The Snoot Letter – Uniquely Familiar
The Snoot Letter
Issue #20 – July 8, 2020
It’s been five weeks since we last spoke. I hope you’re all safe and well. I hope you’re angry about things you should be angry about, and at peace with the things you should be at peace with. And I hope you’re using the moments of peace to do something world-changing with that fury. And I hope you know that sometimes surviving is world-changing enough.
I’m moving the Snoot Letter to a new publishing schedule: once a week, on Wednesday mornings. I’ve noticed that most personal newsletters show up on a Monday, but I think it would be nice to have one that exists as a work-week intermission.
One small piece of personal news… We released this still image from our new movie One Night In Miami!
A couple months ago, Deadline published what appeared to be a standard article announcing that a studio was making a movie with a director and two famous movie stars. The kind of announcement that you see all the time, and is usually boring reading. But that’s not the case when the director is George Miller. Buried in the body of the article are some incredible quotes from Miller on filmmaking, casting, and the development process. I’m excerpting some of them here, but I recommend reading the full article.
I can’t even decide what genre it is, to be honest. And that’s a good thing. I like to think in these days that to have a chance of people taking notice of what you’re doing, without being overly flamboyant, your film needs to be uniquely familiar. That’s the term I use.
I love the concept of trying to make films that feel “uniquely familiar,” and to me it seems like a key component in the success of recent of films like Knives Out or Baby Driver or Arrival. When I look at recent big-budget original films, the commercial failures tend to live in the world of uniqueness without familiarity, and the artistic failures feel familiar but without any uniqueness. The trick is figuring out that balance.
I guess I’m hardwired to story in some way, and for me what happens is, stories seed in your head and they rattle around. It becomes rather Darwinian, survival of the fittest: the ones that have the most comprehensive promise are the ones that survive. This story I have been working on and thinking about for at least 15 years. There would always be several of these stories in my mind and it’s interesting, the ones that tend to fall away and why they fall away. The ones that are more insistent are usually so because they tick a lot of boxes and organically do a lot of things. The best way I can say it is, I really like stories where there is a lot of iceberg under the tip. Too often, a story can be quite dazzling but it’s amazing how quickly you can forget about it.
Amen to that. Generating ideas can happen in a moment, but the process of internal curation takes time. In my experience, the greatest artists are those who can manage the transition between the creative mode and the curatorial mode. This is especially true of writer/directors, as they have to excel at both the art of creation and interpretation.
A kind reader figured out a way for me to watch Songland season one (mentioned in issue #18, which was published two issues ago but feels like a year ago because of the time-dilation that comes from world implosion), and I much appreciate it. Unfortunately it isn’t a method that I can share with the rest of you. Hopefully Songland will show up on Peacock, the ludicrously named streaming service that NBCU will be launching in one week.
Another reader, inspired by my discussion of the house of MIRAI in issue #17, shared this article about the Optical Glass House. Designed by Hiroshi Nakamura, the house has a lot of similarities to the beautiful fictional house of MIRAI.
~ Keith Calder
This Week’s Recommendations
🚚 I never linked to the Mad Max: Fury Road oral history that Kyle Buchanan published in The NY Times, and that is a foolish mistake on my part.
📽 Somehow it slipped my notice until now, but in 2014 Steven Soderbergh published this insightful interview with legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis.
📖 Which reminds me… If you’ve never read “Getting Away With It,” you should definitely check it out. At an inflection point in his filmmaking career, Steven Soderbergh interviews Richard Lester. After doing these interviews, Soderbergh directed Out of Sight and redefined his career. Through the conversations in this book, you can see Soderbergh building himself into the director he eventually became, able to balance art and commercialism without ever losing his creative voice.