An Interview with Stephen Winter
How do you approach the beginning of a project?
Projects never begin or ever really end. They always just are and in process so I consider every workday of a project is a blessed new beginning and a fiendish tragic ending. And I just go with that.
What is your greatest fear when facing a project?
That it will suck.
What is your daily creative work schedule?
It all depends on the day and what I'm working on at the time. Essentially, every available hour that can be used for watching, writing, discussing, negotiating, battling or dreaming of films is time well spent.
What is the one question you have never been asked regarding your creative process?
I'm rarely asked any questions about my creative process. People usually just want to talk business. We should speak more to each other about aspects of creativity.
What would you be if you couldn't be a filmmaker/ artist/ writer/ multimedia/ installation artist?
What do you do when you get stuck?
Watch a movie I've never seen before and that is of a completely different genre than whatever it is I'm blocked on.
What was the most discouraging feedback you ever got?
When I first began producing Tarnation many told me that a film like that would never be viable in the marketplace. That it was "unproduceable." Which was certainly discouraging and maybe even realistic, but also not true. I'm very glad I didn't listen.
What was the most encouraging feedback you ever got?
Too many to mention. I can live for a week off a supportive, sincere compliment or piece of positive constructive criticism, so I always try to give it out--and hear it when it comes my way.
Is having a community of artists a beneficial component to your work?
Community is essential. You can paint or write by yourself, but film is a communal art form and the only way to succeed is to become an asset to the collective.
Have you ever transitioned to another medium or genre? How did it affect your original discipline?
I have never transitioned between mediums, but I did become a producer in addition to writer/director. Producing is not something I necessarily enjoy wholeheartedly, but it has made me a better writer/director because I now understand how to fully wear all three hats.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the field?
Go to the library and get some comprehensive books on what it takes to become a professional ballet dancer. Absorb all of it, the hours of practice, the years of training, the early age one must start to dedicate to the dance, the incredible competition, the physical exertion, the social isolation, the low self esteem, the low pay, the percentage of ballet dancers who actually make a living at it and of those who do, when they must quit dancing because they are too old to execute the moves, have had too many injuries, etc. Then understand all that you've read for ballet is the same for film, except that in order to be a working ballet dancer, one must be brilliant at it. But in film, talent counts for very little in measuring potential success. If you're still not put off, then have at it!