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Monday, September 1, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Danny Rubin

Danny Rubin
Photo credit: Francis Donald
By Danny Rubin and Joshua Handler 

Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of people who don't seek out independent films, non-English-language films, and classics.  So, I asked some of the most distinctive voices in independent and world cinema to submit responses to a few questions about why/if they think indies/non-English-language films/classics are important to view, and how those films have been influential on their careers.

The responses below are from Danny Rubin, best known for his BAFTA-winning screenplay for GROUNDHOG DAY.  His screenplay for GROUNDHOG DAY (co-written with Harold Ramis) was named one of the 101 Greatest Screenplays by the Writers Guild of America, West, and the film itself was named one of the best American comedies and best American fantasy films of all time by the American Film Institute.  It has also been selected for preservation by the National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of Congress.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why?
I think that people who love movies enough to want to make them would be blown away by the approaches and perspectives offered by non-US/non-studio films.  But important?  I guess you could argue that all supportive knowledge is good, from taking a film history course (see question #2) to spending some time training as an actor.  Beyond that I suppose it just depends on the filmmaker and what experience they’re after.  
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why?
See above.
How did viewing indies and films from around the world help you when writing GROUNDHOG DAY or any of your other screenplays?
At the time of writing GROUNDHOG DAY, it hadn’t occurred to me that Hollywood only made Hollywood films.  I assumed that if I had seen it in a theater – ever - then somebody in Hollywood would make something similar.  It was naive and, uh, what’s that other word? Stupid. But there you have it.  

So when I started thinking about GROUNDHOG DAY, a whimsical black comedy, playful with its concept, predicated on a fantastic and surreal premise, I knew it would work because I’d seen movies like KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, a film from the Ealing Studios in England, and I’d seen THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL by Luis Buñuel.  I’d certainly recommend either of these films to anybody.  I should point out that when I saw THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL for the first time it gave me a crazy huge headache.  Still, it haunted me and I wrestled with it and it changed how I saw the world as well as the possibilities of film storytelling.  Now I find it simply funny and ingenious.  When I saw ERASERHEAD for the first (and only) time it also gave me a headache, but even that film came back to me with waves and echoes of understanding when my daughter was a baby and cried incessantly to the point where my life was altered.  Just like ERASERHEAD.  

Most of my foreign, indie, historic, and even experimental film viewing experiences have not given me a headache.  I’m usually delighted, educated, informed, moved, and certainly influenced.
What's one American indie (narrative or documentary) and one non-English-language film (narrative or documentary) that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
Mind blank.  Start with the ones above.  KIND HEARTS is inspired silliness.  The others, bring aspirin.  
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Wednesday.

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