JIM JARMUSCH ON CREATIVE PROCESS, EARLY INFLUENCES, AND PANDEMIC INSPIRATIONS

By Jim JarmuschPlus Icon

September 15, 2021 8:49am

Collaged scrapbook by William Burroughs.
Collaged scrapbook by William Burroughs.COURTESY ANDREW ROTH INC.

Portrait of Jim Jarmusch, 2019.
Portrait of Jim Jarmusch, 2019.HAEDRICH/VU/SIPA

My collages are sourced from newsprint. The physical material of newsprint is almost becoming obsolete, which I find interesting. And now our news is delivered in many other ways, mostly digital. But I don’t analyze my collages or think about them too critically. These collages are are just kind of fun, little dream worlds that I go into to calm myself and escape from things.

The way I make my collages can provide some insight into my usual creative process. Whether it’s writing a script, making a piece of music, or shooting a film, I’m always drawn toward variations and repetitions. Very often with all of these forms, I try to place seemingly disparate elements beside one another. I always start by gathering materials for quite a long time that relate to some idea that I’m starting to form. Once I have enough of these things gathered, then I sit down and, say, write a script out of them. It’s not exactly the same procedure between each medium, but my work is definitely defined by this process of gathering before making.

The Criterion channel is my drug of choice, as I try to watch at least one film every day. I’m a fan of crime novels, especially Donald Westlake’s, and I recently watched a film I had never seen before made from his [1970] book The Hot Rock. The film of the same title, directed by Peter Yates in 1972, stars Robert Redford and George Segal, who try to steal a priceless diamond from the Brooklyn Museum. It was very entertaining, and Robert Redford’s performance was fantastic!

I saw William Burroughs make his journals and scrapbooks while I was working on the set [of Burroughs: The Movie (1983)]. They were all cutups and a kind of re-manipulation of information, both images and words. He and Brion Gysin used these methods to construct their own texts. Seeing this firsthand impacted the way I work and, of course, the collages I’m making today.

I’ve been revisiting some love poems by Rene Ricard that were recently republished. He was a very young star of the Andy Warhol crowd. I met him many years ago while doing the sound for Howard Brookner’s [1983] documentary film about William Burroughs. We were both lucky to spend a lot of time with Burroughs. We lost Ricard some years back, but I always liked his poems.

The Icelandic band Dead Skeletons.
The Icelandic band Dead Skeletons.PHOTO FRED LOMBARD

One of my must-watch movies is The Music Room [1958] by Indian film director Satyajit Ray. It’s the story of a formerly wealthy man who spends the last of his money by inviting classical musicians to perform in his home. The inclusion of live performances really contributes to the film’s impact.

I’ve been somewhat isolated at my home in the Catskills, where I record music and make art. Radio L’envie invited me to make a playlist and I put together an eclectic selection that ranges from Icelandic rock to female reggae. Icelandic music is very atmospheric. I saw the band Dead Skeletons play live while I was visiting Iceland a few years ago. I started my playlist with an eight-minute drone song by them.

—As told to Francesca Aton

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