Tribeca: Right. The goal, I think, of any documentary film is to invoke conversation.
Penny Lane: I would hope so. There are many documentary filmmakers who seem to want to end conversations as opposed to start them. That’s not the kind of filmmaker I am. “Here’s everything you need to know about this about the subject” is actually a more common form of documentary than something that says, “well, let’s think not about what we know, but about what don’t we know about this.” That approach is just more exciting to me, but it is why certain career paths are closed to me. Let’s put it that way.
Tribeca: Is there any “trend” in the documentary film world that you’re eager to see go away?
PL: I think I just said it – I’m just so bored with social issue movies that want to take a really complicated subject and try to make it simple. I feel like any intellectually honest person can acknowledge that the more you look at something, the more complicated it gets. Audiences should not be treated like they’re stupid. They can tell if the filmmaker is deliberately leaving out any reasonable point of view that disagrees with his or her own.
“We hear a lot of stories about artists and innovators who persevered against all odds to have their work see the light of day: mega-author J.K. Rowlings’ pile of rejection letters, Thomas Edison’s gajillion attempts to invent a light bulb, Michael Jordan being deemed too short to play on his varsity basketball team. We view persistence — and grit! — as the key to success. Yet, after a certain point, persistence has a negative outcome: tunnel vision. You’ve been in it to win it for so long, you no longer know what winning means.”—Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen, and the Long Tradition of Hating Your Own Work - 99U
“"Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.”—
“So I’m writing this not only in the hope that everyone will cross me off the list of writers to hit up for free content but, more important, to make a plea to my younger colleagues. As an older, more accomplished, equally unsuccessful artist, I beseech you, don’t give it away. As a matter of principle. Do it for your colleagues, your fellow artists, because if we all consistently say no they might, eventually, take the hint. It shouldn’t be professionally or socially acceptable — it isn’t right — for people to tell us, over and over, that our vocation is worthless”—Slaves of the Internet, Unite! - NYTimes.com
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”—Steve Jobs (via How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love | Brain Pickings)
“Documentary is not about form, a set of rules that are either followed or not, it’s an investigation into the nature of the real world, into what people thought and why they thought what they thought.”— Errol Morris in response to The Act of Killing
“I never considered myself anything more than as a craftsman, a hell of a skilled craftsman, if I may so myself, but nothing more. I create things that are meant to be useful, films or theatrical productions. I’ve never felt the need for … what’s the word? … sub specie aeternitatis. I have never created for the sake of eternity. I was only interested in producing the good work of a fine craftsman. Yes, I am proud to call myself a craftsman who makes chairs and tables that are useful to people.”—Ingmar Bergman July 14, 1918 — July 30, 2007 (via This Must Be The Place)
“When you start working, everybody is in your studio―the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas―all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you are lucky, even you leave.”—John Cage
“Your work is meticulous. You must evaluate not only each piece, trying to discern its nature, but also how it relates to all of the other pieces. Most of the time, you feel as if your work is wrong. It’s a persistent feeling, that the path you’ve chosen, the connections you’ve made, will ultimately lead you astray. That inevitably, you will be forced to begin again.”—This is what editing feels like, a personal essay from yours truly.
“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing off too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”—Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art Speech
“When the tough parts come along, the rejection and the slog and the unfair bad breaks, it makes sense to welcome them. Instead of cursing or fearing the down moments, understand that they mean you’ve chosen reality, not some unsustainable fantasy. It means that you’re doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.”—Seth’s Blog: Just the good parts
“Everybody is different. Some writers can write reams of great books and then J. D. Salinger wrote just a few. Beethoven wrote nine symphonies. They were all phenomenal. Mozart wrote some 40 symphonies, and they were all phenomenal. That doesn’t mean Beethoven was a lesser writer, it’s just some guys are capable of more productivity, some guys take more time. Mozart pisses me off because he’s like a naturally gifted athlete, you listen to Mozart and you go: “Of course. It all came easy to him.” Beethoven you hear the struggle in it. Look at his manuscripts, and there’s reams of scratched-out music that he hated. He stops and he starts. I love that about Beethoven, his humanity shows in his music. Mozart was almost inhuman, unhuman.”—Billy Joel in the NYT (via Austin Kleon)
“If you want to be a creative person, then you’re gonna have to be creative in how you put your career together. There isn’t a path. Part of the creativity is making your path.”—Alec Soth on creating a career in photography, and how he pays the rent today. Read our full interview here. (via americanphoto)
“It’s very hard to stop doing things you’re used to doing. You almost have to dismantle yourself and scatter it all around and then put a blindfold on and put it back together so that you avoid old habits.”—Tom Waits
“The significant story possesses more awareness than the writer writing it. The significant story is always greater than the writer writing it. This is the absurdity, the disorienting truth, the question that is not even a question, this is the koan of writing.”—Joy Williams on Why Writers Write | Brain Pickings
“Don’t plant your bad days. They grow into weeks. The weeks grow into months. Before you know it, you got yourself a bad year. Take it from me - choke those little bad days. Choke ‘em down to nothing.”—Tom Waits (via thepinesaredancing)
“You don’t just head down to the career center at your community college and fill out an application to be a successful entrepreneur, or a famous musician, or a professional basketball player. You have to give yourself permission to suck first.”—Permission to Suck
“Craftsmanship means caring about what you create. It means you measure twice and cut once. It means you look at what you are creating from every angle and don’t cut corners. In short, craftsmanship means you don’t ship crap and you never mail it in.”—Craftsmanship and My Father - MacSparky