When you’ve had projects that haven’t caught on for some reason, how do you contend with that?: I’ve always been of the opinion that the good stuff will come to the top in the end, even if it takes a while. Having your art missed by an audience isn’t just the privilege of up-and- coming or unknown directors, it happens to everyone.
Throughout my career, I have had big movies mixed in with those that didn’t register at all. There are reasons why people may not yet have seen any particular films and works – not just mine – when they originally came out. There are some films of mine which have been missed by people; Bamboozled is definitely one of those, 25th Hour. Do I mind? Well, I’d rather they got the attention they deserved in the first place, but over time they do, and when that happens, they take on their own persona. It is a story beyond a plot.
There is certainly one method that stands above all others when it comes to being found
– you’ve got to be yourself, you’ve got to be proud of who you are and what you do. If it’s your voice, you have far more chance of having your voice heard and your work seen. If you’re the same as other people, you will never stand out. Don’t ever follow the trends.
Speaking of following at least one trend, how have you found the switch to TV drama with the likes of She’s Gotta Have It?: The thing with Netflix is you’ve got to be on it, all the time. We were looking at 10 episodes of between 30 and 40 minutes, and there’s no let-up. You cannot have a quiet period like you might in a film where you are trying to build some sort of feeling, some sort of drama. With TV there is no long ascent, there is no tapering. Instead, you have a product that needs to be at it from minute one, needs to draw you in, needs to get to a storyline and have that played out, usually in full, by the end. If you fail on any one of those things, then there’s a chance you’ve lost your audience, and they ain’t coming back next time around.
With a movie, certainly in terms of cinemagoers and the traditional box office, once they have paid their money they are in the seat and you have them. You can be more dramatic, more artistic, more considered over what it is you are giving them and how you want to shape and sculpt that viewer for the duration of the film.
You can do very little for long periods then hit them, bam, at the end. With Netflix and this generation of TV drama, you don’t get that opportunity, so the presentation is different and, to an extent, the way you shape your characters – their personalities – is different too.