You are here

Todd Haynes: A Life in Pictures

26 November 2015

A fascinating look at Todd Haynes's bold, thought-provoking career that has seen him become one of the most lauded directors of independent film working today.

Director Todd Haynes joined us for a career retrospective, exploring the controversy of his early films, his experimentation with genre and his most significant collaborations.

Listen to the event in full >

Haynes recalled his first foray into filmmaking - an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet shot by his mother on Super8 film, for which he made all the costumes and performed all the roles. This drive to recreate and reinvent the works and styles that inspired him has been a feature of Haynes work across his career. His first film to garner attention was no exception; The Karen Carpenter Story retold the life of the singer, with plastic dolls as its stars. The film caused controversy and resulted in a lawsuit that saw the film recalled. The effect, however, was that Haynes discovered an engaged audience looking for the kind of challenging work he wanted to make.

"Destabilising identity has been a constant interest in my movies" says #VelvetGoldmine & #FarFromHeaven director #ToddHaynes

— BAFTA Guru (@BAFTAGuru) November 25, 2015

Haynes' work continued to challenge during the early 90's wave of films known as New Queer Cinema, when the likes of Haynes, Derek Jarman and Issac Julien made striking independent films about gay life in America and the UK. The moment, Haynes says, was driven by an urgency to speak out on LGBT issues and was characterised by experimentation, exploration and the cross-pollination of ideas. Haynes' films in this period, Poison and Safe, were stiking explorations of sexuality and American culture, fuelled by an interest in "looking at the world and re-sorting it."

"My work is not really about invention, it's about interpretation" says #ToddHaynes

— BAFTA Guru (@BAFTAGuru) November 25, 2015

Haynes next two films, Velvet Goldmine and Far From Heaven, found a wider audience and received a host of awards and nominations, but never compromised his spirit of reinvention nor his interest in "destabilising identity." For Haynes, much of the success of these films was due to the work of his frequent collaborators, producer Christine Vachon and costume designer Sandy Powell, who received a BAFTA for her work on Velvet Goldmine. Haynes also praised Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett, who he has worked with twice each as "incredibly courageous actors." His most recent work with Vachon, Powell and Blanchett, Carol, was a new experience for Haynes, working from a script he didn't write himself which, in many respects, he found liberating. 

Filmmaking is always a process of discarding everything you expected it to be and looking at what it really is. What you see in the script is different to what you see in the dailies, which is different to what you saw in the flesh, and different from what you see in the first cut. You have to be ruthless, Sometimes you have to let your favourite scene go.

Rounding off his on-stage Q&A, Haynes offered some advice for budding directors: "​Just do it, make work. I learn so much every time; the process gets you somewhere new each time."

Read the transcript >