Quentin Tarantino might just be of the most revered filmmakers in the landscape of contemporary cinema, but there was a time when he shared the same fears and doubts as most aspiring artists. During one such turbulent period in Tarantino’s life, another filmmaking genius stepped in to provide some much-needed guidance to the future maestro.
Before Tarantino released his fantastic directorial debut Reservoir Dogs in 1992, he attended the Sundance Institute for future giants of the industry, where there are various mentorship programs. Tarantino was also involved in one of those programs and his mentor was none other than the director of masterpieces like Brazil – Terry Gilliam.
Tarantino recalled: “This is like ’91, that was Terry Gilliam at the height of his visionary reputation. He really liked the script for Reservoir Dogs, he thought it was really cool so he was really invigorated [by] the idea of helping me with the project. I had never made a movie before, I had all these cool visuals in my mind. I [thought] ‘I can make a great movie!’ but it’s all theory until you do it.”
According to Tarantino, he went up to Gilliam and tried to ask the legendary filmmaker about his biggest creative fear when it came to directing his first film: “I asked him, ‘You have a vision and that specific vision is in all of your movies. How do you that? How do you capture that vision? I know I have a vision in my head, I just don’t know whether I’ll be able to capture it. How do you capture that?'”.
“He literally gave me some of the best advice I’d ever gotten,” Tarantino revealed. “He took something that I was turning into a shamanistic, mystical, ‘conjuring up’ experience and made it practical. He said, ‘Quentin, you don’t really have to conjure up your vision. What you have to do is to know what your vision is and then you have to hire really talented people. It’s their job to create your vision.”
Gilliam taught Tarantino something very essential about the craft of filmmaking, a lesson that went against the common misconception of what an auteur is: “You just need to understand your vision and you need to articulate it. If you hire the right people who get what you’re trying to do and then you just explain it to them.” Gilliam’s guidance ensured that Tarantino was well on his way towards becoming a modern master who knew how important it is to acquire the right team.