Classic Quotes

15 Kelly Reichardt Quotes to INSPIRE Writers and Filmmakers

Kelly Reichardt almost always works as a writer, director AND editor on her films. As a result, few people in American cinema understand storytelling as intimately as Kelly Reichardt. She’s a doggedly independent filmmaker who has carved out a unique place in modern American cinema. So for this reason, we take a look at 15 Kelly Reichardt quotes to see what this distinctive and unique voice has to say on her life, career, and the filmmaking process.

Fiercely Independent Spirit

An indie-film icon, Reichardt has been making films since 1994, beginning at Sundance with River of Grass. However, it took a while for her next film to be produced, an issue she credits to sexism in the industry. When Old Joy was finally released in 2006, it garnered widespread acclaim.

Reichardt was invited to teach at Bard College following the film’s debut, a long-time dream of hers. She still works there, a position she holds alongside her filmmaking projects.

Going from strength to strength, Reichardt’s films have attracted wider audiences as time has passed. However, she’s never sacrificed her unique and independent vision. Her films are slow, atmospheric, and methodical, plunging the audience into the minds of quiet but memorable characters.

Despite hailing from Miami, Reichardt’s films have become synonymous with the autumnal colors and earthy tones of Oregon. Writing partner Jon Raymond is somewhat to thank for this; his original texts (which led to Old Joy and First Cow) are based in the North West state.

Actor Michelle Williams is Reichardt’s other most frequent collaborator. “I know the answer is yes”, she said, whenever Reichardt has a new script for her to read. Reichardt’s artistry is so impressive that she does draw lots of A-list talent despite the small scale of her films. She’s worked, for example, with Jesse Eisenberg, Laura Dern, Toby Jones, and Kristen Stewart in recent years.

In their ambition and subtlety, her films, such as Meek’s Cutoff, Night Moves, First Cow, and Showing Up have left an unmistakable mark on what American independent cinema can achieve.

So how does Kelly Reichardt approach her work? What insight might she offer for independent filmmaking? What lessons are there in studying Reichardt’s unique voice? Let’s look at 15 of Kelly Reichardt’s most inspirational, interesting, and insightful quotes.

Kelly Reichardt Quotes on…Life and Filmmaking

1. “I think process – that word becomes funny if you say it enough, doesn’t it? – runs through all films. When you do Q&As, people always say, ‘How did you come up with this and that?’ Life is not an endless amount of eureka moments! Most things are labored over. You’re lucky to get a couple of eurekas, or you come to those after trying a bunch of other things that don’t work.”

2. “America, in its lack of social nets for people, loves this heroic ‘pulled myself up by my bootstraps’ ideal, without an acknowledgment of systems that leave people really on their own. As opposed to a coming-together, ‘we can all lift each other up’ kind of thing. I think of artist communities my entire adult life as being a sort of haven for that, instead, and for friendship and for working. Lack of community, or each man for himself, is a bad idea.”

3. “Work that’s open…requires a kind of innate creativity. It really has to be made up. I always begin thinking that I want to work in a different form. It’s going to be more montage or have an essay element or something, and I always end back in these well-worn footprints, working in genre and stuff. I find the open much more difficult.”

4. “I like to have a project. I like to have something to waste my energy on, something to think about. To figure out like a puzzle.”

Kelly Reichardt Quotes on…Storytelling

5. “Ursula Le Guin has a piece (The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction) where she talks about early tools and early human instruments, and about art being the carrier bag, instead of the idea of early instruments deriving from the classic bone, which is weapons. It gets thrown in the air, and you get the first tool. But the first tool was the carrier bag; like, what do you carry your seeds in? But there’s no narrative thrust to that, is there, the carrier bag? But the bone, it is a weapon; it has a narrative to it. So Ursula Le Guin is pro-carrier-bag-narrative. And I relate to that.”

6. “The lies are in the dialogue, the truth is in the visuals.”

7. “The characters live in the world that they live in, so they don’t really need to tell each other who they are or what they’re thinking, any more than you would with your friends, your community.”

8. “A movie is a series of reveals, essentially…so I have no interest in summing it all up. It’s all out there.”

Meek’s Cutoff

Kelly Reichardt Quotes on…Her Early Career

9. “When I first sent River of Grass to Sundance, they sent it back because it wasn’t long enough to be a feature. So I just slowed down the end credits to make it crawl over the line.”

10. “My recommendation to young filmmakers is learn your tools and don’t wait for some big idea to come to you before you do something. The best thing to do is to find a day job so you can afford to shoot when you find time to shoot. It’s just a daily practice.”

11. “I thought this competition isn’t going to make me a happy person so let me find a way that I can hold a camera in my hand and get better at it without being at the mercy of everyone. I asked myself: What do I want?”

Kelly Reichardt Quotes on…Finding Your Voice

12. “It’s always interesting to me thinking about who has the power and who doesn’t. I think that’s there throughout all the films – the question of society, and who we are to each other, and what our obligations are.”

13. “I want a project to work on that will lead me to travel places and get to know places that I wouldn’t otherwise know. It’ll send you in the direction of finding, studying painters that you didn’t know as deeply before, or reading stuff for inspiration or research and it turns you on to literature you might not have otherwise known, or photography. It gives you a path.”

14. “If you knew everything in the beginning, you’d probably just take a nap and wouldn’t bother. Maybe it’s best to not know.”

15. “It takes time, by doing, and some of your voice reveals itself to you. Over time, you’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’s the thing I’m interested in’. And it keeps popping up or your work reflects back on you.”

Feeling inspired by these Kelly Reichardt quotes? Take a look at our list of Nora Ephron quotes and Baz Luhrman quotes for some more inspiration.

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This article was written by Henry Spicer and edited by IS Staff

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