Richard Stuart Linklater is one of the most visionary and innovative cinematic artists of our lifetime. His unfathomable ability to make incendiary films year after year helps the stories Linklater turns into films, often without significant plots, into timeless classics. From indie films to founding his own film society and film production company, Linklater is one movie maker that goes to show what hard work can do.
The Birth of a Film Society and a Unique Style
Richard was born in Houston, TX, and after briefly studying at Sam Houston State University he dropped out to work on an off-shore oil rig. It was at this time that he realized his love for film, through reading literature at the rig and repeatedly visiting a theater in Houston. Once Linklater left the oil rig, he moved to Austin, TX and spent the money he’d saved on a camera, projector, and editing equipment.
In 1985, Linklater co-founded the Austin Film Society with cinematographer Lee Daniel, launching Austin as a new hub for indie film making. For several years, Richard made several short films (like Woodshock, which is featured on the 2004 DVD re-release of Slacker from The Criterion Collection) letting him experiment and develop film techniques. His first full length feature film came in 1988′s It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books and, although it never had a widespread release, it begins to establish Linklater’s signature style. With minimal camera movements and little dialogue, the film examines the theme of traveling with no direction in mind.
Richard then created his own film production company, Detour, with which he wrote and directed the 1991 cult classic, Slacker. The film is relatively plot-less, but shows a day in the life of various young and often outcast Austin natives. Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize- Dramatic in the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, the film was a hit with critics and fans, and is most noted for beginning the independent film movement of the 1990′s. The film was also considered somewhat of a manifesto for Generation X, with Linklater as the generational spokesperson. Although I typically am not a proponent of films without formulated plots, Linklater is able to create interesting non-formulated narratives of seemingly random occurrences. His work is often considered an alternative to contemporary Hollywood films.
Linklater was also the mastermind behind yet another cult classic, 1993′s Dazed and Confused, as both writer and director. The film features an ensemble cast of actors who would soon become mega-stars, and has become a staple as a coming-of-age comedy for the youth of America. The film’s legacy is featured as #17 on Entertainment Weekly’s “Top 50 Cult Films”, #3 on their list of “50 Best High School Movies”, and #10 on their “Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years”. Even fellow filmmaker Quentin Tarantino included the film on his 2002 list of 12 greatest films of all time.
In 1995, Linklater’s film Before Sunrise earned him the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 45th Berlin International Film Festival. Again, the film featured a minimalist plot, focusing more on the characters perspectives of life and love. The film also received a rare 100% rating of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and an Empire poll ranked it the 200th greatest film of all time.
Linklater continued to build his cult following by creating independent films, like 2001′s Waking Life and 2006′s A Scanner Darkly. As two of my favorite films of all time, I strongly suggest you buy them, don’t just rent them – buy them, if you haven’t seen them. Both films are rotoscoped, a technique in which a team of artists draw over the live-action film. The effect not only gives the films a unique stylized look, but also allows for artistic choices. The films are both visually stunning and have plots involving various angles of philosophy and psychology, which makes them a must have for all movie lovers.
Richard has not only strived to make these distinct indie films, but also to burst into the mainstream film scene and gain more recognition. He directed 2003′s The School of Rock, 2005′s Bad News Bears, and 2008′s Me and Orson Welles. He also went on to produce, write, and direct Before Sunset in 2004, the sequel to Before Sunrise, earning him several awards including an Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). In 2006, Linklater directed Fast Food Nation which is loosely based on Eric Schlosser’s novel of the same name. Although the film received mixed reviews, it did win Best Feature Film at the 21st Genesis Awards and definitely proved that Richard could handle a typical plot.
Despite his success in big-budget films, Linklater refuses to leave Texas to work in Hollywood, and I can’t say I blame him. Most recently he wrote and directed the black comedy Bernie (read our review here!) with Jack Black, which received critical praise even from here at RMN! Richard also created the biographical comedy television show, Up to Speed, which airs on Hulu. Currently in post-production is the third installment in the Before Sunrise series, Before Midnight. Linklater is also filming a movie with the working title Boyhood, a film that he’s been working on for 12 years, attempting to show the relationship of kids with their parents.
A Personal Statement
Let me end this director/screenwriter of the week by saying that Richard Linklater has a special place in my heart. As a lifelong lover of movies, it’s filmmakers like Linklater that help encourage me to chase after my personal dreams. By continually making successful low budget indie films while incorporating some Hollywood stars, Richard is able to get through to all audiences. His visions are iconic, often showing that our everyday lives are more interesting than a scripted story. He stays true to his Texas roots and seems to really enjoy making movies with statements for audiences everywhere. Richard Linklater is one of my favorite filmmakers because he turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, something I can only dream of one day accomplishing.
‘Before Sunset’ Trailer:
Interview with Richard Linklater on ‘Bernie’
Richard Linklater’s Filmography:
- Boyhood (filming)
- 2013 Before Midnight (post-production)
- 2012 Up to Speed (TV series)
- 2011 Bernie
- 2008 Me and Orson Welles
- 2008 Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach (documentary)
- 2006 A Scanner Darkly
- 2006 Fast Food Nation
- 2005 Bad News Bears
- 2004 Before Sunset
- 2004 $5.15/Hr. (TV movie)
- 2003 The School of Rock
- 2003 Live from Shiva’s Dance Floor (short)
- 2001 Tape
- 2001 Waking Life
- 1998 The Newton Boys
- 1996 SubUrbia
- 1995 Before Sunrise
- 1993 Dazed and Confused
- 1991 Slacker
- 1991 Heads I Win/Tails You Lose (video)
- 1988 It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books
- 1985 Woodshock (short)