Having A Seat at the Table: Directors Roundtable 2020
They say that there are only two seasons in Los Angeles – Summer and Awards Season. After months of rigorous campaigning, screenings, parties, and galas, we are finally entering the last stretch of the festivities. With the Oscars looming around the corner, The Hollywood Reporter has released their annual Directors Roundtable, spotlighting the creative geniuses behind 2019’s most diverse, innovative, and socially impactful stories.
What better way to cap off the most eventful time of the year in the entertainment capital of the world than to get a front row seat to a discussion with Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Todd Phillips (Joker), and Fernando Meirelles (The Two Popes).
Continuing the Conversation
Watching the eclectic ensemble of veteran and up-and-coming directors interact and exchange ideas was a picture-perfect scene that you never want to end. This particular roundtable deliberated a huge spectrum of topics; from the state of the entertainment industry, rise of streaming services, equality and diversity in storytelling, financing films, personal life and relationships, and forging their own path to a successful career in the competitive world of entertainment.
Due to the massive wave of streaming services in the past year, it was no surprise that three out of six directors at the table made films for the streaming giant, Netflix. That tells a lot about the shifting systems and processes of producing and distributing films today and in the future. With Scorsese’s impressive feat as a director, it was strikingly startling when he expressed that studios were opposed to the idea of giving him the necessary budget and creative freedom to bring The Irishman (2019) to life. Meirelles argued that streaming services like Netflix take more risks because of their wide audience reach, while Baumbach mentioned that Netflix reformed their strategies to “reflect the traditional independent cinema model” compared to releasing a film in a slow roll-out that could potentially get compromised as it competes with studio blockbusters.
…it was interesting to discover that these directors had a completely different career in mind before they found their passion for filmmaking.
As an emerging writer-director, Wang offered a new perspective to the debate, stressing that streaming platforms is all about brand. Meaning, established filmmakers are more beneficial to them because they easily attract audiences, whereas emerging filmmakers have to prove their voice, vision, and build up their brand from the ground up. In the end, they will just get lost in the sea of content along with other budding storytellers. Thus, Scorsese, Baumbach, and Meirelles thrived on Netflix due to their proven track record of success while Wang’s decision to collaborate with A24 was a wise move to help build her own brand, which got her a seat at the table.
They’re Just Like Us
Not only did we get a behind the scenes look into how these award-winning films were produced, but also a glimpse of their personal lives and how much of their work is inspired by their own experiences. We look up to these virtuosos as untouchables, but in reality, they’re just human beings like us who are passionate about their craft. Baumbach’s films are grounded on “everyday real world” experiences and prefers to write about things that hit close to home and shoot in places from his childhood memories. Gerwig articulated how the book, Little Women, was a big part of her formative years and how she felt that she was one of the March sisters. Scorsese oftentimes include his parents in his films, while Wang incorporates her culture and personal experiences into the narrative.
When asked if cinema was their first love, it was interesting to discover that these directors had a completely different career in mind before they found their passion for filmmaking. Scorsese initially joined the seminary when he was 15 years old, but shortly left when he realized it was a big commitment. Meirelles was an architect and tried to become an ocean biologist. On one hand, Gerwig had always possessed the flair for arts and entertainment and has fixated on the idea that it was either cinema or nothing.
Having the privilege of knowing the thought process and perception of these award-winning filmmakers is beyond comprehension. No matter what the results in the upcoming Academy Awards, these filmmakers have already won in life for their unparalleled brilliance, excellence, and dedication to storytelling. At the end of the day, whether you’re an established or emerging filmmaker, we have the power to change the course of our lives to pursue our lifelong dreams and putting your soul, ingenuity, and heart in everything you do will leave a legacy not just in cinema but the human race.