I have always been drawn to things that were in the margins and not in the mainstream – this was true of me even as a teenager in Akron. I remember when I was fourteen or so, this friend of mine had an older brother who used to hitchhike to New York and other places, and while he was gone, we’d go into his room and find records by Ornette Coleman or The Mothers of Invention, and books by William Burroughs and Terry Southern. It was a revelation that there was more to the world than Akron, and that there were a lot of really interesting ideas that you could pursue and investigate that were very obviously not in the mainstream.
We’re so lucky to have all of his [Robert MItchum’s] performances preserved on film. There was and is no other screen presence like his: dangerous, strong but guarded, ever-unconvinced by the actions of those around him, and that odd sense of someone smoldering on the inside but so damn cool on the outside. Now I just want to go home and watch Out of the Past, or Night of the Hunter, or The Lusty Men, or Macao, or Blood on the Moon and soak in every subtle expression and move, every word spoken by that low, mesmerizing voice; just anything Robert Mitchum ever did. —Jim Jarmusch
"I don’t like the ambition in American films, and these characters don’t have ambition really and are also not intellectual characters, so it’s not an existential film. They’re not constantly questioning their existence or questioning the state of the world around them. Instead they have a kind of acceptance of it. Instead they move through the world of the film in a kind of random, aimless way, like looking for the next card game or something, rather than interpreting things as philosophical symbols or anything. So that relates to the reason why there isn’t the violence and sex and certain expected things in the film. The whole idea of the film was not really to give the audience anything that they would be expecting. And the form of the narrative itself works that way, too. If you stop the film at any point the audience wouldn’t have any idea what was gonna happen next, or really be that aware or that conscious of the narrative itself. Instead they’re more interested in smaller details, and situations, and characters. The sense of humor works in the film that way, too. It works from details, not from big gags or jokes, verbal or visual. Instead it’s humor of small details."
If you go into a bar in most places in America and even say the word poetry, you’ll probably get beaten up. But poetry is a really strong, beautiful form to me, and a lot of innovation in language comes from poetry.
Poets are always ahead of things in a certain way, their sense of language and their vision.
I think of poets as outlaw visionaries in a way.
Rule #1: There are no rules. There are as many ways to make a film as there are potential filmmakers. It’s an open form. Anyway, I would personally never presume to tell anyone else what to do or how to do anything. To me that’s like telling someone else what their religious beliefs should be. Fuck that. That’s against my personal philosophy—more of a code than a set of “rules.” Therefore, disregard the “rules” you are presently reading, and instead consider them to be merely notes to myself. One should make one’s own “notes” because there is no one way to do anything. If anyone tells you there is only one way, their way, get as far away from them as possible, both physically and philosophically.
Rule #2: Don’t let the fuckers get ya. They can either help you, or not help you, but they can’t stop you. People who finance films, distribute films, promote films and exhibit films are not filmmakers. They are not interested in letting filmmakers define and dictate the way they do their business, so filmmakers should have no interest in allowing them to dictate the way a film is made. Carry a gun if necessary.
Also, avoid sycophants at all costs. There are always people around who only want to be involved in filmmaking to get rich, get famous, or get laid. Generally, they know as much about filmmaking as George W. Bush knows about hand-to-hand combat.
Rule #3: The production is there to serve the film. The film is not there to serve the production. Unfortunately, in the world of filmmaking this is almost universally backwards. The film is not being made to serve the budget, the schedule, or the resumes of those involved. Filmmakers who don’t understand this should be hung from their ankles and asked why the sky appears to be upside down.
Rule #4: Filmmaking is a collaborative process. You get the chance to work with others whose minds and ideas may be stronger than your own. Make sure they remain focused on their own function and not someone else’s job, or you’ll have a big mess. But treat all collaborators as equals and with respect. A production assistant who is holding back traffic so the crew can get a shot is no less important than the actors in the scene, the director of photography, the production designer or the director. Hierarchy is for those whose egos are inflated or out of control, or for people in the military. Those with whom you choose to collaborate, if you make good choices, can elevate the quality and content of your film to a much higher plane than any one mind could imagine on its own. If you don’t want to work with other people, go paint a painting or write a book. (And if you want to be a fucking dictator, I guess these days you just have to go into politics…).
Rule #5: Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
~ Jim Jarmusch MovieMaker Magazine #53 (Winter, January 22, 2004)
Music, to me, is the most beautiful form, and I love film because film is very related to music. It moves by you in its own rhythm. It’s not like reading a book or looking at a painting. It gives you its own time frame, like music, so they are very connected for me. But music to me is the biggest inspiration. When I get depressed, or anything, I go “think of all the music I haven’t even heard yet!” So, it’s the one thing. Imagine the world without music. Man, just hand me a gun, will you?