600 Movies a Year

Richard Linklater makes movies, because he watched a whole lot of them. The New Yorker's profile on Linklater chronicles his journey to becoming a filmmaker through his early years. He spent one summer working on an oil rig, which eventually lead him to drop out of college.

A friend helped him get a summer job working on an oil rig. It paid well, and gave him many free hours to read and write, so Linklater asked if he could stay on that fall. He never returned to school. Instead, for the next two and half years, whenever he came back to the mainland, in Houston, he would watch movies: first two a day, the three, then four. By his early twenties, he was seeing six hundred films a year.

In order to watch six hundred movies in one year, you need to watch about 1.64 per day. Miss one day, you have to watch three. Miss a second? You can do the math. If you want to be a filmmaker, you must watch movies.

Film is a language. Watching films to learn the language, is no different from studying Spanish or French. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the culture, and in an environment where you have to use it. I studied Spanish for nine years, and every Spanish teacher or professor I ever had always said, "Use it, or lose it." The same goes for film.

By habitually watching movies, you are constantly immersing yourself in the language of film. The exposure helps you understand how to tell a story through the medium, which is an important part of becoming a filmmaker.

There's this seldom watched interview with Spike Lee that NYU produced where Lee talks about his frustrations with students who say they don't have time to watch films.

Like Linklater, I decided to become a filmmaker after watching a lot of movies. I'm sure many filmmakers have had a similar experience.

The summer before leaving for college, I was working a dull job in retail. On a day off, I drove my sister to my town's library in small town New Hampshire. I was wandering around, killing time, when I discovered the movie section. My library card lost its virginity that day.

I was taking out five or six movies at a time; watching two films every other day that summer. There was one night that I will never forget. The night I watched The Godfather.

I was enthralled for the entire film. I was consumed by the magnitude and scope of the story, the tension and character arcs. The Godfather was everything a movie should be. I immediately put on Part II. I decided to become a filmmaker that night.

On the first day of classes in college, I met with my adviser to switch my major from Journalism to TV/Film. He tried to talk me out of it, but I did it anyway.

I think it's so important to watch movies as filmmaker that I'm starting a new project called 300 Movies A Year. Since 600 is an unrealistic goal at this point, I've slashed it in half.

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A few years ago, Steven Soderbergh released his cultural diet - a list of everything he watched in one year's time. You'll see from the list that Soderbergh was actively working on projects and was still able to watch a slew of films, and read some novels along the way. I've started logging my cultural diet, focusing on just movies. Each month, I'll be sharing a log of all the movies that I've watched, with the goal of hitting 300 in one year.

Now lets watch some films.