An Interview with Bill Brown
What do you do when you get stuck?
I go on a road trip. Even a little one. I think differently when I'm driving. Maybe the orderliness of the roads, their Cartesian regularity, brings a little order to the mess in my mind. Maybe the open roads are where people who are too restless to meditate go to meditate. The dot-dot of the highway lines is like a koan, and every old neon sign is a minor moment of enlightenment. Anyway, it's harder to feel stuck when you're speeding forward through space.
What was the most discouraging feedback you ever got?
When I was studying filmmaking in college, I took a class from Miklós Jancsó, the Hungarian director who made the film The Red and the White, and who was, I should emphasize, a really nice guy. But one day in class, right in the middle of some discussion about lighting gels or film stock, he looked up from his notes. "Do not make films," he said to us, out of the blue. "Trust me. Stop now, before it's too late." He was totally serious. Then he went back to his lecture.
What was the most encouraging feedback you ever got?
My sister told me that her 2-year-old son, my nephew, prefers the DVD of my films to the Baby Einstein series. When the kid is fussy, she'll pop in the DVD and sit him in front of the TV. "I think he likes it because there are trains in your movies," she told me. "He's really into trains."
Is having a community of artists a beneficial component to your work?
Absolutely, yes. Especially for an experimental filmmaker, for whom there's not much artistic infrastructure. Most filmmakers I know aren't only filmmakers, but film promoters and distributors and exhibitors. Some split their time between making films and running indie film festivals. Thanks to the mixed blessing of scarce resources, film artists are forced to be globally autonomous, not only responsible for their means of production, but also their means of exhibition and distribution. Sometimes, this community of filmmakers feels small and isolated, but mostly it feels proudly independent and resourceful.