Getting Direct With Directors...
Gary Winick
No.19: Gary Winick

Gary Winick co-founded his own digital production company in 1999 and helped get quirky low-budget digital movies like Tape, Pieces Of April, and Personal Velocity onto our screens. He made his directorial debut with Curfew in 1988 but really made a splash with his 2003 movie Tadpole, starring Sigourney Weaver as a middle-aged stepmom who's the object of her teen stepson's affections. His latest film is body swap comedy 13 Going on 30, which stars Jennifer Garner as a gawky teen who's transformed overnight into a flirty thirtysomething.

Why did you become a director?

Because I think I didn't want to make life easy for myself. I like to make life hard. I like to beat myself up a lot.

If you weren't a filmmaker, what what you be?

I'd probably say an architect. I kinda like this idea of building something... You know, the great thing about making films is that you're able to build something. Through pre-production and production you're creating something very specific. There's a great sense of doing something that's balanced between being scientific and being creative.

What other director would you like to see at work?

Probably Mike Nichols. I came to filmmaking from the outside in and I would have loved to have come from the inside out. I admire Nichols so much as a theatre director, actor, and filmmaker, I would love to see him at work. As a theatre director you have less tools - or maybe you have the same amount of tools, but to me it seems like less - to dramatise and emphasise and basically tell your story. You're really focusing on the words and the performances to make your point.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

What was the last movie that you paid to see?

Well, I didn't actually see it, but I did pay to see it - the night 13 Going on 30 came out I bought lots of tickets for it and stuck my head in the four theatres and multiplexes where it was showing just to see what the reaction of the audience was. Before that I think the last film I paid to see was probably Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Mark Ruffalo was in it and I always like seeing movies that have people I know in them. I really liked what it was about. I'm about to get married myself and to see a film that dealt so profoundly with relationships and the reality of relationships was important for me. I liked the idea that your wife might want to erase her memory of you and think that you're the most boring person on the planet, but then be willing to do it all over again [laughs].

What was the last movie you walked out of?

I don't walk out of movies. It's too hard to make a movie - I know how hard it is - so I don't walk out of a movie I've paid to see. I'd rather sit there and be bored.

Do you believe in God?

I believe in something bigger than me. As far as religion goes, I'm Jewish and I'm from New York, but it's not a huge part of my life.

Who's the most famous person in your contacts book?

In my contacts book? [Long pause] Hmmm... well, it was... no, I shouldn't say that. [Even longer pause] I don't know.

Sigourney Weaver perhaps?

Yeah, I guess so.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

What's your favourite movie quote?

In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, the scene I love is the one where Jack Nicholson says he can move the concrete sink. He gets everyone together and they all say, "You'll never be able to move that!" So he collects their money and takes bets, and then he goes over there and tries to move this sink. And of course, he can't do it. But as he walks away he turns to all the inmates and says, "At least I tried!"

Do you believe in test screenings?

Yes! I haven't had that much experience with them, but the two I have had were very valuable. One of the screening test cards actually had specific notes on how to improve the movie and I was fascinated by that!

Which filmmaker do you consider the most underrated?

Rebecca Miller. I've worked with her [Winick was one of the producers on Personal Velocity] and she's wonderful to collaborate with.

And which filmmaker do you consider the most overrated?

I think he's a great filmmaker and I think he makes wonderful films, but I think Quentin Tarantino is very overrated. I think he's a great filmmaker - they're not my type of films - but I think what's overrated is the largeness of him. I teach film at NYU and students there are always talking about him, but the amount of work he's actually done is very small. The body of work doesn't live up to this stature.

13 Going On 30 star Jennifer Garner

What's the dumbest question you've ever been asked?

I've been asked some dumb questions. Especially since doing press on this movie, so whether it's about Michael Jackson or Jennifer Garner... I guess they were that dumb I can't remember any of them. I guess they were 'broad' dumb rather than 'dumb' dumb.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

The best piece of advice I've been given - and it was given to me after I'd already made the mistake on my first movie - was that if you have nothing to say, don't say it. And if you have something to say, say it with passion, because that's the only thing that's gonna make a film worthwhile. I got those things confused in the beginning, because I have a huge passion for making movies, but making movies and a passion to tell the story are two different things.

And the worst?

It's usually by agents, who talk you into doing things that aren't creatively right but get the movie made. One of the things I always say is: you just gotta go out and do it, you can't wait for the right time. Nine times out of ten if you just go out and do it, good things will happen.

How seriously do you take reviews?

Unfortunately, too seriously! To me, as a filmmaker, I just kinda feel like I'm always trying to cover up my mistakes.

What's your biggest regret?

Not managing to cover up my mistakes!

Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 2

Which performer would you love to work with?

Johnny Depp, and Reese Witherspoon. She has a certain quality about her and she's very smart. I like to work with smart people.

Who's the biggest pain in the arse you've ever worked with?

I've met a couple of them... Did other filmmakers you've interviewed mention names? You know, I don't want to answer this question. Just put "Actors"!

There are five minutes left till the end of the world - what do you do?

You go and find all your friends and the people that matter to you, and you make sure that you let them know how much you love them.

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Volume 2

What film makes you want to spit?

To go back to what we were saying earlier, Kill Bill: Volume 2. The fun got taken out of it and it really felt very forced.

What are your three favourite films and why?

Woody Allen's Annie Hall [1977]. That film speaks to me very much personally. A film that very much got me started on filmmaking was Fellini's Nights Of Cabiria [1957]. And the third one I'd like to leave open for one of Kubrick's, or Kazan's, or Billy Wilder's.

What do you think of Norman Wisdom?

I have no idea what you're talking about. Norman who?

13 Going On 30 is out now. Gary Winick talks about the movie and the upcoming Charlotte's Web here.

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