That’s when I started to understand that an artist can have a life that isn’t whether you are either the Top 10 on the Billboard Charts or the Top 10 at the box office – or you don’t. These groups were making a few hundred dollars a night. They were local celebrities. They also had day jobs. And they were successful artists that way.
2. David Foster Wallace “Infinite joke” I had done “Cyrus” and “Jeff, who lives at home,” my two studio films, and they hadn’t set the world on fire. So I convinced myself that if you were going to tell these weird characters and this level of specificity, it would never succeed. Then I read “Infinite Jest” and I was like, “Oh no, you just didn’t do it well enough.” And that comforted me. I realized that I wouldn’t be an author like David Foster Wallace. I don’t have that in me. What I have in me is that I am an incredible collaborator. I’m a great first leg on a relay team.
3. Tracy chapman I was 12 and a punk skateboarder with my sarcastic punk skateboarding friends. We were watching “Saturday Night Live”, enjoying all the chopped broccoli jokes, and Tracy Chapman was the musical guest. She carried on and she played “Fast Car”. All my friends were like, “Sucks,” because we were fans of Metallica. I was like, “Yeah, that sucks.” And I went to the bathroom and I sobbed my eyes. I was like, “Well, I’m different from my friends. It’s another thing for me. And that launched me on a singer-songwriter journey.
4. Neutral ground coffee in New Orleans I was obsessed with the Indigo Girls, obsessed with Shawn Colvin. So from the age of 14 or 15, I would go to the Neutral Ground Coffee House every Sunday and see their mike parties open. Finally, I worked my courage to play my three original songs, which – without false modesty – they were terrible. The guy who ran the place, Les Jampole was his name, looked me in the eye afterwards and said, “Hey, Mark, I’m digging your stuff, man.” And it was all for me that someone validates me from the outside. So I continued to write songs, and when I was 17, they offered me my own concerts. It was that little confidence-building enclave for me.
5. Gus Van Sant’s “My own private Idaho” This is how I discovered independent cinema. I was 14 and a huge fan of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. A big fan of “Stand by Me”. And I’m like, “Keanu Reeves, River Phoenix. Great. It will be a fun movie. I went to see it without reading anything, and that’s how I found myself watching an art film by Gus Van Sant.
6. Movie pitchers in New Orleans
Movie’s was a second-hand arthouse cinema, and they didn’t hit very hard, God bless them. From about 1992 to 95, when I graduated from high school, that is where I studied independent filmmaking. And I was able to convince some of my friends to come with me because they served us pitchers of beer and we watched movies in recliners.