Brilliant interview with David by @grubstreetsteve for DazedDigital.com in which he talks through the anxiety of directorial expectations and much more….make sure you click the link at the end to read in full
Your first feature, Animal Kingdom, was a big hit. Did you get lots of offers on the back of it?
David Michôd: Yeah, it was a lot of scripts and a lot of attention. There were a lot of meetings, blind dates in Hollywood, working out methodologies. I felt like I had a lot of sifting through the new bits and pieces of my life to do, and I wanted to take my time and do that at my own pace, not panic.
Is there a temptation to jump into something right away and was that something that you had to consciously resist?
David Michôd: If I was a director for hire, then I would’ve felt a clock ticking. People talk about capitalising on heat. But all that really means is that for a period after you’ve made a film that’s gotten some attention, your name keeps coming up in studio meetings. It keeps coming up in the meetings of production companies that have projects in development. If you wait too long, your name starts to slip off those lists. As soon as I had worked out that that’s what ‘the heat’ means, I realised I didn’t have to care. I knew deep down that I would always write whatever my next movie was, and so I could actually let that stuff die away a bit and come back when I was ready.
You have said filmmaking is “emotionally volatile” for you. How so?
David Michôd: It’s volatile because so many stages of it take place in a kind of panic, and because it feels very exposing. As the director you are more naked and vulnerable than anybody else on the project. I know this to be true even of those actors that I know who have dipped their toes into directorial waters who all say, without exception, that nothing feels more anxiety-stricken and exposing than showing something you’ve made. When you’re watching yourself giving a performance you can hide behind other people’s mistakes, if you think the end result wasn’t great.
You have actually seen it from the other side of the camera as an actor yourself. Then you’re having to put your faith in the director and trust that he or she will show you at your best. So does the fact that you don’t have complete control as an actor also create anxiety?
David Michôd: Well, the acting I did was only ever fooling around in the kiddie pool, you know? I never felt like there was really much at stake. It did give me, hopefully, a solid sort of empathy for what actors are being asked to do. In order to get the best out of them you are asking them to surrender themselves to you. I totally understand why actors slip into a self-preservation mode when they feel like they are at the hands of a director that doesn’t know what he or she is doing. I try to put actors at ease by being honest with them and being clear with them, and being available to them. But also by trying to communicate to them, wherever possible, that they can relax because I have good taste. I mean just to hope that they feel that too and they can let themselves go.