Before Quentin Tarantino became one of the world’s most celebrated directors, he was just another amateur looking for a big break. Prior to releasing his debut film, Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino was in relatively dire straits. He had already dropped out of high school, and had a day job as a clerk at a video store. His fortunes suddenly changed in 1992, however, as he described in a 2010 interview with The Telegraph:
“I have always considered that with all the setbacks I had, the fact that I didn’t give up is maybe the one thing in my life that I am most proud of,” he says. “I just knew I would live a life of unfulfilment if I didn’t keep trying.
“So I just kept at it and by the time I wrote Reservoir Dogs it was time. It was time. And then as much as everything else was just this huge build-up to this tremendous let-down, this was…” He pauses, holding the next word in his mouth, relishing the feel of it, “…easy! I wrote the script quickly and we were making the film in, like, seven months.” The movie premiered to acclaim at the 1992 Sundance film festival, securing Tarantino’s reputation, at the age of 29, as one of the most exciting new talents in the business. “It was,” he says, “the complete utter payoff of perseverance.”
Tarantino isn’t the only director to stare down the challenge of a feature film debut. Flavorwire has put together a fascinating collection of quotes and interviews from other famed auteurs, including There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson’s first feature, Hard Eight, premiered in 1996. “The very first film, I had to fight to finish,” Anderson said. “It was baptism by fire. I learned all the lessons I needed to learn on the first film, about protecting myself and how to keep a lock on the editing-room door.”
Also included among Flavorwire‘s collection is an excerpt from Joel and Ethan Coen, the fraternal duo that would go on to direct the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men. The Coens first feature film, Blood Simple, was released in 1986. Here’s how the Coens described the creative process, as documented in the book My First Movie:
“JC: We wrote a little thing for Frank LaLoggia, one of the directors I was working for as an assistant editor; we wrote a screenplay with Sam Raimi. So we just sat down and thought what kind of movie could we make that was sort of producible on a really small budget like these horror movies, but that isn’t necessarily a horror film.
EC: The inspiration was these movies that Joel had been working on which had been done mostly by young people like us who didn’t have any credentials or credibility in the mainstream movie industry. But they’d gone out and raised money underground for their little exploitation movies, got the movies made and subsequently wandered into the place where Joel was working to have them cut. It was that evidence that it could be done that led us to try it ourselves: notably Sam’s movie, The Evil Dead, because Sam was the most forthcoming in sharing all his experience with us.”
Read more anecdotes over at Flavorpill.