Catching the Big Fish

Summary of David Lynch book

  • INTRODUCTION. Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.
  • THE FIRST DIVE. I have never missed a meditation in thirty-three years. I meditate once in the morning and again in the afternoon, for about twenty minutes each time. Then I go about the business of my day. And I find that the joy of doing increases. Intuition increases.
  • SUFFOCATING RUBBER CLOWN SUIT. Anger and depression and sorrow are beautiful things in a story, but they’re like poison to the filmmaker or artist. They’re like a vise grip on creativity. If you’re in that grip, you can hardly get out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas. You must have clarity to create. You have to be able to catch ideas.
  • STARTING OUT. I liked to paint and I liked to draw. And I often thought, wrongly, that when you got to be an adult, you stopped painting and drawing and did something more serious.
ART LIFE. Bushnell Keeler, the father of my friend Toby, always had his expression:”If you want to get one hour of good painting in, you have to have four hours of uninterrupted time.” So the art life means a freedom to have time for the good things to happen.
  • A GARDEN AT NIGHT. I had a painting going, which was of a garden at night. It had a lot of black, with green plants emerging out of the darkness. All of a sudden, these plants started to move, and I heard a wind. I wasn’t taking drugs! I thought, Oh, how fantastic this is! And I began to wonder if film could be a way to make paintings move.
  • CURTAINS UP. It’s so magical — I don’t know why — to go into a theater and have the lights go down. It’s very quiet, and then the curtains start to open. Maybe they’re red. And you go into a world.
  • CINEMA. For me, it’s so beautiful to think about these pictures and sounds flowing together in time and in sequence, making something that can be done only through cinema. It is not just words or music — it’s a whole range of elements coming together and making something that didn’t exist before. It’s telling stories. It’s devising a world, an experience, that people cannot have unless they see that film.
  • INTERPRETATION. Someone might say, I don’t understand music; but most people experience music emotionally and would agree that music is an abstraction. You don’t need to put music into words right away — you just listen. Cinema is a lot like music.
  • THE CIRCLE. There is a circle that goes from the audience to the film and back. Each person is looking and thinking and feeling and coming up with gis or her own sense of things. And it’s probably different from what I fell in love with.
  • IDEAS. You fall in love with the first idea, that little tiny piece. And once you’ve got it, the rest will come in time.
DESIRE. Desire for an idea is like bait. When you’re fishing, you have to have patience. Your bait your hook, and then you wait. The desire is the bait that pulls those fish in — those ideas.
  • CONSCIOUSNESS. Inside every human being is an ocean of pure, vibrant consciousness. When you “transcend” in Transcendental Meditation, you dive down into that ocean of pure consciousness. You splash into it. And it’s bliss. You can vibrate with this bliss. Experiencing pure consciousness enlivens it, expands it. It starts to unfold and grow.
  • TRANSLATING THE IDEA. When you meditate, that flow increases. Action and reaction go faster. You’ll get an idea here, then you’ll go there, and then there. It’s like an improvisational dance. You’ll just be zipping along; you’ll be banging on all eight cylinders.
  • LOS ANGELES. I know a lot of people go there and they see just a huge sprawl of sameness. But when you’re there for a while, you realize that each section has its own mood. The golden age of cinema is still alive there, in the smell of jasmine at night and the beautiful weather. And the light is inspiring and energizing. Even with smog, there’s something about that light that’s not harsh, but bright and smooth.
  • ERASERHEAD. Eraserhead was growing in a certain way, and I didn’t know what it meant. I got out my Bible and I started reading. And one day, I read a sentence. And I closed the Bible, because that was it; that was it. And then I saw the thing as a whole.
  • THE PACE OF LIFE. Keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole. If you keep your eye on the doughnut and do your work, that’s all you can control. You can’t control any of what’s out there, outside yourself. But you can get inside and do the best you can do.
  • YOGIS. There was such a presence of power and dignity — and an absence of fear. Many of their countenances held playfulness or love, or power and strength. I figured the only way to try for it was to start dividing within and see what unfolded.
  • BOB’S BIG BOY. There’s a safety in thinking in a diner. You can have your coffee or your milk shake, and you can go off into strange dark areas, and always come back to the safety of the diner.
  • THE ANGRIEST DOG IN THE WORLD. So there’s a passage of time, but the dog never moves. And it struck me that it’s the environment that’s causing this anger — it’s what’s going on in the environment. He hears things oming from the house. Or something happens on the other side of the fence, or some kind of weather condition.
  • MUSIC. The music has to marry with the picture and enhance it. You can’t just lob something in and think it’s going to work, even if it’s one of your all-time favourite songs. When it marries, you can feel it.
INTUITION. You don’t dive for specific solutions; you dive to enliven that ocean of consciousness. Then your intuition grows and you have a way of solving those problems — knowing when it’s not quite right and knowing a way to make it feel correct for you.
  • THE UNIFIED FIELD. You dive within, and by experiencing this field of pure consciousness, you enliven it; you unfold it; it grows. And the final outcome of this growth of consciousness is called enlightenment, which is the full potential for us all.
  • THE FOURTH STATE. I picture it like a round white room that has yellow, red, and blue curtains covering the white wall. The curtains are three states of consciousness: waking, sleeping, and dreaming. But in the gap between each curtain, you can see the white of the Absolute — the pure bliss consciousness.
  • GETTING THERE. In the film business, there’s so much pressure; there’s so much room for anxiety and fear. But transcending makes life more like a game — a fantastic game. And creativity can really flow. It’s an ocean of creativity.
  • MODERN SCIENCE AND ANCIENT SCIENCE. By measuring EEG patterns in brain research, they can prove that someone is transcending; they can prove that the person is experiencing a fourth state of consciousness.
  • ANYTHERE, ANYTIME. Usually, I meditate in the morning before breakfast, and in the evening before dinner. But when I’m shooting, I meditate before I go, and again at lunch. And if I haven’t meditated long enough, I’ll meditate when I finish.
  • IDENTITY. You become more and more you.
  • FINAL CUT. Dune was a huge failure. I knew I was getting into trouble when I agreed not to have final cut. I was hoping it would work out, but it didn’t. When you meditate and bliss starts coming up inside, it is not as painful. You can ride through things like this. But it is killed a lot of people. It has made them not want to make a film again.
THERAPY. When I got into the room, I asked psychiatrist: ”Do you think that this process could, in any way, damage my creativity?”. And he said, “ Well David, it could”. And I shook his hand and left.
  • DREAMS. On Blue Velvet, though, I was really struggling with the script. I wrote four different drafts. And I had some problems with it near the end. After that I suddenly remembered that the night before I’d had this dream. There were three little elements that solved those problems.
  • ANGELO BADALAMENTI. I like to sit next to him on the piano bench. I talk and Angelo plays. He plays my words. But sometimes he doesn’t understand my words, so he plays very badly. Then I say, “ No, no, no, no, Angelo”. And somehow through this process he will catch something, and I’ll say, “That’s it!”.
  • SOUND. When I’m shooting, I will often play that piece of music in the headphones while listening to the dialogue. Hearing the music is just a verification that things are going the right way — for instance, the right pace or lightining.
  • CASTING. It doesn’t matter how wonderful an actor is; when you’re casting, you have to pick the person who marries to that part, who can do that part. Plus, then I would want to start rehearsing with them. It would take a long, long time to do that with every actor.
  • REHEARSAL. When you rehearse, it doesn’t matter where you start. You get your actors together and you just pick a scene that defines the character in your mind. You have the rehearsal, and wherever it is, it is. The thing may be all over the place.
  • FEAR. I hear stories about directors who scream at actors, or they trick them somehow to get a performance. And there are some people who try to run the whole business on fear. But I think this is such a joke — it’s pathetic and stupid at the same time.
  • ALL TOGETHER NOW. Where the attention is, that becomes lively.
TWIN PEAKS. When we were shooting the pilot for Twin Peaks, we had a set dresser named Frank Silva. Frank was never destined to be in Twin Peaks, never in a million years. Bet we were shooting in Laura Palmer’s home and Frank was moving some furniture around in her room. And this picture came to me of Frank in the room.
  • THE CONTINUING STORY. I love going into another world, and I love mysteries. So I don’t really like to know very much ahead of time. I like the feeling of discovery. I think that’s one of the great thing about a continuing story: that you can go in, and go deeper and deeper and deeper. You begin to feel the mystery, and things start coming.
  • THE RED ROOM. There were cars in the parking lot. I leaned my hands on the roof of one car, and it was very, very warm — not hot, but nicely warm. I was leaning there and — ssssst! — the Red Room appeared. And the backward thing appeared, and then some of the dialogue.
  • ASK THE IDEA. Sometimes accidents happen that aren’t happy, but you have to work with those as well. You adapt. You throw out this thing, and throw out that thing, and throw out another thing. But if you pay attention to the original idea — stay true to that — it’s surprising how, at the end, even the things that were accidents are honest. They’re true to the idea.
  • TEST AUDIENCE. After you screen it for that group, for the sake of the whole, certain things may have to be cut down or some things may need to be added. They’re not exactly mistakes. It’s part of the process — it always happens to some degree.
  • GENERALIZATIONS. Some critics love generalizations. But it’s that particular character in this particular story going down that particular road/ Those specific things make their own world.
  • DARKNESS. There are many, many dark things flowing around in this world now, and most films reflect the world in which we live. They’re stories. Stories are always going to have conflict. They’re going to have highs and lows, and good and bad.
SUFFERING. The ore the artist is suffering, the less creative he is going to be. Right here people might bring up Vincent can Gogh as an example of a painter who did great work in spite of — or because of-his suffering. I like to think that van Gogh would have been even more prolific and even greater if he wasn’t so restricted by the things tormenting him whatever happiness he had. If you’re artist, you’ve got to know about anger without being restricted by it. In order to create, you’ve got to have energy; you’ve got to have clarity. You’ve got to be able to catch ideas.
  • LIGHT OF THE SELF. Don’t fight the darkness. Don’t even worry about the darkness. Turn on the light and the darkness goes. Turn up that light of pure consciousness: Negativity goes.
  • A TOWER OF GOLD. You are the Empire State Buildings. You’ve got hundreds of rooms. And in those rooms, there’s a lot of junk. And you put all that junk there.Now you take this elevator, which is going to be the dive within. You go to the Unified Field beneath the buildings — pure consciousness. And it’s like electric gold. And that electric gold activates these little cleaning robots. They start cleaning the rooms, after you are cleaning and infusing simultaneously.
  • RELIGION. All religions flow ultimately to the one ocean. Transcendental Meditation is a technique to experience that ocean, and it’s a technique practiced by people from all religions.
DRUGS. I have smoked marijuana, but I no longer do. Besides, far more profound experiences are available naturally. When your consciousness starts expanding, those experiences are there.
  • TURN ON THE LIGHT. We like lightbulbs. If bliss starts growing inside you, it’s like a light; it affects the environment.
  • INDUSTRIAL SYMPHONY NO. 1. Industrial Symphony No. 1 was the first and only time I’ve done a stage production. We have two weeks to set it up, but only one day in actual theater to put it all together and do two performances. And I realised that I was facing a gigantic, definite disaster. I thought, I’m never going to make it unless I get some kind of an idea. And, bingo — it happened. What i did was, I went one by one. We never had a rehearsal, but fortunately it all worked out.
  • LOST HIGHWAY. What struck me about O. J. Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing later with seemingly very few problems about the whole thing. And we found this great psychology term — “psychogenic fugue” – describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror.
  • RESTRICTIONS. Sometimes restrictions get the mind going. If you’ve got tons and tons of money, you may relax and figure you can throw money at any problem that come along. You don’t have to think so hard. But when you have limitations, sometimes you come up with very creative, inexpensive ideas.
  • MULHOLLAND DRIVE. Mulholland Drive was originally going to be a continuing story on television. We shot it as a pilot: open-ended, to make you want to see more and more. I heard that the man at ABC who was making the decision whether to accept the pilot or not saw it as six a.m. He was watching television across the room while having some coffee and making some phone calls. And he hated what he saw; it bored him. So he turned it down. Then I had the chance, fortunately, to make it into a feature. But I didn’t have the ideas. I went into meditation and somewhere about ten minutes in, ssssst! There it was. Like a string of pearls, the ideas came. But that’s the only time it’s happening during meditation.
  • THE BOX AND THE KEY. I don’t have a clue what those are.
  • A SENSE OF PLACE. A sense of place is so critical in cinema, because you want to go into another world. Every story has its own world, and its own feel, and its own mood. So you try to put together a;; these things-these little details-to create that sense of place.
BEAUTY. When you see an aging building or a rusted bridge, you are seeing nature and man working together. If you paint over a building, there is no more magic to that building, But if it is allowed to age, then man has built it and nature has added into it — it’s so organic.
  • TEXTURE. I don’t necessarily love rotting bodies, but there’s a texture to a rotting body that is unbelievable. Have you ever seen a little rotted animal? I love looking at those things, just as much as I like to look at a close-up of some tree bark, or a small bug, or a cup of coffee, or a piece of pie. You get in close and the texture are wonderful.
  • WORKING WITH WOOD. When I saw through a piece of freshly cut pine, the smell of it just sends me right to heaven.
  • HAVING A SETUP. It’s crucial to have a setup, so that, at any given moment, when you get an idea, you have the place and the tools to make it happen.
  • FIRE. Sitting in front of a fire is mesmerizing. It’s magical. I feel the same way about electricity. And smoke. And flickering lights.
  • LIGHT ON FILM. The light can make all the differences in a film, even in a character. I love seeing people come out of darkness.
  • THE STRAIGHT STORY. I didn’t write The Straight Story. It was something of a departure for me, because it’s completely linear. But then, I fell in love with the emotion of the script.
  • HEROES OF FILM. I am a huge admirer of Billy Wilder. There are two films of his that I most love because they create such a world of their own: Sunset Boulevard and The Apartment. And then there’s Fellini, who is a tremendous inspiration. I like La Strada and 8 1/2. I love Hitchcock. Rear Window is a film that makes me crazy, in a good way.
  • FELLINI. It was about six o’clock in the evening in summer — a beautiful, warm evening. Two of us went in and were taken into Fellini room. There was another man in the room and my friend knew him, so he went over and talked to him. Fellini had me sit down. He was in a little wheelchair between the two beds, and he took my hand, and we sat and talked for half an hour. I don’t think I asked him much. I just listened a lot. He talked about the old days — how things were. He told stories. I really liked sitting near him. And then we left. What was Friday night, and Sunday he went into a coma and never came out.
  • KUBRICK. Stanley Kubrick is one of my all-time favourite filmmakers, and he did me a great honor early in my career that really encouraged me. I was working on The Elephant Man, and one of the producers Johanthan Sanger brought over some guys, they said, “Yesterday, David, we were out at Elstree Studios, and we met Kubrick. And as we were talking to him, he said to us, “How would you fellas like to come up to my house tonight and see my favourite film?”” They said, “That would be fantastic”. They went up, and Stanley Kubrick showed them Eraserhead.
  • INLAND EMPIRE. When we began, there wasn’t any INLAND EMPIRE, there wasn’t anything. I just bumped into Laura Dern on the street, discovering that she was my new neighbour. I hadn’t seen her for a long time, and she said, “David, we’ve got to do something together again.” And I said, “We sure do. Maybe I’ll write something for you. And maybe we’ll do it as an experiment for the Internet.” And she said, “Fine.”
  • THE NAME. I knew nothing about the film at the time. But I wanted to call it INLAND IMPIRE. When I was 5 years old I lived in Spokane, Washington and I had scrapbook, where on the first picture in it was an aerial view of Spokane. And underneath it said, “Inland Empire”. So I figured I was on the right track.
  • A NEW WAY TO WORK. Working on INLAND EMPIRE was very different. We shot it entirely in digital video, so the level of flexibility and control was amazing. Also, I didn’t have a script. I wrote the thing scene by scene, without much of a clue where it would end. It was a risk, but I had this feeling that because all things are unified, this idea over here would somehow relate to that idea over there.
  • DIRECTOR’S DOCUMMENTARY. I don’t do director’s commentary tracks on my DVD releases. I know people enjoy extras, but now, with all the add-ons, the film just seems to have gotten lost. Instead, I think you should try to see the whole film through, and try to see it in a quiet place, on as big a screen as you can with as good a sound system as you can. Then you can go into that world and have that experience.
  • THE DEATH OF FILM. I’m thorough with film as a medium. For me, film is dead. If you look at what people all over the world are taking still pictures with now, you begin to see what’s going to happen.
  • DV FOR YOUNG FILMMAKERS. My advice is to use the opportunity DV brings to do what you truly believe in. Keep your own voice. Don’t do anything for the sole purpose of impression any studio or some money people.
  • DV QUALITY. The DV camera I currently use is a Sony PD-105, which is a lower quality that HD. And I love this lower quality. I love the small cameras. The quality reminds me of the films of the 1930’s. And high-def, unfortunately, is so crystal clear. I could see wood screws in what supposed to be a metal console. It is going to be far more difficult to build sets for high-def.
FUTURE OF CINEMA. How we see films is changing. The video iPod and videos online are changing everything. A tiny little picture, instead of a giant big picture, is going to be how people see films. And good news: At least people will have their headphones. The whole thing is, when whose curtains open, and the lights go down, we must be able to go into that world. And in many ways, it’s getting very difficult to go into a world. People talk so much in theatres. And there’s a tiny, crummy little picture. How do you get that experience?
  • COMMON SENSE. Most of filmmaking is common sense. If you stay on your toes and think about how to do a thing, it’s right here.
  • ROVICE. Stay true to yourself. Let your voice ring out, and don’t let anybody fiddle with it. Never turn down a good idea, but never take a bad idea. And meditate. It’s very important to experience that Self, that pure consciousness. It’s really helped me. I think it would help any filmmaker.
  • SLEEP. Sleep is really important. You need to rest the physiology to be able to work well and meditate well. When I don’t get enough sleep, my meditation are duller. You may even dip into sleep at the beginning of your meditation, because you’re settling down. But if you’re well rested, you’ll have a clearer, deeper experience.
  • KEEP AT IT. If you love what you’re are doing, you’re are going to keep on doing it anyway. I’ve been very lucky. Along the way, there are people who help us. I’ve had plenty of those people in my life who’ve helped me go to the next step. And you get that help because you’ve done something, so you have to keep doing it.
  • SUCCESS AND FAILURE. In some ways, the more films you’ve done, the easier it is to make one. You become familiar with the process of catching an idea and translating that idea. You understand the tools and the lighting. You understand the whole process — you’ve been through it before. But it’s also harder, because when you release another film, it’s seen in context of what you’ve already done. It’s going to be judged based on that. And if you’ve just come off something successful, you feel that you may take the fall.
GONE FISHING AGAIN. When you finish a project, there’s a good feeling to it, but there’s something of a vacuum, too. You’ve been putting all your attention on that, and then it’s done. That means you leave the chair where you’re daydreaming or you move on to another thing. Just by changing something, the desire often gets fulfilled.
  • COMPASSION. Meditation is not a selfish thing. Even though you’re diving in and experiencing the Self, you’re not closing yourself off from the world. You’re strengthening yourself, so that you can be more effective when you got back out into the world.
  • CONSCIOUSNESS-BASED EDUCATION. One of the main things that got me talking publicly about Transcendental Meditation was seeing the difference it can make to kids. Kids are suffering. Stress is now hitting them at a younger and younger age, at just about the time they get out of the crib. And there are all these different learning disorders that I never even heard about before.
  • REAL PEACE. The theory is that if the square root of 1 percent of the world’s population, or 8,000 people, practices advanced meditation techniques in a group, then that group, according to published research, is quadratically more powerful that the same number scattered about. They measurable reduced crime and violence.
  • IN CLOSING. May everyone be happy. May everyone be free of disease. May auspiciousness be seen everywhere. May suffering belong to no one. Peace.
CODA: TRUE HAPPINESS LIES WITHIN. Everything I experience today brings me back again and again to where I started: True happiness lies within.