Kelly Reichardt (Wendy & Lucy) About the Battle She’ll Never Win Against Her Film Students
Kelly Reichardt is a quiet force; with 6 feature films under her belt over 20 years of steady work, she has developed a visual narrative signature that always incorporate the Environment as a central character to her stories.
During a conversation at the Film Society of Lincoln Center about her latest film, Night Moves, Reichardt talks about her process, and what’s the first thing she does once there is a screenplay, in lieu: scouting.
She takes her car and drives miles and miles all over the country to see the different options available to her. And the main reason she does that is for the unexpected encounters and information gathered along the way:
“I start scouting pretty early on; I spend a lot of time driving around the country and looking even though I’ve often ended up shooting in the places that we first had in mind for the scripts. Scouting just brings a lot of information, not even necessarily the information that you’re looking for.
The big scout on [Night Moves], the big search was for a dam that would let us shoot there and so I went to many, many dams. When I was scouting a place, someone’s house, I ended up meeting a guy who was talking to me and I noticed he was missing a couple of fingers and he asked me what the film was about.
And in really short-cut language, and probably on a better day, if I wasn’t tired or whatever I wouldn’t have used this terminology, I said ‘Oh it’s about these eco-terrorists‘ and he was like ‘Oh I’m really into eco-terrorism, I love blowing stuff up, I blow trees, I blow up this.’ and I was like ‘Well, that’s not exactly what I meant.’ But anyway that guy ended up teaching me how to build a bomb.
But you know I didn’t go looking for that information from him, and I always think scouting just ends up bringing so much weird information back, so that’s always a super super long process.
I teach film at Bard College and my big thing with my students, a battle I’ll never win, is that Google is not research. You have to have an experience when you do research because you”ll fall into things that aren’t the particularly things that [you were looking for]. You just don’t know what will come on the bus ride to the library.”
I love that seemingly light comment ‘Google is not research‘. I’ve certainly fallen into the habit of googling first and tacking the real world second, even though each time I hit the trenches, I can’t help but noticing that that’s when the magic, this extra component that is part of any great story, happens.
Google definitely has a rabbit-hole potential that can lead to uncharted territories and open the mind in unexpected ways, but the five senses and the odd conversations can only be triggered in real life.
Inspiring food for thoughts. You can watch Reichardt’s full talk below, even if you haven’t seen any of her movies (there are no spoiler in the conversation). She definitely is one of those filmmakers that we should hear much more from, if only because of the steadiness and longevity of her career.
Hopefully there will be more of those in the near future. Enjoy: