Sunday, July 20, 2008

Paul Schrader Live!

image courtesy: google

At the Osian's Cinefan film festival held recently in Delhi I had the chance to go (read sneak out of work) and listen to Paul Schrader talk about screen writing. To my mind this was a golden opportunity to a) maybe learn something about screen writing from the guy who wrote the most precise character sketch ever b) to be in the company of Scorsese's ghost :)

The Siri Fort Auditorium is uncomfortably large. There was a table, chair and white board on the enormous stage and some sort of video projection at the back which I thought would give me a decent view of Schrader as he delivered his lecture. I took my seat at the back just as he walked on to stage and took his place. Bald, chubby, casually dressed in shorts and a t-shirt Paul Schrader was as far removed as can be from the mental picture I had of him from an iconic photograph taken on the sets of Taxi Driver.

As he spoke in that distinctive American drawl about writing and creating cinema in words, he became more familiar. The session titled 'Masterclass in Screenwriting' shaped up like an outline of a lesson in scriptwriting. There were some bold statements that were thrown at the audience. I'm paraphrasing at best but here's one such statement "If you're not willing to drop your pants and let it all hang out, or if you're looking for something more polite and discreet - this [filmmaking] is perhaps not for you." Not the best orator and hardly eloquent - but then it made sense when he spoke of the need for economy of expression. Words cannot make up in number what they lack in girth. In a time when words are cheap and silence costs dear, to say nothing is saying a lot.

The audience was waiting for some sort of an epiphany. But it didn't come. Instead what we got was Paul Schrader talking about his failed marriage, many failed relationships, his suicidal rage, the birth of his daughter, the problem of abject despair and loneliness and its most absolute ambassador - travis bickle and his yellow taxi cab, sparks that fly when a problem finds its own suitable metaphor and a film we thought was about Jake LaMotta when what it was really about was two brothers.

Naturally expectations ran high - and people did end up being disappointed. However, I did find something valuable in that lecture despite the general opinion that Paul Schrader 'aint much to write home about. Which was that no matter how many scripts you write or how many films you make, everytime you write a new script or make a new film or create anything - you have to begin at the very beginning. It's never easier, shorter, quicker or any less agonising. And the journey is always inside out.

1 comment:

Pinkeagle said...

the journey is always inside out is the most telling. for me, with art, with writing and creativity unless I speak from deep wounds and learnings within, it all rings false. so maybe he did share something of deep deep value with all!