Having only met in August 2015, we are still very much just getting to know each other. Below you will find a list of questions we created together in the hopes of better understanding what drives each other's interest in the subject, as well as what films and television shows have helped shaped our own screen philosophies.
1. Is there one particular film and/or television show that you believe led you to major in Film and Screen?
2. What is your earliest memory related to film and/or television?
3. Who is a filmmaker/showrunner you admire?
* * * * *
Is there one particular film and/or television show that you believe led you to major in Film and Screen?
- Nick's Response -
Funnily enough I don’t think it was a film or a television show that led me to this major. I came to film and screen studies in a very round-about way. When I was a youngster I would get in trouble for not shutting up in school because I’d finish my work and get bored easily. My parents thought that it would be wise to channel this energy into a creative pursuit, and so I found myself at a children’s drama school. I’ve never had much trouble standing up in front of people and making an idiot out of myself and so I took to the stage with a passion. For a while I dreamed of being an actor on the big screen or the big stage. I wasn’t interested in fame or celebrity, it was the process that interested me most. I liked working over scripts again and again until I understood everything about my character. I liked creating something whole from the words. It wasn’t long before I realized that there was a person whose job was to know everything about everyone’s characters and so directing caught my eye. Then I realized just how much work goes into directing and it all seemed a bit much for me.
One level back from the heady heights of directing in my mind was screenwriting. It was crafting stories and creating worlds, but without all of the busy work of – you know- actually making things. I didn’t need to source the perfect locations, they could exist in my mind instead. Seeing as I had little life experience to draw from and was struggling at being truly creative, the next cab off the rank was cinematography. Being a DOP would be cool because I kind of like photography and film is all about telling a story with images. I looked up lists of the most beautiful films and after watching just a couple I was once again overwhelmed by the greats and underwhelmed by my own skills. I cooled on the filmmaking route for a while, helping my friends out if they needed it, but never being the driving force. Eventually I came across writers and critics who were diving deep into films and bringing to the surface the hidden meanings that the average viewer missed. I loved how they were able to find the central truths to films, ones that may have been hidden even from those creating them. This long winded tale leads me to the writer who I first latched onto: FILM CRIT HULK. I don’t know which article I stumbled across first. It might have been his explanation of why Les Miserables felt a bit off, his reasoning for never hating movies, or it could have not been an article and instead was a podcast appearance. Whatever it was, I wanted to be able to watch film the way HULK did; I wanted to be able to understand film the way HULK did; I wanted to be able to write about film the way HULK did.
- Bells' Response -
Anyone that has let me talk to them for more than 5 minutes about what I study knows that Lost dramatically defined my relationship with television. Only being 10 years old at the time it debuted on Channel 7, I wasn’t allowed to stay up and watch it at it’s 9.30pm airing time. As a result, each year I had to hold out until Christmas where I would be gifted the latest season released on DVD. I would then watch from start to finish (including behind the scenes features), barely talking to another member of the family until I had reached another incredible cliffhanger. It was the first ‘grown up’ show that I was exposed to, and it revealed to me the capacity of television to create complete alternative worlds, as complex, if not more so, as the world we live in.
Already a child with an obsessive personality who needed to know the in’s and out’s of everything (today I think my friends and family prefer the label ‘just plain nosey’), the intricacies and complexities of Lost quickly became wired neurons in my brain. If someone were to raise a question rooted in religion or philosophy, or even the age-old, “if you had to spend the rest of your life on a deserted island…” questions at a dinner party, I know Lost showrunners, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have prepared me with an exhaustive list of answers. Perhaps it is because I started watching the show at such a young age and didn’t completely grasp every nuance or coded message until my countless re-watch’s, but my fascination with understanding how and why things were curated on this mysterious island in the middle of nowhere is still something that occupies a large portion of my time.
I’m also really grateful that by the time I entered high school, movies were regularly integrated into English and Literature curriculums. Everything that we watched from Rear Window, Psycho and Chinatown to Schindler’s List or even Bend It Like Beckham, helped plant the idea that cinema studies was a valid means of establishing the sociocultural discourses that shaped the world around us.
What is your earliest memory related to film and/or television?
- Nick's Response -
I am terrible at remembering the order of biographical events. Because of this, I have no idea what my first memory would be... I do remember that my sister and I saw Aladdin in the cinemas on multiple occasions. I'm fairly certain it was more than 5 times. My sister is older than I am and so I always adopted her interests and hobbies. I loved Disney (still do). I watched the musical Cats nearly every day for an entire summer. I've seen nearly ever season of Will & Grace. These examples might not be the best examples to see how, but the times I've spent watching screens with my sister have been incredibly helpful for me. She is a much more emotional person than I am, and where I get distracted by the pretty framing and the interesting performance choices, she remains in the moment of the film. She feels the story. She becomes the characters. The discussions we have are so rich because of our differing perspectives, and she's unintentionally taught me a lot about how to watch films.
- Bells' Response -
My parents had an old VHS recording of Who Framed Roger Rabbit from when they lived in the UK before I was born. My brother and I used to watch the recording over and over and over. It was one of the few movies that everyone in our house could agree to watch together, and we still do to this day (although now we watch a digital copy purchased from iTunes). It is my quintessential example of 'movie magic.' Cartoons in the real world? Yes, please.
As a child I would laugh at Roger Rabbit being hit over the head time and time again, cartoon birds twittering around his head, as an almost-adult I laugh at the dry humour of Bob Hoskin’s that kept my parents entertained time and time again. There is something about this film being one of the earliest pieces of cinema I was exposed to that also makes it immensely personal. I never really believe people when they say they are also huge fans of it. “Are you really though?” I always say back to them.
I have also been scarred for life by some of the films we watched in my house as a child. The Never Ending Story, Gremlins, ET and particularly the nightmare-inducing Labyrinth left me completely shaken for years. I would love to have some stern words with Jim Henson, whilst David Bowie will forever be my number one nemesis in life. Even now I struggle to identify the boundaries between real life and cinematic worlds so back then 8-year-old me was even more infatuated by the blurring of lines between reality and fiction.
Who is a filmmaker/showrunner you admire?
- Nick's Response -
All of the big ones I’m fairly reverent of. Scorsese. Spielberg. Kubrick. I don’t know enough about some of the older masters. I’m keen to watch more Ozu and Kurosawa too. That being said, the filmmaker who I’m most interested in seeing what they do next is Edgar Wright. I’d enjoyed his films for a while but it wasn’t until I’d watched Tony Zhou’s amazing video essay that I understood exactly how remarkable he was. As Tony says, Edgar Wright is the director who is making the most of the medium. He uses all of the tools at the filmmaker’s disposal to tell his stories which makes them dynamic and interesting to watch. As he is a producer of comedic work, it is in incredibly stark contrast to the films being produced by other directors who are releasing “lightly edited improv” in Tony’s words. His heart may lie in comedy but I’d love to see what an Edgar Wright drama looks like as well. I’ll just sit here with fingers crossed and watch Shaun of the Dead on repeat.
- Bells' Response -
Stephen Falk, showrunner of FXX’s You’re The Worst is someone I can’t stop admiring right now. His ability to create extremely dislikable characters who are also incredibly relatable people, whom audiences get to know and understand in such depth despite only having ten 22-minute episodes a season is incredibly impressive. He's also found an incredible platform to introduce previously taboo subjects (like mental illness) into larger sociocultural discourse, and in a really engaging way: comedy.
I also love Noah Baumbach films, particularly the ones he has written recently with partner Greta Gerwig. Frances Ha and Mistress America are such wonderful viewing experiences. While most directors strive to create characters that scream relatable and personable, to me it seems Baumbach almost does the polar opposite. He likes to create characters that are little over-exaggerated in their flaws, a little over the top in their demeanor or their aspirations. It is physical comedy, and it is comedy that puts a smile on your face.