HolidayBuyer's Guide

Richard Linklater rocks South by Southwest

AUSTIN, Texas--I'm here mainly for South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi), and unlike last year, I can't access the many of the film festival panels and events that are happening simultaneously.

I discovered, however, that filmmaker Richard Linklater--of Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset and School of Rock fame--was speaking at the film festival, and I had to see it.

I'm not usually a fanboy, because fanboys are kind of annoying (insert flame e-mail here). But with Linklater, I'm a fanboy. I admit it. I sat up close. I hung on every word. I was too shy to ask a question. I love Richard Linklater (um, films).

But after the fanboy-ness wore off a bit, I realized, "Hey, this guy is saying interesting things, in addition to being the coolest filmmaker ever."

Let me share a couple tidbits with you.

Linklater, looking relaxed on stage as he was interviewed by producer John Pierson, talked a lot about his experiences as a director. One of his observations was that even as he began to be a success--say, after Slacker was a hit--he found himself being controlled by the studio's efficiency police as he was making next film, Dazed and Confused.

And it made him question how film as art is made.

"The production process...none of (it) has to do with art," he said. "You kind of have to sneak your art into that process. Once there's money involved, the biggest jump I ever made was going from Slacker to Dazed. I felt this clampdown of efficiency. None of this system cared about art."

I was touched as he talked about being in a car, shooting Before Sunset, and watching actress Julie Delpy crying as her scene got emotional. It struck him that what was going on was one of his favorite things about making movies, despite having the navigate the studio maze for each film.

"There's magic while it's happening...that moment right when it's over," he said. "That moment that something really great was happening, and it happened right in front of me, and I got to be the first one to see it. That happens on every film I've done."

My point in mentioning these tidbits from Linklater's talk is to illustrate that even for successful directors, the process of making movies is not pure bliss. Instead, it is a constant battle to get what they want in the face of tight-fisted producers. And yet, it's those little moments that make it all worth it.