American Film


David Lynch, an alumnus of the AFI Conservatory (AFI Class of 1970), returned to campus on November 8, 2006 to speak with Fellows. For the celebrated surrealist director, who also received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from the American Film Institute during AFI Conservatory commencement 2012 in June, this visit was a homecoming. As a young filmmaker, he had won a $5,000 grant to attend what was then called the Center for Advanced Film Studies. His thesis project became the film ERASERHEAD (1977). Lynch received Academy Award® nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980). BLUE VELVET (1986) and the television murder mystery TWIN PEAKS brought him international acclaim. Here, his advice to the next generation of storytellers goes beyond the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, to the art of living.

“Stories, all through time and into the future, have conflict. Light and dark. Love and pain. Struggle. All kinds of things. It’s so beautiful. They’re always going to have that. But the storyteller doesn’t have to suffer in order to show suffering. Having a lot of energy and tremendous focusing power and leaping up out of bed is beautiful. Feeling strongly about something is beautiful.

Negativity, anger, sorrow, depression, stress, hate and fear – all these things constrict the flow of creativity, the flow of ideas. Anger is a constricting thing. Real depression – you can hardly get out of bed.

I want anything that can blow such negativity away. I want to rid lives of such thoughts. I want to be able to expand understanding and awareness. I want to get at those ideas at a deeper level and get more energy and more happiness in the doing – and still have an edge.

That’s why I meditate. You don’t become laid back or lose all interest. It’s the reverse. So that’s the ticket. And then you tell the stories that are inside you. Each person has these stories that come along. Just stay true to those ideas and enjoy the doing of it. If you don’t enjoy the doing, there goes that part of your life. You suffer in the doing? That’s not good. It can all be so beautiful. And then if you have done that and you don’t have any success, at least you gave it your best shot and you enjoyed the doing.”