editing facilities, crew. I mean, it was the works, it was everything, but they own your films when you’re done with them.

I had the opposite experience. I majored in art, and aside from the expensive tuition, we had to buy canvas and paint, which adds up, so that’s really interesting.
I probably paid more than you, and I own those works, but I was in debt for a long time. I went to Whitman which, for the Northwest, is a really expensive school.

The training was invaluable, it was absolutely invaluable.

Maybe they’ll do something with them, like a collection of student films.

My Josephine is available as part of Crafting Short Screenplays. There’s a chapter on Josephine and a DVD comes with the book. The screenplay and movie are in there.

That’s cool. That’s an interesting way to see it. Many times when I see a
first feature that I like, I want to go back and watch the director’s shorts.

That’s how I fell in love with Lynn Ramsay. I saw her film Morvern Callar

I saw her shorts after her features.

I did too. I met her at the Telluride Film Festival in the student symposium.

What’s that? I’ve only heard of the film festival.

You haven’t heard of the symposium? Well, the festival has an education program. You write an essay, and they invite 50 students out, and you watch the movies.

It’s an expensive festival, so that’s a good deal.

It’s really expensive, so you get a free pass, you just travel yourself out. You have to put yourself up, too, and they encourage you to bundle up, like 10 kids in a con-
do. You have a certain schedule: you see films, and after you watch them, you get an hour in a classroom setting with the director. It was wonderful. We watched Morvern Callar, and then we sat down and talked with Lynne for an hour. We watched City of God, and then we sat down and talked with Fernando [Meirelles] for an hour. We saw Russian Ark, and then we sat and talked about it with the DP [Tilman Büttner] for an hour. We saw Spider, and we talked to [David] Cronenberg for an hour. It was abso-
lutely ridiculous. Even Dave McKean was there with these two short films, and I don’t think anyone’s ever seen those movies. We got to sit down with him. It was a really great experience. So, I watched Morvern Callar, and I was like, “I love this film.” Lynne brought Ratcatcher, which I also loved, and then I saw the shorts.

The shorts are really good, too. I saw them…well, maybe I’ve only seen one. I have that Cinema16 release, a series of great foreign short films, so I finally got caught up with the short that won the Oscar. And another one, I think it’s called Fly.

That’s Wasp, from a different filmmaker, Andrea Arnold, who was also at Telluride.

That’s funny. I do confuse the two.

She was at Telluride with Wasp. She’s great, she’s funny.

[They're both female Scottish filmmakers born in the '60s. Though Ramsay has never won an Oscar, she won Cannes Jury Awards for Gasman and Small Deaths.]

You and Lynn Shelton definitely like some of the same filmmakers.

Lynn and I are in love with the same filmmakers: Yes! [laughs]

I became aware of her because of her first film…

We Go Way Back.

Which I really hope more people get to see. I really wanted to meet
her, and she’s the friend of a friend, so it was easy to set up. I com-
pared it to
[the work of] Claire Denis, which made her so happy.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Jenkins and I proceeded to chat for another 10 minutes or so, mostly about the struggle
to pay the rent while shooting a film (during his tenure at Banana Republic in, I think, the shipping department, he wrote three screenplays) and adaptations, like
Morvern Callar and John Hillcoat's upcoming version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but this is the point at which my tape ends, and I only brought one. Incidentally, my recorder ceased to function halfway through our conversation, so Jenkins took a look at it, determined the problem,
and with the judicious insertion of a tiny piece of crumpled-up paper, he fixed it.

Fellow Florida State University alum James Laxton

Endnote: Images from Popcorn Reel and Strike Anywhere Films.

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