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How Julian Schnabel Overcomes Creative Ruts

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Uploaded on May 20, 2011

The filmmaker says that transcendent moments of clarity and inspiration are what drives his art. Here, he describes a particularly inspiring moment from the filming of his second film "Before Night Falls."

Julian Schnabel:  When Javier Bardem and I were working on Before Night Falls and we did this scene where he walks into this prison and he's supposed to be stoned on LSD, there was 150 prisoners behind these huge cells and they were screaming their heads off and we did this thing in basically one take. The feeling that he had after doing that and the feeling that I had gave enough energy to sort of go on and work in a daunting schedule where you're working 16 or 18 hour days where certain things might not be working, whether it's in your private life or with other responsibilities. But for a moment there, just for that moment, the clarity and the success of executing that gave you enough sense of yourself and sense of accomplishment to actually try to achieve that moment again, that maybe we could actually have a complete film at the end of that process. Or if everything was going wrong and I could go into the studio and somehow I don't have to know if it's good or bad—I don't even have to know what it is—I could go in there and nobody has to understand what I'm thinking. I don't have to convey anything to anybody else. I could just do that and then come back and look at it and kind of see where I was or what that was because I posited that impulse, the horror or whatever that was into that thing and transmuted it into something else.
So I would say that if you say, "Oh, I'm depressed, I can't do this, I can't work," if you don't work; if you don't paint you can't be a painter; if you don't write you can't be a writer; if you don't film something you're not a filmmaker. So all those people that are sitting around thinking "God I might make a bad film," or "I might make a bad painting," or "Maybe somebody won't like this," you're doomed if that's going to deter you from that. We all have insecurities and doubts, but I think that it's better to make a mistake than not to do anything. If you win you win and if you lose you win.
Directed by Jonathan FowlerProduced by Elizabeth Rodd

Julian Schnabel:  When Javier Bardem and I were working on Before Night Falls and we did this scene where he walks into this prison and he's supposed to be stoned on LSD, there was 150 prisoners behind these huge cells and they were screaming their heads off and we did this thing in basically one take. The feeling that he had after doing that and the feeling that I had gave enough energy to sort of go on and work in a daunting schedule where you're working 16 or 18 hour days where certain things might not be working, whether it's in your private life or with other responsibilities. But for a moment there, just for that moment, the clarity and the success of executing that gave you enough sense of yourself and sense of accomplishment to actually try to achieve that moment again, that maybe we could actually have a complete film at the end of that process. Or if everything was going wrong and I could go into the studio and somehow I don't have to know if it's good or bad—I don't even have to know what it is—I could go in there and nobody has to understand what I'm thinking. I don't have to convey anything to anybody else. I could just do that and then come back and look at it and kind of see where I was or what that was because I posited that impulse, the horror or whatever that was into that thing and transmuted it into something else.
So I would say that if you say, "Oh, I'm depressed, I can't do this, I can't work," if you don't work; if you don't paint you can't be a painter; if you don't write you can't be a writer; if you don't film something you're not a filmmaker. So all those people that are sitting around thinking "God I might make a bad film," or "I might make a bad painting," or "Maybe somebody won't like this," you're doomed if that's going to deter you from that. We all have insecurities and doubts, but I think that it's better to make a mistake than not to do anything. If you win you win and if you lose you win.
Directed by Jonathan FowlerProduced by Elizabeth Rodd

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