Preview: A conversation with filmmaker Terry Zwigoff

Abernathy Miller, Columbus Alive

Terry Zwigoff doesn't care if anyone likes his films, and he didn't set out to be a filmmaker. Even so, the director of cult favorites "Ghost World," "Bad Santa," and "Crumb" has built a career by telling character-driven narratives with heartbreaking honesty.

As part of its 25th Anniversary Season, The Wexner Center for the Arts is paying homage to the unlikely auteur with a retrospective of his work. The series kicked off with screenings of "Crumb" and "Louie Bluie" and will close with screenings of "Ghost World" and "Art School Confidential." The crown jewel in programming, however, is a conversation with Zwigoff himself. The filmmaker will be on hand to answer questions about his work on Thursday, Oct. 16 at the Wexner Center. Being the obsessive Zwigoff fans we are, Alive couldn't wait to ask him a few questions first.

I had some advantages not knowing the "correct"way to do things. Not having any film training forced me to figure out my own method and style. After I made a few films, I began to educate myself on how the "masters" like Hitchcock, Kubrick and Lumet did it. It's been a continuing education. I remember liking the work of cinematographer Gordon Willis. I'd sit and watch films he'd shot with the sound off so I wouldn't get distracted. I became aware of borrowing from both Willis and Woody Allen. There is a shot from [Allen's] "Broadway Danny Rose" that I borrowed in "Crumb." It's a long master shot with no cuts or coverage. I was partly paying homage to [the shot], but it's a trade-off of being original or not that I still struggle with.

I feel that many of my films are predetermined, like I had no choice but to make them. I'm not religious or superstitious, but I came upon so many incredible coincidences I think fate was at work.I considered Louie Bluie one of the great artists of our time whose story had to be told, and I was the one person who knew how important an artist he was. I witnessed one incredible coincidence after another while I was making ["Louie Bluie"]. Fate guided me to do "Crumb" as well. I was in a unique position to tell this story about Robert Crumb and his brothers, so I had to do it.

People don't seem to know what to make of[my films] at first. It's like when I play someone an old record from the '20s that I love; you can tell they're just waiting for it to be over. With my films, the audience often thinks they're bad because it's not what they're used to, and it takes them awhile to adjust to my way of thinking. However, there's a certain amount of layering and background detail to each that I think helps them hold up on subsequent viewings, which partly explains why I have a cult following. I think [my films] have a subversive quality that some [people] appreciate over time.

I make films mainly for myself.If others like them, that'sa bonus. I want other people to like them, but at the end of the day, I have to like them. I'd rather like them and have everyone hate themthan vice versa. My films are full of negativity and complaining, which most people have no tolerance for, but I, of course, enjoy. They aren't for everyone. In "Ghost World,"I knew I was going to lose half the audience when Seymour says, "I hate sports," but there it is.

The best advice I ever got was from Woody Allen. He told me to get on a treadmill every day because youneeda lot of stamina to make a film. The worst advice I ever received was from Robert Crumb who told me to go into watch repair. That would have worked out well.

The Wexner Center for the Arts

7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16

1871 N. High St., Campus

614-292-3535

wexarts.org