48TH THESSALONIKI FILM FESTIVAL
November 16-25 2007
JOHN SAYLES MASTERCLASS
In his masterclass today on Friday, November 23rd at the packed John Cassavetes theatre, John Sayles spoke about a number of things including the topics of his films, scriptwriting, directing and Hollywood. Attending the masterclass was his companion and producer, Maggie Renzi, as well as the popular actor Danny Glover, honored guest of the Festival who stars in Sayles’ latest film, Honeydripper.
The masterclass was launched by Festival Director, Mrs. Despina Mouzaki, who praised Sayles’ work in the American independent film scene: “Together with Maggie Renzi, they managed to define the meaning of the word ‘independent’. Their path and their experience are invaluable for all of us. John Sayles isn’t only a lesson to be learned in cinema, but a lesson to be learned in life as well”.
Sayles began his masterclass by characterizing himself as a storyteller. “When people ask me what I prefer amongst writing, directing and editing, I usually say editing because it’s the last part of the whole procedure, when you start to get a clear understanding of the whole picture. Directing is very interesting, but also very stressful. It’s like a taximeter. Every second costs you 1,000 dollars. When I edit I feel like I am re-writing the story”, he said and added: “When you write a script, you have to make all of your collaborators understand exactly what you need from them. I prefer to write short reports for each one separately. If I added all of the details to my script, I’d end up with 500 pages that nobody would want to read. Regardless, I don’t have everything planned in my head as I write the script. Many ideas appear during the filming”.
Regarding the subjects he chooses to work with, Sayles said: “Due to my instinctive curiosity, I avoid working with the same topic twice. I feel like I have finished exploring a particular world and I need to get on to the next one. Generally, I like to discover how people around me think, as I realize that most people have a completely different view of the world”.
“In order to make a film in Hollywood, is has to be destroyed first”, said Sayles regarding his opinion on Hollywood and recalled Bergman’s reply to a similar question: “In my country we make a film with 20 friends, whereas in America, you make films with 100 of your enemies. He noted, however, that despite the suppressing presence of Hollywood, there is room for all: “It’s all a matter of choice. However, a young director must also be good in public relations in order to make a successful film”.
Finally the discussion turned towards the messages that his films contain: “I don’t want to tell the audience what is right or wrong. I am like a lawyer in a trial. I present the evidence and I let the audience reach its own conclusions”, said Sayles.