Nine Film Director Fantasies

The Quentin Tarantino fantasy

My latest screenplay is now finished, and before I start experiencing all the heartache of getting it read and rejected by friends and strangers, it's fun to dwell in that candy-coated fairyland where I can dream about an easy development process, painless fundraising, flawless production process, and an awe-inspiring, award-winning, one-for-the-ages movie. Which of course will make me rich and famous and powerful enough to make exactly the films I want to make for the rest of my life, with no creative interference from anybody else. Dream on! Here are today's nine archetypal would-be filmmakers' dreams. Which one is yours, would-be filmmaker?

  1. The Steven Spielberg fantasy. Go to film school and wow everybody in your path with your cinematic genius and keen sense for guessing the public's fickle tastes. Soon you will be able to make Hollywood blockbusters about any subject you wish, and they will all be critical and box office hits. You will call all the shots and answer to no one. Hell, you can even found your own studio! And don't forget all those Oscars you will win! Drawbacks: The paranoid struggle to stay on top and produce only gold. Your own artistry overwhelmed by special effects. Who has this fantasy: Nearly every film student at USC and UCLA; anybody who's seen Raiders of the Lost Ark more than 10 times; people who don't know how to make films. Who is living this fantasy: James Cameron; George Lucas.
  2. The Quentin Tarantino fantasy. Forget film school! Just watch lots and lots of the movies you love, then write a brilliant script that becomes a brilliant film and establishes you as an auteur. Make millions. Become the hippest of the hip. Have college students quote your dialogue. Date hot starlets. Drawbacks: You'll start believing your own hype. You won't be hip for long. Who has this fantasy: Slackers who work in video stores; that guy you see in the coffee shop working on his script. Who is living this fantasy: Paul Thomas Anderson; Kevin Smith.
  3. The Woody Allen fantasy. Make highly personal films which you write, direct, and star in. Become as well-known for your personality as you are for your films. Have a cult following and scores of international critics adoring your work. Get compared to Charlie Chaplin. Drawbacks: You will become better-known for your personality than for your films. Many people will accuse you of being a self-absorbed jerk. Who has this fantasy: Stand-up comics; "spoken word" performers who seem like stand-up comics; Eric Schaeffer; Henry Jaglom; Ed Burns. Who is living this fantasy: Spike Lee; Roberto Benigni; Jerry Lewis once upon a time.
  4. The Terry Gilliam fantasy. Get funding from major studios to make your own quirky, idiosyncratic films. Be worshiped by film geeks everywhere. Drawbacks: You will get screwed over by nervous studio executives who don't "get" your ideas. You will be unable to film anything with a reasonable budget. People will remember your films' production design more than anything else. Who has this fantasy: Comic book artists; anybody who's seen Blade Runner more than 10 times; Spike Jonze. Who is living this fantasy: Tim Burton; Martin Scorsese; the Coen brothers.
  5. The John Woo fantasy. Become a star director in your own country of origin. Come to America and be hired by Hollywood studios to shoot big budget movies with top stars. Drawbacks: Hollywood will never fully accept you, because you are foreign. Your studio films will never have that personal side from your earlier work. Hollywood sucks compared to the smaller film industry back home. Who has this fantasy: Any foreign filmmaker with an "art house" hit on American shores who does not already hate America. Who is living this fantasy: Ang Lee; Lasse Hallström; Wolfgang Petersen; Paul Verhoeven.
  6. The David Lynch fantasy. Continue to get funding to make intellectually challenging and often disturbing art films that will be remembered long after your contemporaries die out. Be hailed as a genius across the globe. Drawbacks: You'll probably only get to make one decent-budget film, and it will be a stinker. Very few people outside of critics and film schools will actually see your work. Who has this fantasy: Art school students; successful New York painters; "underground" film festival attendees; Mark Tapio Kines. Who is living this fantasy: Harmony Korine; David Cronenberg; Jim Jarmusch; Hal Hartley; Jane Campion.
  7. The Jane Campion fantasy. Get to make films while female. Not to be confused with the "Penny Marshall fantasy", wherein you get to be a woman making bland, big-budget Hollywood films, here you still get to infuse everything with your own voice and be respected for what that voice has to say. Drawbacks: Endless sexist backlash by male-dominated film world. You'll be stuck making indie films until the indie establishment is tired of you. Who has this fantasy: Sofia Coppola; Kimberley Peirce; Kasi Lemmons; basically any woman who wants to make films or who has had exactly one modest indie hit. Who is living this fantasy: Mary Harron; Allison Anders.
  8. The Peter Jackson fantasy. Start your career by making ultra-low-budget horror movies with some friends in your backyard. Be so incredibly talented that those films eventually gain notice with critics and audiences. Leverage that into getting jobs to direct more mainstream films. Wind up getting tons of money to make something like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Drawbacks: Discovering that making studio films just isn't as much fun as those horror cheapies from your youth. Who has this fantasy: The Blair Witch guys; horror flick junkies; special effects makeup artists. Who is living this fantasy: Sam Raimi; Wes Craven.
  9. The Ben Affleck/Matt Damon fantasy. Be a struggling actor. Frustrated by your inability to land good parts in strong films, write a script for your own wonderful self to star in. Wind up becoming a superstar when that script becomes a hit film. Win awards. Date famous actresses. Become rich and famous. Drawbacks: You'll never be taken seriously as an actual filmmaker (though you may not care). Who has this fantasy: Every struggling actor on earth. Who is living this fantasy: Ed Burns; Billy Bob Thornton; Jon Favreau.