Emerging from a nitrate fire in 1963, Quentin Tarantino was fed only exploitation films, spaghetti Westerns and actual spaghetti until he was old enough to thirst for blood. He found his way into the film industry as a PA on a Dolph Lundgren workout video, as a store clerk at Video Archives and by getting encouragement to write a screenplay by the very man who would make a name for himself producing Tarantino’s films.
Peter Bogdanovich (and probably many others) think of him as the most influential director of his generation, and he’s got the legendary story to back it up — not to mention line-busting movies like Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained under his belt. He’s also the kind of name that makes introductions like this useless.
So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a guy who really loves Hi Diddle Diddle and plans to keep 35mm alive as long as he’s rich enough to do it.
Lie Until People Think You Worked With Godard
“What happens when you start out acting, you gotta have a resume, and if you ain’t done nothin’, you can’t write ‘Nothing.’ People aren’t gonna pay attention to that so you’ve gotta lie. Alright? I had better luck at it than most because I knew a lot about movies and stuff. I was a fan of Jean-Luc Godard, and he’d just had a movie come out. It was from Cannon back in the 80s or something called King Lear. Woody Allen is in it for a moment, and Molly Ringwald is in it, and I saw it. And, it’s like, there’s no way in hell anyone’s gonna see this movie, so I wrote down under ‘Motion Pictures’ on my resume, ‘King Lear – dir. Jean-Luc Godard w/ Woody Allen, Molly Ringwald.’
I even did that with another movie, too, called Dawn of the Dead, you know, the George Romero zombie movie. Well there was a motorcycle guy in the motorcycle gang who kinda looked like me, so I just said it was.”
Tarantino is quick to point out that he had the lies down, providing anecdotes from the set and details from the movies. The King Lear lie eventually seeped into his biography in press notes after Reservoir Dogs, but since he found it funny (and never corrected the mistakes), the lie spread even further. He was eventually listed in Leonard Maltin’s “Movies On TV” as being in the cast of Godard’s film.
Sadly, IMDB doesn’t list him in it.
Of course, there are a ton of people lying to get work in the movie business, so if you’re going to do it, know what you’re talking about and go with gusto. It might also help to know as much about movies as Tarantino.
Good Artists Borrow, But Great Artists?
“I steal from every movie ever made.”
This may be a key deconstructive criticism for his work, but it might also be that he’s simply more honest than everyone else. If we can’t help but pick bits of inspiration from everything, why not be direct? Why not blend them all together to make something new that looks familiar? Who says a director can’t be more like a DJ?