Generally speaking a human infant can be produced in nine months. Baby elephants take two years. But when it comes to directors birthing their next celluloid or digitial babies, the time tables from conception to birth remain a calendrical mystery. Outside of Woody Allen, who brings an infant film into the world each and every year and Clint Eastwood, who often has twins, there's just no telling!
We're thinking about this because Darren Aronofsky is lining up his post Black Swan project and Serious Film was just rejoicing over the news that P.T. Anderson is back to work. His thinly veiled Scientology film, formerly titled "The Master" has a June start date. Michael is like Goldilocks on the topic of time between pictures and we are too -- it's hard to satisfy us! -- but the Robert Altman / Martin Scorsese time table, a film every two or so years, is deemed "just right".
Sure that makes them more vulnerable to the occasional dud, but it also opens them up to all the interesting follies and surprise discoveries that wind up being as treasured as their major masterpieces. Marty would never had produced anything as odd and discomfiting as King of Comedy if he has been moving at the glacial pace of a Terrence Malick, and the cinematic landscape would have been poorer for it.'
Can he get an amen?
We're limiting the following lists to living filmmakers / post-studio time frame because everyone was more regular when films ruled the world (prior to tv) and were assembled with greater efficiency. So for today's lists, let's look at the slowpokes, inbetweeners and quickies. These are not exact lists -- imagine trying to research every director in the world and we've also extracted shorts, tv films and documentaries -- but lists of commonly discussed feature filmmakers and a few of our favorites thrown in for good measure.
DISCLAIMER: We're fully aware that financial backing is a factor in speed but have to ignore it for the purposes of this article. Also, we're aware that release dates don't always reflect timetables but you try looking up start of filming dates versus release date disparity on thousands of movies.
Listed from the very slowest to quickest among the slow. One is forced to imagine that the following filmmakers actually hibernate inbetween films. Only intense hunger pains ever reawaken them. This list is dedicated to Spike Jonze (who has only made 3 features since he started movies and they're all brilliant. But three is no kind of legacy: Commit!) and to Jonathan Glazer who we can only assume is having problems with financing. He's only made 2 films, both of them wonderful, in the past 10 years. His next feature is supposedly Under the Skin (2014) which would arrive a full decade after Birth, one of the most brilliant films of the Aughts.
- Terrence Malick
Quickest: 5 years between Badlands and Days of Heaven.
Slowest: 20 years between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line.
Rough Breakdown: One film every seven and ½ years (5 films thus far)
- Baz Luhrmann
Quickest: 4 years between Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet
Slowest: 7 years between Moulin Rouge and Australia
Rough Breakdown: One film every four years and 9 months (4 films thus far)
- David Lynch
Quickest: He's managed one year gaps on occasion