There’s so much love for you and your movies on Letterboxd. I’d love to know how often you think about your audience—who may have been following your movies over the years and admire them.
It’s inevitable to think about the audience. As a filmmaker, you want to make things people want to watch. Otherwise it seems too terribly hopeless.
Some filmmakers have told us they make movies for their own catharsis. They hope people see it, but that it’s secondary to that personal experience. Would you agree?
No, not really. I mean, I don’t know why I make movies. It’s some kind of compulsion. But you want people to see them, to like them or appreciate them in some way that is similar to the reason that you may have intended them to be seen by others.
How do you feel about the younger wave of cinephiles today who are so passionate about movies, and who might be engaging in a different way? They’re on the internet and they obsessively go to the movies and rewatch their favorite things. How much do you think about that generation?
Things have changed so much during my lifetime. Growing up, there wasn’t the choice of seeing any movie you wanted to see. Or most movies you wanted to see. I had the good fortune to go to the University of Wisconsin, which was the recipient of all these movies. They had all Warner Brothers film and RKO. You could go to a room and thread up a [Kodak] Pageant projector with 16 millimeter film and programme your own film festival. So I did.
What did you programme?
I loved William Wellman. There may have been 30 William Wellman films done at Warner Brothers in the 1930s and I saw every single one of them, probably multiple times. And then there was the Pacific Film Archive where I could see movies and programme movies and see things over and over again. Today, of course, everything is different. You can just dig up copies of, maybe not every film, but a lot of it.