David Lynch, Uncut, Part One

Interview with David Lynch No. 1 March 10, 2006

Scott Thill: Thanks for taking time out to talk to me. I know you’re a busy man.
David Lynch: No problem, Scott.

ST: Also, I’d like to tell you that you’re one of my favorite directors, if not the outright favorite.
Lynch: Thank you very much, pal.

ST: Back when you started DavidLynch.com, you said the internet was still “sleepy” and slow. But now with a few years under your belt, has the sleeper, to quote Dune, awakened yet?

Lynch: The sleeper hasn’t awakened yet. It’s weird. Obviously, the internet is huge and getting bigger, but it is divided. Right now, everything is getting divided. Divided, divided and more divided. And I guess MySpace is the place where people go now, but even that’s divided, know what I mean? But over here, we’ve got our thinking caps strapped on. We’ve got a great bunch in our membership who all really like each other and find things to talk about. And when we get new members, they really like the site and say that it’s different from other sites.

I guess our job is just to keep going. It’s all an experiment. I want to find things that fire me up, and see if it works for the people. I’m really interested in my bird feeders, and those are down right now. But we’re going to come back with new and improved bird feeders. The technology has improved, so we should have better live pictures. And it’s coming up to springtime now, Scott, so the birds will be with us.

ST: How do you feel taking your work onto the internet years ago has changed you as a filmmaker?

Lynch: Well, it’s huge, because I like to conduct experiments. There are only 24 hours in a day, and my top priority is working on my films, but I love short film experiments. And because of the internet I’ve learned about After Effects, Flash animation and discovered and fallen in love with digital video. So I just think that going onto the web was so good for me. It’s just sort of starting, but it’s a beautiful world. A beautiful, modern world, and getting better. I always like random access, and I like the idea that one thing relates to another. And this is part of the internet: It’s so huge, that it is really an unbounded world. And I think that if we keep our thinking caps strapped on, we could find something beautiful out there in the ether.

ST: You’re saying the net is being divided up. What do you mean by that?

Lynch: Well, everybody has a site or a page of their own. Everyone is on the internet but they’re not all talking with each other. There are groups upon groups out there, but they don’t talk to one another. So while the internet brings everyone into a shared space, it does not necessarily bring them together. And there’s just something I like about bringing people together.

ST: Do you feel that your site has brought what used to be a bunch of scattered Lynch communities together?

Lynch: In a way. Because it’s a membership site, it costs money to join, which keeps a lot of people away. They’ve got other things to spend their money on. So we’ve talked about making it a free site with advertising, provided we can get some really good advertisers involved. I think that’s possible, but the membership is really a good bunch. It’s spawned at least one marriage, and brought people from all over the world into one place to talk, make friends and more.

ST: Is there a fear that going with a free site may fragment that community somewhat?

Lynch: I always want to keep at least a membership chat room up and running, so that people can be with a smaller group of friends. But I think that opening it up, in some cases, might be a better way to go. So we’re thinking about it.

ST: How has the site enabled you, if at all, to strengthen your creative control over your work?

Lynch: Well, I believe in creative control. No matter what anyone makes, they should have control over it. See, I was a painter first, and there’s zero problem with control in that world. An artist makes a painting, and nobody bugs him or her about it. It’s just you and your painting. To me, that’s the way it should be with film as well. But you need a crew, you have to build a tight-knit machine that goes beautifully down the road together, and you’ve gotta keep control otherwise the whole thing won’t hold together.

The business side of film has goofed up so many things, but even that’s changing. It happened to the music industry and now it’s happening to the film studios. It’s crazy what’s going on. But artists should have control of their work; especially if, as I always say, you never turn down a good idea and never take a bad idea. You have to have control over every element of a film and not walk away until everything feels correct.

ST: Was taking your work to the site one way of counteracting that business side of the film industry that keeps screwing everything up?

Lynch: No, I wouldn’t do it for reasons like that. Websites are places where we can all go and, although perhaps no one will see it, at least put out our work, whether it’s high-quality still and moving images or sound and music. I can create, finesse and post these short works, and it’s a beautiful thing. And where else could you do that? You can’t book theaters for short films or experimental cinema, because it would cost a fortune. The internet and its technology are there for everyone, and the price for the equipment is becoming more and more reasonable. It’s a great place to be creative.

ST: And digital video seems to have made the whole process of filmmaking easier for budding auteurs.

Lynch: Digital video is so beautiful. It’s lightweight, modern, and it’s only getting better. It’s put film into the La Brea Tar Pits.

ST: So you are serious about working exclusively in DV from here on out?

Lynch: For sure.

ST: Because of its mobility and lower overhead?

Lynch: Everything about it. In one word, film is heavy. It’s gone, just gone.

ST: DV is a much easier route for new filmmakers to get their work seen, rather than have to rely on film festivals and the like.

Next: David Lynch on future projects, digital piracy, Inland Empire

Lynch: Absolutely. Like I always say, everybody has access to a piece of paper and a pencil. You can write a story with it. Anyone in the world can do that. And more and more these days, anyone in the world can make a film. There aren’t that many great stories out there — there’s a bunch, maybe — but at least now people have access where they didn’t before. Films used to cost a fortune to make.

ST: You started a paid subscriber site when the dot-com world had pretty much gone bust.

Lynch:It was already busted by the time we went up.

ST: Did it pay off for you?

Lynch: Yes. We’ve got such good members, but the question is would it be better to open it up and go with advertising. That’s the question we’ve been asking.

ST: Well, the cycle seems to have come around again. Advertisers are dropping millions into the internet.

Lynch: Yeah, because everyone is still on the internet. But advertisers are not going to give away any money without getting results.

ST: So what else is in store for the site, save for a free portal with ads? Eric (Bassett, DavidLynch.com’s managing consultant) told me that you had envisioned it as becoming its own media or broadcast entity.

Lynch: Well, Eric says a lot of things! (Laughs). I love him and he’s always thinking. But it’s a lot of work to make one piece of new content, especially when I am in the middle of making of film, like I am right now. So the idea was, if the site went wide, that people would have the opportunity to submit short films to the site and see what happens. We’re considering having contests of that sort to showcase good, new short films. That’s mostly because it’s a short-film platform right now, but pretty soon it will be a feature-film platform.

ST: I agree. Theoretically speaking, a director of your following could finance, produce, create and distribute a feature film exclusively through your site. Is that a possibility for you?

Lynch:It’s going to be that way. Right now, it’s that way for music and it will be that way with film as soon as tomorrow. For sure.

ST: Do you have a project in mind for that eventuality?

Lynch: Well, I wouldn’t distribute it strictly through my site, but definitely the internet. Satellites will also be squirting films onto the big screens from space, or so I hear. But it’s no longer going to be a world where trucks carry cans of film around anymore.

ST: Well, I would imagine that a free DavidLynch.com site allowing new filmmakers to submit their work to the site for you to judge or critique would generate an enormous response.

Lynch: That would be good. People are out there working away, and they always were, but they don’t yet really have a place to show their stuff. Nor do they have anyone saying, “I think this is really good, take a look at it.” It’s a possibility.

ST: What about some of the other projects I hear you have in the works?

Lynch: Well, we got ringtones. And the bird feeders are going to go back up. I like seeing the dynamics between the birds and the squirrels, so I think that’ll be big. But back to ringtones; they kind of had their 15 seconds of fame. (Laughs). But they are important to have, and we’ve got some good ones coming up very soon. We’re all ready to go right now; it’s just all about settling the contractual details.

ST: How about the intellectual property issues? You’re into creative control, but the digital world is an eminently easier one to hack and steal from. Are you worried about that?

Lynch: Everybody would like it if people respected the work of others. But there is a lot of … I think things need to be balanced out. For sure, there are pirates out there who just want to do it to do it, but when you download something and really appreciate it, you should send something to the person who made it.

ST: You have to support the artists or works you really admire.

Lynch: I think that that would be good.

ST: Can that ideal survive in the digital world?

Lynch: Yeah, I think so. Of course, it all depends; you have to go person by person. But a lot of people feel the way you do.

ST: Well, it makes philosophical and economical sense.

Lynch: For example, a lot of people decide to download music, but rather than buy it they decide instead to support the band by going to see them on tour. But if you’re not a touring band, you’re fresh out of luck. That’s your only source of revenue and people are taking it. But it’s better to change people’s thinking, because right now they’re going to do it if they’re going to do it. There aren’t any rules and people can hack into anything. You have to go person by person.