Lynch on Lynch

Some quotes by David Lynch taken from Chris Rodley’s Lynch on Lynch, a 2005 book of interviews with the director collected throughout his career.

On committees:

“You have to have someone trusting you a lot to get into these things that cinema can do but that don’t happen too often. Those things could never happen in a committee atmosphere where everyone in the room has to understand every single thing in a script. IT gets so far away from the magic of cinema it’s unbelievable. And the thing becomes only what it is. Nothing more. There’s not one little window for an abstraction or a dream. It’s just like a rock.”

On worrying about other people’s opinions while creating:

“What makes you worry about things like that is when you start thinking about what certain people might say about it later. Because you’re not really sure what they might say. And if you start worrying, you could make some really strange decisions based upon that worry. The work isn’t talking to you anymore: this worry is talking to you. And you become paralyzed. So the trick is: you’ve got to forget making a hero or a fool of yourself and just try to get into that world. And if you can do that, and you feel good about the decisions that you make, then you can weather whatever good for bad storm comes along.”

On surrealism in society:

“I think the American public is so surreal, and they understand surrealism. The idea they don’t is so absurd. It’s just that they’ve been told that they don’t understand. You got anywhere and old=timers will tell you very surreal stories with strange humor. And everyone has a friend who is totally surreal. This is something I see everywhere – I look at the world and I see absurdity all around me. People do strange things constantly, to the point that, for the most part, we manage not to see it.”

On doing something different with something that’s been ‘overdone’:

“That’s the wrong way to think. The only good way is to get a thrill with an idea and then go out and do it. If you start thinking about how it’s going to be received, or if you’re going to be able to do something new, you’re worrying about the wrong thing.”

On getting ideas:

“The world is getting noisier and more and more frantic in the atmosphere, and so even sitting still is a problem. My friend Bushnell Keeler always said, ‘You need to have four hours of uninterrupted time to do one hour of good painting.’ If you’re rushed, you just can’t think and do it. You’ve gotta really fall in deep and go to this place where you catch ideas. But it really takes sitting still. […] You start thinking, and one thing leads to another and you forget where you started. You forget that you’re even thinking for awhile. You’re lost, and if you suddenly drop through a trapdoor into the big idea bank, then you’ve got a thing happening.”

On violence in his films:

“People misunderstand. If you have violence in your film they think that you’re condoning it or spreading it, and it’s just not that way. You can’t have a movie where everyone’s telling nice little stories and knitting.”

On having final cut:

“I’ve always had final cut since Dune. One time this producer told me, ‘We love to give directors final cut because they are more likely to listen to our suggestions. They know they don’t have to take it, but they are open to listening.’ I think it’s really important to be open to anybody’s suggestions. Some could be so beneficial. And you can always say ‘No.’ I don’t think you should set yourself up and say, ‘I’m gonna do my thing and I’m not listening to you.'”

On whether or not releasing a new film gets easier the longer you make them:

“No, it doesn’t. In fact it can get worse. People have expectations, and you have further to fall. Audiences know your work, or some anyway. So it’s trickier. You’re not a new person on the scene. That only happens once. I would love right now to have my next film ready and go right to work, and not deal with whatever happens. Good or bad. Because it has nothing really to do with me any more. The film is the thing. I don’t need to talk about it. I don’t need to do anything. That is phoney stuff. The fine art of Phoney Baloney.

On showing rough material:

“The shooting was great, but anyone who gets a certain amount of power in this business says, ‘I want to see the dailies.’ So what happened was that videotapes of the dailies were sent to them. In the old days dailies were sacred, and only a few people saw them. That’s because dailies are like a mountainside – a lot of worthless rocks and then some gold. But it sort of all looks the same, unless you’re able to discern the gold. So you say to them, ‘You can’t discern the gold’, but then they say, ‘Baloney! We can discern the gold. We don’t know for sure that you can discern the gold!’

So they look at all this stuff and it makes them panic, and depresses them and makes them worry! [Laughs] Those very same pieces put together properly would possibly make them feel very happy, especially if they haven’t seen all the stuff that went before and that is now clouding the future for them in a negative way. And yet they feel that they have the right to do it, and that if they don’t, they feel they’re missing out on something and that they’re not powerful. It’s a weird thing.

In dailies you’re just looking for those parts that work – to know that you’ve got the stuff. You know you went again on Take 3 because Takes 1 and 2 weren’t all there, because you’re looking for that little extra thing. But they don’t know that. They just see some things that aren’t right and they think ‘Jeez, maybe Dave’s gonna use those bits.’ It clogs them up so that nothing is ever fresh for them.”

On the pilot for Mulholland Drive:

“I don’t understand human behavior. All I know is I loved making it. Then I was forced to butcher it because we had a deadline and there wasn’t time to finesse anything. I lost texture, big scenes and storylines.”