Meeting young Richard Linklater.

Richard Linklater, Director. 
© 1992 Kirk Tuck, All Rights Reserved.

I got a call from an art director at Elle Magazine. "Would you take some portraits of a young, Austin director for us?" he asked. This was way back in 1992. I told them that I'd be delighted and asked for a little direction. They gave me very little direction.  The art director said, "Just something casual." and then they gave me his telephone number. 

Richard had already done the movie, Slacker, and was in pre-production for a new movie called, Dazed and Confused, but he still answered his own phone and we made a date to meet at the apartment he was renting just off campus and to walk around shooting some photos. I talked an aspiring young actress named, Renee, into coming along with me to help carry a flash. There were no publicists involved, no fashion editor from the magazine, no entourages.

Richard's apartment was one of five or six that had been carved out of an old house just on the corner of 24th street and San Antonio St., a block over from the venerable and famous Les Amis CafĂ© and only two blocks from the University of Texas. When we got there he was sitting out in front on the steps waiting for us. Richard, Renee and I talked for ten minutes or so and discovered that we had all been in the English department at UT at one time or another. 

We walked down the long alley behind the main drag where we found this wall that all of us liked and we took a bunch of photos in that area. Richard even agreed to do some shots in a little brick area made for trash cans. The pictures of him laying on his side in a glamor pose are still funny.  

Everyone is very buttoned up now when it comes to things like make-up and costuming/wardrobe but on that day Richard was carrying a couple different shirts in a backpack and if we wanted to do a costume change he'd just pull off one t-shirt and pull on another one. It was Austin. He'd directed Slacker. Everyone was quite laid back. 

My favorite images from the shoot were taken with the Varsity Theater in the background. The vaguely out of focus murals in the background were of movie stills. It was cool. I've moved a couple of times since I shot those and I'm still looking for that box of medium format transparencies. I know they are here somewhere.

We ended up shooting some soft box lit portraits back in the studio but I think we all (including the magazine) knew we wanted to use the outdoor shots.

The magazine selected their favorites from six or seven rolls of 120mm transparencies. That's about 70 different 6x7 cm images in total. The image ran big enough to be decently credible with my peers and I enjoyed telling my women friends that I had a shot running in Elle. It was cool.

I shot with two different Pentax 6x7 cameras. One had a normal lens and one had a short telephoto on it. Almost certainly the lens we used was the 165 mm f2.8. What a wonderful lens...

I shot the whole collection of images handheld with ISO 100 transparency film and I can see that by today's standards the details in the images are a little soft. The main reason was that the Pentax 6x7 camera was the ultimate granddaddy for what we are now calling, "shutter shock." Back then we called it "mirror slap" but it all in the same category: unsharpness caused by camera vibrations.

Richard's newest movie, Boyhood, has opened to rave reviews from ...... everyone. And it's an amazing project done over twelve years. It's a small town here in Austin, the actress who plays the younger girl (11 or 12) is the daughter of a videographer whom I have worked with on many projects, for decades.  Another friend and one time writing partner spent part of that year as the official chaperone on the movie set of Richard's second feature.

It's fun to look back at where currently famous people started out. I will remember Richard as being one of the least pretentious and most accommodating people I've worked with. And it was nice of him to hire my assistant for a part in his next movie. It is obvious that his current celebrity was fairly and well earned.


Anonymous said...

I just saw 'Boyhood' yesterday. No CGI, no phony explosions or monsters and killing...just a narrative/character-driven story that's subtle and beautiful. I love movies like this. They don't make nearly enough of them.

Richard's cool to stay in Austin. I'm glad he's not sold out after all of these years. Hope he remains this way.

John Krumm said...

Still waiting for Boyhood to arrive in my town. I saw Linklater interviewed by John Stewart, who raved about his movie. I think he still has the same haircut, plus a down-to earth manner.

Carlo Santin said...

Is this photo slightly soft or have our eyes become accustomed to the ultra sharp and ultra detailed digital sensors/lenses? I don't find the image soft at all. It looks very natural.

Anonymous said...

Lovely natural portrait, well done.

Brad Burnham said...

Fun story, thanks for sharing.