One of the highlights of the TriBeCa film festival is to listen to filmmakers share their directorial journey in hopes for others in the industry to glean from their experience, expertise and advice. Listening to tales of the trade enlightens the soul and trains the mind to appreciate their journey. No path is the same.
Sponsored by Amazon Studies, the TriBeCa Talks in the Director Series with award winning British filmmaker Andrea Arnold was led by Ira Sachs. He opened the session with asking Arnold to talk about her creativity, what brought her to the cinematic art of filmmaking and how she entered the industry.
British director Andrea Arnold shared how she got her start in film and the various projects that got her to where she is today. Arnold apologized if she seemed a bit out of sorts but wanted the audience to know that she was currently in the middle of filming abroad and the time change was hard on her. When invited to be a featured guest, she accepted knowing it might be difficult, but she didn't want to miss out on the opportunity. Though her time was limited during the festival, she felt honored to be a significant participant.
As a child Arnold was creative and theatrical. She loved to write stories. At the age of nineteen, she worked on a successful British kids show known as "Number 73". It was through this experience where she began to understand what it was like to be in front of the camera as a television host and actress. Arnold took what she had learned both on and off set to the next level for career advancement and went to film school--The American Film Institute of Los Angeles.
Arnold being a no non-sense person feels strongly that her inspiration comes from life. Everyday experiences. In asked how she finds her style of filmmaking she admits that it has to do with finding herself. Trusting in her instincts and desires. Arnold agrees that she has to find her own way and be bold about it. Sachs inquired as to how she finds her own way. Arnold explained that she tends to begin with an image in her mind that doesn't go away. Using that image as the beginning of a mind map she will begin to organize thoughts from ideas and questions, piece by piece.
She admits it is trial and error. For example: Arnold mentions that her film Whethering Heights was difficult to make.She wasn't happy with this film, nor does she want to revisit her experience. It was a dark place in her career that is associated with personal stuff, and the film represents that for her in part.
Arnold's advice giving continued as Sachs inquired about how she preferred to engage in the casting process. In her world, she notes that it happens differently depending on the situation and what she needs for the project. In her film FishTank the script was complete before she began to cast the roles, and she stayed pretty close to finding actors for the characters. However, she does like surprises in her filming and prefers not to always have the aspects of filming controlled.
Before filming in the U.S. Arnold took a road trip across the states in order to create an emotional connection to the country and its people. She was shocked at the poverty and horrified at the degree of open drug use on the streets. Arnold does have a sixth-sense for understanding life experiences giving her credence in award winning projects such as: An Academy Award for her short film WASP; Jury Prize winners at the Cannes Film Festivals with her projects Red Road, Fish Tank and American Honey. Arnold continues to produce other works as in directing three episodes of the Emmy-winning series Transparent, etc.
Sachs asked her what she feared the most about making films. Arnold said, "That someone might die on set." She adds, "Or, being too much of a risk-taker that I'd push people too hard or that the funding would stop from asking too much."
Sachs asked Arnold who were her heroes and she immediately responded, "People who make films." She notes that filmmaking is difficult. She is in awe of those who effectively create a lengthy moving visual narrative to produce emotion, thought, themes, and a message. Sachs probed one more time and asked Arnold to share words that describe her style. She boldly shares, "Permission and Surrender!"