photo by Joni Kabana
Gus Van Sant’s film career started with a bad night, or Mala Noche, a film that he largely funded and won the LA Film Critics award for Best Independent Film in 1989. From there, Van Sant went on to break the Hollywood mold by engaging upcoming actors Matt Dillon and River Phoenix in the edgy films Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho. Even after the box office successes, Van Sant was still on the fringe of the industry.
A Portlander who had studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, Van Sant soon signed on with big productions such as To Die For with Nicole Kidman and Good Will Hunting, starring Ben Afleck and Matt Damon. This connection with Damon led to Damon asking Van Sant to direct his new project, Promised Land, in theaters now. We were fortunate to get a moment with Van Sant to ask the all encompassing question for this Top 5—Why do you make films?
It was so hard to do at first that it presented a challenge for me.
It’s also the challenge extended beyond the craft of making films to the ability to rally enough help from people to put together a film, which is a big puzzle and another kind of challenge. Putting together that puzzle is absolutely absorbing, and seemingly insurmountable and, therefore, alluring.
Making films can bring you into worlds that you are interested in. So as you are studying a subject, you are also preparing a presentation that is about that subject, which will hopefully be amazing.
Working with all the different artistic disciplines— sound, photography, light, story, acting— which I’d also consider, together, insurmountable, one never feels like they have truly mastered these.
Communication with people, which was perhaps the original reason to get involved with cinema, can be sometimes important and sometimes just a bunch of fun.