The American Director Waxes On His Love of Thoreau and Forestry in Wilder Quarterly
Photographer Nicholas Haggard shares this unseen contact capturing artist and filmmaker Mike Mills meandering stoically amid the flora and fauna of the Silver Lake garden he shares with wife Miranda July. Known for feature films Thumbsucker and Beginners, Mills’s eclectic and restless creativity has seen him collaborate with Marc Jacobs, produce music videos for Air and Pulp, and even try his hand at forestry. Shot for the second issue of gardening journal Wilder Quarterly, Mills splits his time between L.A. and his conifer-surrounded high Sierra retreat bordering the National Forest near Lake Tahoe. Acquired 12 years ago and located on the site of an old hydraulic gold mine, the property requires regular clearing of manzanita to prevent the shrubbery “choking” the forest. “Mike is a great role model for conservation,” says Wilder publisher Celestine Maddy. “He discovered it slowly, immersing himself and then taking thoughtful action. More importantly he’s an explorer spending a great deal of time outdoors just watching the wild.” In addition to Mills’s backyard musings, Wilder’s winter issue features the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, and the floating gardens of Xochimilco in Mexico. In this excerpt from CBS News Radio host Rich Awn’s feature for Wilder Quarterly, Mills reveals the unlikely connection between forest stewardship and punk music.
What sparked your interest in conservation? I was a back-to-the-land, join-a-commune book junky. That influenced me to buy [the property]. Over the years you end up learning all this shit you never would have thought. You learn from walking around. Thoreau wrote beautifully about walking. He used to walk four hours a day and often in the same place, because he thought you needed repeat viewings, especially in a forest, to have a real understanding of it. I find that to be especially true in a conifer forest. There are different seasonal things, weather things. Trees fall over, things shoot up, things die––a very dense city of processes going on.
What have you learned through living in the woods? It’s made me more sympathetic to the people who do timber harvesting. It’s a classic thing: a city person moves into the woods and becomes a really annoying environmentalist. People that live in mountainous areas tend to be much more pragmatic: shoot guns, use chainsaws and cut down trees. I’ve met so many nice, super-intelligent people that live [out there] that my views have gotten much more broad than the average conservationist, to be honest.
How has your relationship with land affected your work? It would be really hard to trace how it’s influenced my work, but for sure it has. I do a ton of work there, writing and graphics. I just finished a bunch of new posters that I did up there. But it’s not obvious. It’s a space that just allows… well, it’s so fucking quiet. It’s quiet but at the same time really busy––not with the internet or magazines or whatever, but with wind blowing through trees, the sound of deer cruising around. That creates a weird energy.
Do you find new direction and inspiration at the retreat, away from all the distractions of the city? The older I get, the easier it is to tune out the different radios: the internet radio or the “worrying about your career” radio. You just get tired of doing that. I’m good at being anxious, but less and less so. In the middle of the woods you just forget about everything. It’s overwhelmingly alive and real and happening in front of you, sort of enveloping. That’s a really profound thing that’s beyond description.
Can you give an example? [American poet] Gary Snyder writes about this idea that there’s no better way to get better connected to the wilderness than to be afraid of a mountain lion or a bear. That really reprioritizes our lives in such a radical way. It unravels this world of the internet that we’re all stuck in. Any time something prompts you to dissolve our world, a world that pretends to make sense––the world of images and mainstream stories––suddenly they stop making sense. Any time you break out of that, it’s sort of a “punk” moment. When I’m worried about an avalanche or getting lost or which way that bear was going, it’s not unlike when I saw Public Image Limited play for the first time in Los Angeles in 1980––just breaking apart what you thought was the most important story.
I finally watched Drive last night and i’m really glad that i waited for it to come out in the cinemas here. It was pretty amazing, a really different film to what i expected.
This is a brilliant Q&A with the director Nicholas Winding Refn.
He is hilarious!
The bit where he talks about the ‘fucking piece of work’ mum pimping out her kid as a child actor and Harrison Ford not wanting to die… pretty funny stuff.
He’s got a great outlook and it seems like he’s being completely honest, which is refreshing because when they’re promoting films these interviews usually turn out the same old drivel… Listen to the whole thing, he’s got some fantastic stories.
Recently the newly launched Tooths website paid Donnyland Studios a visit and were shown around by the man himself, Donny Benét. Watch as Donny introduces us to his recording process, previews a new track and even creates a new song on the fly. A great insight to a very talented man.
This is a fantastic and rare interview with Stanley Kubrick from 1966. It’s with Jeremy Bernstein for the the New Yorker. He talks about his childhood, living off playing chess and how he started out in movies. It’s really candid, it’s bizarre to hear his New York accent complete with effing and jeffing. He’s very specific about everything he says, even about the slightest of details, it reminded me of the hilarious 15 page instructions he left for his daughter on how to look after his cats. (Click to hear about that)
Click here to learn the story behind the interview (Kubrick gave 10 pages of notes on the draft he saw)
and click to download the full New Yorker magazine pdf
I just found a blog called Future Noir that’s all about Bladerunner. There’s a heap of content over there, i’ve selected some pics of the best character, Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty. (click on these for hi res). I love the photo at the top, which must be one of Leon’s photos that he’s so desperate to save, it’s not the exact one that Deckard zooms into, ‘enhance, enhance…. enhance’ but it’s still got a spooky quality reminiscent of that Jan Van Eyke painting The Arnolfini Portrait (1434). Where the entire scene was recreated in the mirror at the back of the room.
Oh and this is a weird little video of John Tivits talking to Rutger.