Film director Dean Parisot — whose works include “Home Fries,” “Galaxy Quest” and last year’s “Fun With Dick and Jane” — told a Silliman College audience Saturday that no one in Hollywood wants to hire Robert Downey, Jr.
At a Silliman Master’s Tea this weekend, Parisot spoke to a crowd of approximately 25 students about being a director, working with movie stars in contemporary Hollywood, and why he thinks writers have the most difficult job of all. Before his talk, the Academy Award-winning director also hosted a screening of the first film he made after graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, an eight-minute black and white titled “Tom Goes to the Bar.”
“I’ve never done anything as odd or slow [as “Tom Goes to the Bar”] again, and if you’ve seen any of my other films you’ll know I’m making commercial movies now,” he said.
Parisot described his time right after NYU as both positive and naive and said that much has changed since he attended film school in the mid-1980s. Parisot said there used to be lots of money in New York for small independent movies, but now even the smallest films cost upwards of $10 million. He said it is becoming more and more difficult to prevail in the business due to rising production costs, and much of his own success is due, at least in part, to good luck.
Parisot said “Tom” was unexpectedly successful and was screened almost as widely as many of his full-length films. He said he was first approached by an agent at a urinal at the Telluride film festival where the film was first screened.
Since then, Parisot has worked on a number of smaller, independent films — including the short “The Appointments of Dennis Jennings,” which won him an Oscar, as well as larger budget commercial features.
“I think a lot of us do one for us, then one for them,” he said. “And [“Fun With Dick and Jane”] was one for them.”
Parisot is currently working on three movies. The first, “A Bill From my Father,” is loosely based on a story aired on National Public Radio and should begin casting within the next few months. The second is a low-budget remake of “The Lavender Hill Mob,” and the third is a children’s fantasy movie, “Barnaby,” written by the same team that scripted “Men in Black.”
Parisot said he enjoys working in an absurdist, satirical environment and prefers character-driven stories.
“What I find the most fun is creating interesting, unpredictable stories and characters and opening up a thematic discussion,” he said. “And I find that it is easier to introduce these elements in comedies than it is in dramas. ‘The Simpsons’ does it every day on a level that the rest of live action television isn’t even able to do.”
Parisot also spoke about the frustrating aspects of his craft, noting how difficult he finds it to cast a truly great actor. He said he receives between five and 10 scripts each week, but only finds two to three he likes each year. But he did express certain sympathy for Hollywood writers.
“In a novel you can hear a character’s voice and thoughts, but how do you physicalize the subtext of what someone is feeling into a purely visual language? Most writers I know are tortured, horrible and are on their way to the bottle if they’re not there already,” he said.
Prompted by questions from students who attended the tea — many of whom were theater and film studies majors — Parisot also dispensed advice about how to succeed in the entertainment business.
“In this job you need to be constantly teachable, constantly learning,” Parisot said of being a director. “It’s a very bizarre profession.”
Albert Lawrence ’07, who is double majoring in film and theater studies and who worked as an intern at Fox Reality last summer, said he found the talk to be balanced and informative.
“Parisot told beautifully vivid stories to convey both the excitement and pitfalls of the industry,” Lawrence said.
But Katrina Preston ’07, who said she came to the Master’s Tea simply because she is a fan of “Galaxy Quest,” said she thought the tea was geared mostly toward potential directors, actors and others hoping to join the filmmaking industry, though she still found it interesting.