In your speech you mentioned the pleasure of being able to watch these films almost as a singular entity, which felt like a kind of manifesto for the value of film festivals. Is that something you still feel, despite now being a big bananas blockbuster director?
More so, I think. The truth is that I didn’t start out making commercial movies. My films were not film festival movies with the possible exception slightly of “Super,” but I was able to nurture my gifts through the works of artists making lower budget films that needed a place and an outlet.
At first, it was the b-movie outlet of video and DVD, and then [it was festivals]. And having that outlet for people to learn the craft of filmmaking, then to get lucky and win the lottery to be able to make a big movie that is still a personal expression of me and my life —that’s ‘Guardians’— I never would have gotten to that place without those types of festivals and festival crowds.
So I think it’s really necessary, not only for nurturing talent because that’s really only part of it, but also just for cinema fans themselves. To have an outlet for people who love movies that aren’t the big blockbuster films. Because studios only make a couple of movies a year now —they used to make 30 or 40 and now they make six or seven. And so all movies are huge movies now in a way. There are very few smaller films [in that system] and fewer still very small movies that get an outlet to be seen. So providing that outlet through film festivals is not just great, it’s necessary.
And hey, you get to come to Japan.
I know! I’ve never been to Japan, so that was a big part of it. Last year at Christmastime my parents brought me a bag of stuff I had when I was a kid. And in there was a list of things I must have written when I was like 18 years old, a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime… my bucket list. And I found it very moving because I’d done almost everything on the list! If anybody had read that list in Manchester, Missouri while I was living in my parents’ basement, they would have thought I was a delusional little kid, because it was like: “direct a movie,” “act in a movie,” “write a novel” —it was all these things that I’ve ended up doing. And one of the things on that list —the only place— was “go to Japan.” And then this opportunity presented itself.
So what are your days going to look like once you get home?
Basically just continuing writing ‘Guardians 2.’
Cool. Do you mind exclusively revealing the entire plot to me right now?
Yeah, sure. We open up on a “Mission: Impossible” scenario where all the characters die…No, to be honest, I had the basic story for number two while I was working on number one, and perhaps even beyond that. So it’s gonna answer a lot of questions that are proposed in the first one, and we’ll be able to get to know some of the characters we didn’t get to know in the first one a little bit more, and we might meet a few new characters too.
But has being here and watching these films inspired in you a desire to return to lower-budget filmmaking?
I will admit that generally I don’t feel the desire to do that. Generally I like making big movies! It suits me, especially when I can make them like ‘Guardians’ where I’m actually loving what I’m telling. I wouldn’t want to go off and do something I wasn’t excited about, but luckily I’m excited by big pop things, I’m just like that. And I like being able to mix it with something that’s a little edgier. I’m pretty lucky.
But there were times I was watching something, and I was thinking you know, maybe it would be kinda cool to make a little low-budget movie again. But not that low budget.
I made "Super" for $3 million, and that was filmed in 24 days. And that $3 million dollars went to a lot of things other than what shows up on screen. Once you get done with the unions and everything else, that’s just like the basic cost of what you can make a movie for. And it was not easy, it was a pretty harrowing experience, especially when you work the way that I do —I’m not a guy who goes in and finds the moment, I’m a guy who plans everything. I’m happy that I did it, in part because it got me ‘Guardians,’ but it was pretty difficult.
But those budgetary limitations do release a degree of creativity, right?
They do. And there’s always limitations. For me, it’s about learning how those limitations can make me figure out a way around them in a way that somebody else wouldn’t. And where does it make me think in a way that I wouldn’t normally think, so then I appear more creative than I actually am.
So it’s a series of cheats.
It’s a series of cheats. And ‘Guardians’ was very much like that. I very much knew that there were certain things about ‘Guardians’ that needed to stay the Marvel way, but then figuring out a way around them to do my own thing was I think part of what made me have so much fun with the movie. So there’s always those things, whether they’re budgetary or otherwise. And even on ‘Guardians,’ there was a lot of budgetary constraints.