THE SEVENTH ART presents LIVE DIRECTORS SERIES: PAUL SCHRADER Sunday (April 21) at 7 pm at the Royal, 608 College St. Tickets are $20 at the door. See listings.
Hey, remember last week when I teased The Seventh Art's latest Live Directors Series? Well, the event is happening Sunday at 7 pm at the Royal, where Paul Schrader will appear to introduce the new digital restoration of Taxi Driver, screen a clip from his new feature The Canyons, and sit down for a Q&A with Seventh Art host Christopher Heron. In advance of that, Schrader made himself available for a phone chat.
So what can we expect on Sunday night? Do you have a game plan for these evenings, or do you just wing it?
They asked me and I said I would do it, basically. That's sort of it. You know, Taxi Driver feels a little tired to me to talk about, but I'm going to show a clip from the new film I've done [The Canyons] and see some friends in Toronto. I did the music up in Toronto; Brendan Canning did the music. So I'm going to see him again.
So The Canyons is complete, then?
Yeah, it's all done. It'll be out this summer; IFC is releasing it [in the U.S.], we've sold it, we're in profit. It'll take a little while to lubricate the VOD pipeline.
It's not taking off as quickly up here, but Video On Demand is a real boon to smaller films in the States. Back when Che was released on VOD at the same time it was in American theatres, Steven Soderbergh told me he was really impressed with the numbers.
Yeah. I showed [The Canyons] to Steven, because I was asking about The Girlfriend Experience, and he said, "If I was doing it again, I wouldn't even bother with theatrical for that film." Well, we are going to do theatrical; we are going to do at least a dozen cities, maybe two dozen. But theatrical kind of leads the way for the VOD [now] - the old phrase "straight to video" means absolutely nothing any more.
Yeah, I've noticed. The stigma has disappeared.
When I first proposed this film to [screenwriter] Bret Easton Ellis about a year ago, the very first e-mail I sent him, I proposed making a film for the post-theatrical era. So it was always seen as doing something in this way - crowdfunding, crowdsourcing. It's been a wonderful experiment in new media and of course in kind of a new, different - a story dictated by new media, too.
How was the crowdfunding experience? Did thousands of micro-investors suddenly offer you their opinions on the script?
Everybody has an opinion anyway - the difference is, with crowdsourcing you don't have to listen to them. With investors you do. [laughing] I mean, we own this film, Brad and the producer, Braxton [Pope] and Lindsey [Lohan] and myself, we're all quarter-owners, and we don't have to listen to anybody.
Did you find it empowering? I mean, you must have.
We were getting the film together, and people said "Should you hire James Deen, who's an actor of adult cinema?" And I said to somebody, "Hey, if you can't take a chance with your own fucking money, when can you take a chance? He's cool, he's fresh, he's the guy we want - what are we afraid of? Are we afraid we're gonna lose our money? Big deal!"
Deen comes off as an utter professional in that New York Times piece. Lindsay Lohan, not so much.
Yeah, but ... you know, it's great publicity. Lindsay kinda hijacked it, but she hijacks everything.
So I have to ask, then: what was your experience of working with her?
She's very good in the film. Film Comment is doing a cover on her, the guy from The New Yorker wanted to do something on her - and these are people who have seen the film. Obviously she's some kind of cultural lightning rod, but you know, the film will be judged on its own. She's sort of entered into her Ann-Margret phase - she's a tough kind of blowsy broad now, the Angie Dickinson-Gena Rowlands kind of actress. So she's not the little girl from Parent Trap.
Have you seen her lately? Is she, you know, okay?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I hope - nothing is certain with her, nothing is certain. But she certainly is talented, and with a little luck maybe she'll come out. She'll get through her Robert Downey moment.
Film nerd question: who owns the rights to Light Sleeper these days?
I don't know. Lionsgate, I think.
I'd love to see a Criterion edition of that.
I know those people - Peter Becker and Kim Hendrickson - they've done one film of mine [Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters]. I'm always trying to get them to do others. I'd love them to do that.
I suppose with VOD and everything being on demand, there's less impetus to put stuff out on disc these days.
Yeah. I mean, well, why do you need it? You can just - well, at the moment, I still use a mouse, but pretty soon I'll just be able to talk to my computer and say "Would you bring up the opening of Touch Of Evil for me?" And the computer will do it!
And it'll be a better world.
[laughing] Well, I don't know about that.
Exactly! It's good to have physical media around. I mean, I'm talking to you from my office, surrounded by DVDs and Blu-rays and books. Halliwell's Film Guide is right there on the shelf above me.
When was the last time you actually looked at Halliwell's Guide?
Yeah. It, um, fell on me.
[laughing] I still have those books on the shelf too, but I've got the IMDb on my phone. And the other day, I wanted to see something from 2001, and it's on my shelf, right next to the screen. It was too much work to get up; I went to Netflix and watched what I was looking for on Netflix. Who's gonna get up, pull a CD off the shelf, open it up ...
But people will still see it in 70mm. Every time TIFF screens it at the Lightbox, people go.
That's event cinema. That's a growth industry, just like concerts and theatre. Event cinema is a kind of analoguey thing. It's a [kind of] performance, and a social event - what's really dead is the multiplex. You walk in there, it feels like you're going to a funeral home.
Well, I'm looking forward to seeing you in Toronto, at a single-screen venue. I'm just sorry we can't see The Canyons in its entirety.
We wish we could have it out a little sooner, but 90 days is what it takes to really exploit this - because the film is done now.
Why 90 days? Is that some kind of clearance window?
All of these outlets, from Hulu to Vudu to iTunes to Comcast - it takes about 90 days to get [a movie] into the system. They have to be bundled and all set up. If we wanted to release it on our own website, we could do it tomorrow, but if you want to have that mechanism behind you, you have to have three months' lead time. And also Lindsay's going to be out of commission for a while, so we're waiting for her to hopefully re-emerge. If all goes well, which is saying a lot, she should be out by August 2nd.