Director John Waters has been lovingly called “the Pope of Trash” because of his appreciation for entertainment’s shock value and his films’ truly boundary-pushing politics. But Waters’ aesthetic, though filled with camp, drag, and gross-out humor (among other things) was refined in the arthouse scene — where “trash” and art often met.
In 2014, he spoke to The Dissolve about getting his start as a filmmaker, “In the mid-1960s was when underground movies first came out. I read about them. Before, I would never have thought I could make a movie. The only thing I knew were Hollywood movies. But when I read Jonas Mekas’ column in the Village Voice about underground movies — which I read faithfully every week — I realized you didn’t need any money. You could use your friends. I wanted to try that. I learned from doing that. It was usually blue-collar lab people, people I’d rent equipment from.
I thought underground movies were controversial. They broke barriers. They caused trouble. They had beatniks and hippies — a world I wanted to be in […]
I would see Ingmar Bergman movies. When they played in Baltimore, they played in the nudie theaters because they showed breasts. Bergman had vomit in every one of his films in the beginning. I would go to the drive-in and see Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BLOOD FEAST, I’d go to the Rex Theater in Baltimore and see Russ Meyer movies, nudist camp movies, and then I’d see Bergman and Fellini. I tried to take that to make the genre I did make, which was exploitation films for art theaters.”