Richard Linklater: A Self-taught Filmmaker Who Defied the Hollywood System
At some point in our lives, the thought of quitting our day jobs and pursuing our dreams of becoming Hollywood big shots has probably crossed our minds one too many times. For most, the first course of action is to spend all of our savings to move to Los Angeles and enroll in film school, but one of Hollywood’s artistic virtuosos, Richard Linklater, defied the system and took the road less traveled, which remarkably put him on the map.
The Jack of All Trades
Richard Stuart Linklater was born and raised in Houston, Texas where he spent most of his formative years playing collegiate baseball. Though, his athletic career came to an end when he chose to drop out of college to work on an off-shore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. During his days off he would often spend his time reading novels and watching films at the local theater, which ultimately developed into a passion that fueled him to invest his savings on a Super-8 camera to create his own films. He obsessed over making shorts, studied other filmmakers’ careers and interviews because he believed in order to become the best at what you do, you must be “self-driven and a self-starter.” To get a deeper knowledge of the craft of filmmaking, he took some film classes at Austin Community College in 1984.
He obsessed over making shorts, studied other filmmakers’ careers and interviews because he believed in order to become the best at what you do, you must be “self-driven and a self-starter.”
Linklater was a jack of all trades – he wrote, directed, produced, shot, and acted in his first feature film, It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988), which took two years to shoot and edit for a total of $3,000. He became an enthusiast in independent and low-budget filmmaking, telling stories that focus on eccentric characters and his real-life experiences. In 1991, he made his second feature called Slacker, which revolves around the lives of bohemian misfits in Austin, Texas and was immortalized at the Library of Congress for successfully telling a story that emphasizes important aspects of culture and history at that time. It was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and grossed $1.25 million at the box office. Not bad at all for a film that was made with a $23,000 budget.
Its success got Linklater fast tracked to Hollywood where in short order he made a major studio-produced film popularly known as Dazed and Confused (1993), a comedy that pays homage to his life-experiences during the last day of high school in 1976, which included today’s award-winning actors, Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey. It grossed $8 million in the box office and since then the talented filmmaker’s career only went up.
Some of his masterpieces include the romantic trilogy Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013), Waking Life (2001), School of Rock (2003), and Me and Orson Welles (2008). In 2014, Linklater astonished not just Hollywood but the world when he made Boyhood, a coming-of-age story about the different life stages and parenting as told through the perspective of a boy who literally and figuratively grew up before our eyes. He filmed it over the course of 12 years, which earned him awards for Best Director and Best Picture for Drama at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, and BAFTA, as well as nominations at the Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. It also holds a special place in his heart since his daughter, Lorelai Linklater, brought to life the sassy and charming character of Samantha.
Every Filmmaker’s Hero
Many budding filmmakers look up to Linklater as an inspiration and hero because of how he built himself from the ground up and became one of the pioneers of the indie world. He made critically-acclaimed and high-quality films by utilizing the limited resources and informal education he had of the craft. Unlike other filmmakers who swear by living in Los Angeles to make a name for themselves in Hollywood, Linklater remained loyal to his hometown and founded the Austin Film Society in 1985 to provide an avenue for the “community to make, watch, and love film and creative media.”
In an industry that’s all about the glitz and the glam, Linklater chose to be more grounded in his roots and to empower his own community to follow their creative pursuits without having to go the traditional path. As Linklater would say:
I was just confident in my own grasp of the technical tools of filmmaking. If you aren’t good at it, no one is going to be able to teach you to be really good at it. You learn best by doing it.
Quoted phrases mostly came from this source: https://www.dga.org/Craft/DGAQ/All-Articles/1804-Fall-2018/DGA-Interview-Richard-Linklater.aspx