If you want an example of an overnight success, then don’t look at ‘Pulp Fiction’ Oscar winner, Quentin Tarantino.
Why? Because the Academy Award-winning Director was no such thing – he had a dream as a young man and he followed his passion with unremitting fervour.
Yesterday, I came down with a mystery bug that left me with barely enough energy to leave my bed in the morning and my couch in the afternoon. Thus, we spent a family evening at home and decided to watch a movie. My step-son, Troy hadn’t seen the movie, ‘Pulp Fiction’ and it had been a few years since we last watched the movie classic, so the decision was a no-brainer.
As a writer, I find myself analysing plot structures and subtleties on which other viewers might not ‘waste’ their time, but to me it’s extremely satisfying, and with his films I am captivated and intrigued.
We all enjoyed the movie immensely and laughed out loud at some of the dark humour, with me, who has seen it probably four or five times, laughing just as much as first time viewer, Troy.
Realising that this tenth anniversary DVD came with another disc full of extras, I sat spellbound this morning by in-depth interviews with an amazing cast of accomplished actors and of course, Director and Screenwriter, Quentin Tarantino.
Most people probably only heard of Tarantino when ‘Pulp Fiction’ took the world by storm, thus making him an ‘overnight success’.
As in most cases where these words are dropped in by the media, the man was no such thing.
For years, he had struggled as a ‘nobody’. Quentin joked that if you had sent a letter addressed to him at ‘The Outskirts of the Movie Industry’, he would have received it!
With a passion for movies at the core of his being, he had spent his childhood on self-study, of the great Directors. His encyclopaedic knowledge of movies, of themes, of plots, of genres, of techniques had earned him a job, working behind the counter in a video store.
On the weekends he would hire equipment, to gain the maximum benefit of the rental, and would work tirelessly from Friday night to Monday morning making what he himself described as ’embarassingly bad films’.
He shot hundreds of hours of movie footage and couldn’t afford the editing equipment to review it, until a considerable time later.
This was in effect his personal study programme – the apprenticeship that made him ready. The interviewer summed it up as a realisation that ‘everything you’ve learned in your life so far has prepared you for this moment’.
An incredibly talented expert, his original screenplays were so compelling that one of the Producers of ‘Pulp Fiction’ was willing to take a chance on Quentin without having even seen his earlier work, including the lower budget hit, ‘Reservoir Dogs’.
As they say, ‘The rest is history’. The actors who have worked with him, which include a star-studded list of names like Samuel L Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt et al, proclaim that they would turn up to work with this guy in whatever starring, or cameo, role that he asked them to play. Such is their love of his work and his style.
The legend is now also a producer, cinematographer, director, screenwriter and cameo actor in a manner reminiscent of the great Alfred Hitchcock.
His screenplays are emotive and unconventional, especially with his love of altering timelines to tantalise an audience as his characters’ stories inter-weave or run concurrently.
The dialogue is supremely realistic and believably commonplace, such as the scene where the two hit men in ‘Pulp Fiction’ are on their way to kill a drug dealer, who has wronged their boss. Travolta’s character, Vincent has just returned from Europe, so on the way in the car, he chats mundanely about the little things he has experienced, such as a cheeseburger being called a ‘Royale’, or the interpretation of the sexuality of a foot massage. The horrific nature of their job does not alter the humanity of their chit-chat on the way to work.
Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed movies include: Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994) – (yes it was that long ago!), Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill (2003 & 2004), Death Proof (2007), Inglorious Basterds (2009) and the upcoming feature, Django Unchained (2012).
In his youth he was but a poor man, with no car and no money, working in a video store to make ends meet, and sleeping on a friend’s couch.
What he did have though was a dream, as Tarantino himself puts it, “with no fall back plan”. He had a willingness to fail until one day he could earn a living doing the one thing that he really loved.
Whether you personally like his films or loathe them is immaterial, as the man is a rock star of his industry. Slightly eccentric without doubt, but a man to be admired for both his passion and his persistence, so thank you Quentin for sharing your gift with us all.
By the way, he also comes in on budget, because he wants ‘the people who believed in me to get their money back’.
The big question is, ‘What is YOUR passion? And are you following it?’
Until next time, think about what matters to you and seize the day!