Discovering John Waters films when I was in high school was formative experience for my own filmmaking.
The first time I saw the name John Waters was mention in this magazine called
Cinemagic, an independently
published periodical from Perry Hall, Maryland that detailed techniques of homegrown film special effects.
In the late '70's, after seeing Star Wars, and then Alien, my first thoughts about working
in the film industry centered around becoming a special effects technician.
Anyway, I saw this press notice in Cinemagic
about Desperate Living. Just the title alone intrigued and stuck with me for very long time. I was becoming corrupted at that
time by listening to punk rock music like the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys and Devo and started to cultivate an interest in "midnight movies"
like Rocky Horror Picture Show and (my favorite of them all) David Lynch's Eraserhead.
Through more reading I began to learn more about Waters films, particularly Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble.
When I somehow learned about Polyester, and saw
it in the summer of 1981, I became an instant fan. I picked up a copy of his new book Shock Value that August, just before going to film
school at Humboldt State University that September.
Shock Value became my filmmaking bible of sorts,
giving me unending inspiration as I navigated through film class after film class of students and teachers obsessed with the "true"
underground filmmakers like Stan Brakhage, Bruce Baille, Will Hindle, etc. I just wanted
to make films with real people in actual stories, that dreaded "N" word -- narrative. I was continually accused of being "Hollywood".
I finally saw a retrospective of the famous "Trash Trilogy" my second year of college, at time when I was being opened up to Bergman,
Tati, Resnais, Fellini, Godard, Polanski -- and, thank god, John Waters!
I ended up loving Desperate Living so much, that in early '83, on my second 16mm film (That Numb Stare)
I paid homage by writing an opening scene of a dinner table being set up and by filming it from a high overhead angle. (only my shot didn't end with a
rat on a plate!)
These days I think of John Waters as a true American fimmaking icon, and every new film of his that comes out is a ray of hope for the future.