Finn Taylor's Subversive Storytelling Sets Genre Film On Its Ear
By Thom Fowler
Posted 06/05/02 17:05:18
Finn Taylor started his career as a film maker in the most unlikely of places – in the poetry department at university in Montana. He is a director slash writer with a very San Francisco demeanor and approach to his work. He left Montana for San Francisco State, a school notorious not only for its excellent film department but also for its politically charged atmosphere left over from Viet-Nam war era. His sensitivity to and interest in the mooshy touch-feely world of San Francisco comes through in his latest Cherish which he filmed on location in his cherish-ed San Francisco and Berkeley.
Making his way through the vague world of coffee house poets and paridigm redefining artists, he eventually ended up as the literary director for Intersection of the Arts, a San Francisco non-profit arts organization that no doubt exists to smash cultural imperialism and patriarchy. His leap from the black hole of the San Francisco Art World That Cares Nothing for Exploitative Capitalist Sell-Out Consumer Culture is almost a little miracle and depending on what side of the fence you are on, a success story or a bummer.
How did you get from Intersection for the Arts to selling a script to Paramount?
I had a play, really edgy, arty performance art and someone saw it and really liked it. The play is called Idiot Savant. And Jeff Brown said, “do you have a screenplay?” and because I had taken screenplay classes, I said, “yes I do” and he said “I’m a film maker” and I was kind of suspect of that but I went back to his house and he had an Oscar on his mantle (Best Short 1985, Molly's Pilgrim). Jeff started paying me to do rewrites and we worked it until it was a pretty good script and that brought me eventually to LA. I moved from LA in 1996. I went back north to shoot Dream of The Fishes and I stayed because that’s where all my friends and family are.
Did you have movies in mind when you started this whole writing thing?
I was really focused on poetry. I went away from college and when I went back I had no interest in taking things I had no interest in and I didn’thave any careerist goals. I wondered “what does this story need to be?”. Americans are very movie literate. We start to understand structure even when I was a kid. My parents would let the double feature babysit me. I used to write really experimental poetry. The readership was really small and hardly anyone was going to get anything from this. So what good am I doing anyone. I thought that I wasn’t serving anybody. So it just felt better service to make an independent film. If you say something that makes somebody laugh or means something to someone that’s actually much better service then what I was doing.
Do you see yourself as more a cultural worker or an auteur?
Cultural work sounds too lofty a phrase for me. I see it is my job to try and do something a little different and take risks. If I stumble that’s okay. I get frustrated when I see trailers of movies and I’ve seen them all in exactly this way and tone before. I wanted to try and do something a little bit different tonally or a little different storywise then I’ve seen before. And that’s what I try to do. That seems to be the niche I’ve fallen into.
Taylor’s next project, Chaos Theory, is based on the Darwin Awards and has an insurance salesmen and a claims adjuster as the point and counterpoint around people who have offed themselves because of sheer stupidity or carelessness.