Randomly, and quite by accident, I watched an interview with Quentin Tarantino on CBC’s The Hour. Although the brutality of Tarantino’s work is too heavy for me – enjoyed Kill Bill but didn’t have the stomach for Pulp Fiction – I was pleasantly surprised and very inspired by his creative philosophy. Violence aside, I can certainly appreciate his aesthetic, witty, well-written dialogue, and uncanny ability to perfectly cast each role. Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying he has a clear vision and voice.
Even more captivating is the energy with which he speaks about writing. It’s totally engrossing and really addictive. Yes, he’s a fast talker and the coherence of his words can be hard to track, but that’s because he’s absolutely fascinated by the subject matter. The excitement is palpable. I found myself hungry for more after the ten minute conversation was over, so I hopped on over to the more significantly timed 45 minute Charlie Rose interview for some extra nuggets of artistic wisdom.
First of all, Tarantino is absolutely adamant that he writes with pen and paper, and specifically corrects Rose when his writing process is mistakenly described as typing on a laptop. This may seem like unnecessary hairsplitting but, because I’ve recently been making the effort to write longhand and noticing the difference, the subject has been top of mind. The organic quality of writing by hand tugs at a very specific set of emotional heart strings.
On more than one occasion, Tarantino said it’s all about the page. If he can make it work on the page, then he knows he can make it work on the screen. Also fascinating was that his writing process is an unusual combination of prose fiction and screenplay: a novelistic script, for lack of a better term. Sometimes, he starts with novel format, and adapts along the way.
The second most impactful takeaway from these interviews was more practical, a cluster of realizations that the logical part of our brains already knows but is afraid to admit:
• Creativity isn’t chronological. (This is a big one for me.)
• Projects aren’t born overnight.
• It’s okay to start over.
• It’s okay to abandon material that’s not clicking.
• Failure is not really failure, in the traditional sense of the word.
I was especially intrigued by the story of his first film, My Best Friend’s Birthday, which took him three years to complete, and funded by his job as a video rental clerk. Once finished, he realized that it wasn’t very good. However, he did notice a distinct difference between the early and later footage. Instead of declaring the entire project a waste of time, he recognized the lessons learned and called the experience his own private, DIY film school.
If you enjoy Tarantino’s work, or if you’re feeling creatively stuck, I highly recommend watching these interviews. They provide a curious combination of artistic wisdom and motivation, and an overwhelming dose of kick-ass can’t-wait-to-get-started inspiration.