La La Land Director Damien Chazelle talks about Film Festivals, Love, and Career.
I was lucky enough to attend the Premiere of La La Land at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. After seeing the film, I went back to my hotel where wrote my review for the film. In my review, I called it the Best Film of the Year, which was back in September and now, here it is December, and that opinion hasn’t wavered. La La Land is a timeless masterpiece. It is a film that celebrates life, love, and dreams. There aren’t many films that I want to watch over and over again, but La La Land is one that I can’t wait to watch over and over again while showing it to all my friends and family.
SEE ALSO: TIFF 2016 Review: ‘La La Land’
Needless to say, after being so blown away by the film, I was anxiously awaiting an opportunity to discuss the film with those who made it a reality. I was lucky enough to sit down with director/writer Damien Chazelle to talk about the film. We talked about the Whiplash Sundance Premiere as well as his thoughts on career goals and love. Things got a little deep but it made for an interesting conversation.
I was there with you at the World Premiere of Whiplash at Sundance. I remember seeing you take to the stage before and after. I remember the applause at the Eccles theater. It seems that festivals have been your starting off point. Your first film played at the Tribeca Film Festival, then you went to Sundance for Whiplash, and now, Venice and Telluride with this film. Can you speak a little bit about that and how the film festival circuit has kind of changed your life.
Oh, you were at Sundance? Wow, seems so long ago. Yeah. I owe everything to film festivals. At least in my case, there’s still this opportunity for stuff that’s initially, out of the mainstream to gain traction. Certainly, something like Whiplash was also not exactly the easiest thing to pitch in Hollywood. We had to make that independently and obviously on a very low budget. A place like Sundance gives it a platform. It’s funny that we wound up signing with Lionsgate when doing La La Land. I had my first meeting with those guys at Sundance, probably a few days after that premiere. A few months later we had signed with them. Even well before Whiplash being in theaters or any of the awards season stuff, just off of Sundance, that alone was enough to at least get my foot in the door. Not an immediate green light, but it was enough to get us actually a level of financing that we, for the four, five years prior, had not been able to obtain. I do have to credit the festivals with that.
Let me get a little deep with you. This movie has such a bittersweet message at the end. Very powerful but heartbreaking in a lot of ways. For you personally, and I kind of noticed this as an ongoing theme in your films is there a balance between finding love in what you do versus finding love in real life? Do you need both of them to obtain true happiness?
Yeah. That’s a good question. Yeah. I know myself well enough to know that, at least in terms of movie storytelling, I always like the sadder space. I like the emotional terrain that the idea of things not working out gives you.
Certainly, in my life, it is this certainly something on my mind of how do you find that balance. I guess in some ways I do separate my life from certainly the stuff that’s onscreen in these movies. When it comes to these movies, I was specifically interested in the more solitary pursuit of an art form. I’m actually lucky in the sense of being behind the camera making movies that I’m a part of an inherently collaborative art form. There’s no other way for me to do what I do.
I think as an actor, or jazz pianist, or a jazz drummer, or whatever, sure, you might be part of an ensemble, you might be part of a repertory, but there is this fleetingness. Ultimately, you are, most of the time, alone with yourself, either practicing lines, or practicing your instrument, or listening or engaging in the art form alone. I guess I’m really interested in the solitary pursuit of an art form, and how that, obviously, creates a problem if you have to devote yourself 100% to an art form, and yet, also devote yourself 100% to another human being. How do you find that balance? That kind of practical question I find, yeah, probably endlessly interesting.
Are you currently in a relationship?
Yeah. Right now I feel equally devoted to a human being as I do to the art form. It’s true if you had asked me, I don’t know, two years ago maybe or something, I probably would’ve been in a different state.
One thing that was nice about making this movie was it certainly reflected a more hopeful part of my life in terms of when I was making it than probably where I was when I made Whiplash. Which is probably, looking at the movies, somewhat obvious. Then again, it’s weird, because this I wrote initially before Whiplash. Life has a weird way of sometimes reflecting and sometimes not at all, the art that you’re making.