As a television actor, I was held to a tight, rigid structure.
I've been in some bad TV shows and suffered through so much poor writing.
I made a very conscious decision to quit acting. I was on a series, and we were in the process of renegotiating. They had an idea of what they thought I was worth, and I had an idea that was quite different.
The movies I make - the goal isn't a mass audience. They're not expensive films. So the attempt is to reach a much more limited audience - one would say an audience that enjoys films that challenge them emotionally and intellectually.
I'm a storyteller, and I was an actor, so I have a fairly thin grip on reality to begin with.
I believe in the Constitution - and I believe in common sense.
Think about 'GoodFellas': It could be a textbook on how not to write a screenplay. It leans on voice-over at the beginning, then abandons it for a while, then the character just talks right into the camera at the end. That structure is so unusual that you don't have any sense of what's going to happen next.
As a filmmaker, you have to stand in front of what you did and make choices that you could do with a clear conscience.
Some of the most fascinating scenes in 'Unforgiven,' for me, is that scene with Gene Hackman where he's talking about the Duke of Death that Richard Harris played, and he's basically demolishing this myth of this man very unwesternly - not what you expect in a western.
I don't write tracking shots in my screenplays or any camera directions, but I do try to give a sense of how the action is moving.
While I feel it's important for films to examine our society, I don't particularly like watching the films that do it.
With 'Wind River,' I became fascinated with the notion of how you overcome a tragedy - accepting it, making whatever peace you can with it - without ever knowing what really happened.
You set something in modern-day Texas, which is so identifiable as the Old West, and everyone's wearing guns, so it looks like it's going to be, by default, partially considered a western.
In the late '90s, I spent a lot of time on reservations, and there was a level of poverty and injustice that I had not witnessed before. I was shocked by it. This is federally controlled land, and there was an insidious mix of apathy and exploitation.
In 2005, I visited my home state of Texas, spending time on a ranch outside the town of Post. Then spending some time on a large ranch outside Archer City. I was taken by just how few young people I saw anywhere.
To me, a purely good individual or purely bad individual, that's a comic book - that's a fantasy - and I don't do fantasy.
Plot is just not my gift. I'm fascinated with complex characters, and that doesn't mix well with complex plots. And by the way, when the plot is simple, you can move one piece around and make it feel fresh. 'Hell or High Water''s a good example: I don't tell you why the brothers are robbing the bank.
I work very hard to line up stereotypes and then smash them with a hammer.
Whether we can call 'Hell or High Water' this rogue buddy bank-heist movie, it's also a meditation on assimilation and failure and what happens when someone loses their purpose.
Don't try and make a movie for someone else. You have to make it for you and trust that you're not that unique. And that'll matter to other people as well.
Until you've been to Cannes, it's hard to describe to someone the magnitude of that festival.
I think film cannot only teleport you to places you don't know, but it can help you see people you thought were one way and in fact are another. They can allow us to examine ourselves.
I've made up little mantras for myself, catchphrases from a screenwriting book that doesn't exist. One is 'Write the movie you'd pay to go see.' Another is 'Never let a character tell me something that the camera can show me.'
I think 'In The Heat Of The Night' was one of the most influential films on me. Looking back now, I can see how influential it was on my screenwriting because here you have what looks to be a crime procedural, and it's actually a study in race and loneliness, and a perception of an era.
I had to push exposition through dialogue, which is really, really hard for an actor do.
It's very hard for me to go to the movies because I know all the tricks, and I know everybody. I don't watch many at all. And the ones I do watch are generally much older films.
'Kramer vs. Kramer' is one of my favorite films, where you have a story that really juxtaposes a lot of ideas that we have about family and about parenting.
How does one endure in a place they shouldn't be condemned to live in? You could take that same question and apply it to any number of neighborhoods in any number of cities.
I can recognize a good actor. I can recognize someone that can convey emotion and that has the essence and not get lost in the minutia of, 'Well, that person's got red hair, and so does the other.' Some of the decisions in casting that seem so important at the time, until you get on set and you're starting to shoot.
I wanted 'Hell or High Water' to feel like a road movie and an exciting, fun film - until it's not.
I thought of Jeff Bridges in 'Hell or High Water' and Ben Foster, and I kept trying very hard not to, because you're terrified you're going to write this thing that then feeds specifically to this one person that then won't do it.
Josh Brolin is fascinating to watch because he is just so effortless. It's like watching a really gifted athlete run, and I just didn't have that.
I don't know if I've ever met anyone that's purely good or purely evil myself. I think most of us live with some varying degrees between the two.
In 2011, I was in Hollywood peddling 'Sicario' to constant and resounding 'no's. Texas was suffering the worst drought on record. Wildfires spread across West Texas, burning some 4 million acres and 3,000 homes. While the urban centers in Texas were experiencing an economic boom, West Texas was collapsing under the weight of drought and fires.
I mean... directing is a holy, unpleasant experience, to be perfectly honest.
My education - my Ph.D. in storytelling - comes from having worked on it, being a lover of film and watching them, from working with some great writers and some very good TV directors and then working with some who weren't.
I had three attorneys dedicated solely to find the statistic of the number of missing Native American women on reservations. Any reservation, not just 'Wind River.' They don't exist. The federal government, which is responsible for the reservations, don't keep those stats.
Once I finished 'Sicario,' I knew I wanted to follow it up with 'Hell or High Water.'
You can really examine the suffering and consequences that happen when there's a loss in a family.
'Sicario' was successful, but it was successful because Denis and the producers were, you know, they were very lean. It was very lean filmmaking.
Bad people sometimes do good things, and good people do really bad things or do something the audience disagrees with.
I've been very fortunate with my three spec scripts - which is sort of my thematic trilogy of the American Frontier. With 'Sicario', 'Hell or High Water' and then 'Wind River' - which is the third - there were no rewrites. It was the first draft for all three.
Every writer has written a spec. It's the first thing you write, and it basically stands as a means of, 'Here's an example of how I tell stories.' It's almost like a business card.
I spent most of my time as an actor in television, so directors in television - it's such a machine that's already in place that I don't think you notice the direction as much on the set.
I've been fortunate to work with partners like Weinstein and John and Art Linson in developing 'Yellowstone' and am grateful that it has found a home in the Paramount Network. The show is both timely and timeless.